“The legislation, as we have seen it to date, amounts to an act of bad faith by London. It bears little resemblance to the proposals outlined in the Stormont House Agreement – Paul O’Connor.
Relatives for Justice and the Pat Finucane Centre spoke out after draft legislation linked to the Stormont House Agreement was leaked this week. Concerns were raised this month by the Committee on the Administration of Justice over plans by the British government to “veto” information in reports by a new body investigating Troubles killings.
Under the agreement a Historical Investigations Unit (HIU) is expected to be set up to replace the defunct police Historical Enquires Team (HET), pictured below to take over some of the work carried out by the Police Ombudsman.
It will investigate unsolved killings and provide reports to families. There are also plans to establish an independent commission on information retrieval for victims and an oral history archive. Concerns have been raised previously about the independence of the planned HIU and some campaigners are worried that former police officers may be employed by it. Concerns have also been raised over plans by the British government to control what information is published through HIU reports on national security grounds. Relatives for Justice director Mark Thompson said his organisation would not back any organisation created by the legislation. “The legislation in no way, shape or form represents the SHA [Stormont House Agreement] document published last December,” he said. “It is a self-serving piece of legislation crafted by the British government that is essentially written through the lens of national security.” Paul O’Conner from the Pat Finucane Centre also said his organisation could not support draft legislation. “The legislation, as we have seen it to date, amounts to an act of bad faith by London. “It bears little resemblance to the proposals outlined in the SHA,” he said.
“There are major concerns regarding the criteria for cases to be re-examined, so-called national security caveats and other concerns too numerous to outline.” Sinn Féin (Shame Fein) MLA Gerry (The Mouth) Kelly has also claimed that the British government’s proposals were “unacceptable” and a “clear breach of the Stormont House Agreement”.
With many thanks to: Connla Young, for the origional story, The Irish News.
THE ongoing political talks will be successful “against the odds”, Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness told a meeting of his party last night.
He said the devolved institutions “are worth saving and I believe the vast majority of people share that view”. But he said the parties must agree to protect the most vulnerable and ensure Stormont (the big house on the hill) has “a workable budget so that public services are delivered to the standard the public expect and deserve”. The deputy first minister also called on the British government to accept they are part of the negotiations and are “not some kind of neutral arbitrator”. He also hit out at the government’s legislation on dealing with the legacy of the Troubles and said it is “in clear breach of the Stormont House Agreement”.
“The legislation proposed by Theresa Villiers and her cabinet colleagues has more to do with covering up the role of the British state as a central player in the conflict and its collusion with unionist death squads,” he said. He said that the executive had succeeded in blocking the worst of the Conservative government’s cuts, including the introduction of water charges. He said lower student fees, free prescriptions and lower rates bills were “rarely highlighted successes of the executive and local parties working together”. The Mid Ulster assembly member warned that a return to direct rule will result in an “unrestrained onslaught on public services and the most vulnerable in our society”. Ms Villiers repeatedly warned that if the parties cannot agree a deal on welfare reforms, the British government will take back welfare powers as a “last resort”. Mr McGuinness said as well as welfare cuts previously announced, new cuts to tax credits in April will affect 120,000 families in the north.
<strong>With many thanks to: Claire Simpson, for the origional story, The Irish News.
YOU probably didn’t notice and there’s no reason why you should, but the same day that a certain loyalist blogger and serial self-publicist was giving evidence to Stormont’s Nama inquiry the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) snuck out its policy paper on implementing the Stormont House Agreement.
Needless to say it got it got virtually no coverage in the tidal wave of sensational allegations made about the alleged recipients of money from the Cerberus deal. If you’ve ever wondered why the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) decided to draft the Stormont House Agreement Bill 2015 and bring it through Westminister rather than allow the clowns in the big house on the hill to legislate, once you read the policy paper all becomes clear. Quite simply the British government intends to control the Historical Inquires Unit (HIU), on what information it can have and what it can reveal. Anyone who beleives that the Policing Board will hold the HIU accountable is living in cloud-cuckoo land. “The secretary of state will have oversight of the HIU regarding reserved and excepted matters.” The UK government will prevent disclosure of any material or information ‘likely to prejudice national security (including information from the intelligence services)’. None of this material can be published ‘without the consent of the secretary of state’. Now as we all know from past experience, ‘likely to prejudice national security’ is whatever our proconsul for the time being decides is national security. When you look at the policy paper you see it begins with a questionable statement and continues to ignore all suggestions and recommendations made by interested parties, nationalist political parties, NGOs like the Committee for the Administration of Justice and university academics. In short, it’s a classic NIO document. It begins with the unconvincing claim that ‘the institutions have the needs of the victims and their families are at their heart’. No. The needs of secrecy in the Ministry of Defence, the NIO and the Home Office are at their heart. It has never been any different in the secretive British state.
For example it was only in 2002 after Freedom of Information requests that details of Special Branch investigation into Charles Stewart Parnell and other Irish MPs were released and even then only in restricted fashion. The names of informers (touts) and amounts paid are still secret 125 years after the fact. Academics at QUB, Sinn Féin (Shame Fein) politicians and the CAJ among others recommended that former RUC and RUC Special Branch personnel be not employed in the HIU partly because they may have been complicit in collusion or cover up or both. The great merit of the Historical Enquiries Team was that its personnel were seconded from English forces and we all know why. However, ignoring all that, ‘the bill does not prohibit the HIU from recruiting persons who have previously served in policing or security roles in the North of Ireland.’
So the HIU won’t work and the NIO has made sure it won’t work because it will only investigate and publish what the NIO allows it to invstigate and publish. Then there’s the Independent Commission on Information Retrieval (ICIR). It’s modelled on the Independent Commission on the Location of Victims’ Remains (ICLVR) which has worked extremely well. However, the NIO policy paper goes out of its way to make clear that while information given to the ICIR is inadmissible in court, if that information is obtained or can be obtained by other means then prosecution may follow.
That puts the kibosh on the ICIR because given the record of the PSNI over the past four years, starting with the Boston College fiasco (all hearsay) and continuing with their apparent trawling after the killing of Kevin McGuigan with almost a score of people arrested and released, who is going to risk giving information to the ICIR to pass to families? Inevitably individuals in the PSNI/RUC would be working backwards from the material a family recieved. In mitigation it has to be said on the basis of evidence so far, that’s only likely in the case of prominent Sinn Féin figures. Buried in the policy paper is our proconsul’s admission that ‘on some detailed questions covered in the bill, there is not yet a clear consensus between the five main North of Ireland parties. Work will continue to build consensus on remaining points of difference.’ Yeah right.
With many thanks to: Brian Feeny, for the origional story, The Irish News.