Last week was one hectic week on dealing with the past. Here are just some of the headlines.
About 500 people crammed into St Mary’s College to hear Michael Mansfield QC and the families of the McGurk’s Bar bombing explain how their efforts to attain truth and justice in this case of collusion are being systemically frustrated.
The next day the Irish Government gave the British Government a roasting in their submission to the European Court’s Committee of Ministers. They placed the blame for lack of progress on dealing with the past full square at the doors of Whitehall.
In the same submission, they also called for the re-opening of scrutiny into the case of Pat Finucane, calling this a “critical time in the case”. By coincidence Relatives for Justice produced a new briefing on the case of Pat Finucane on the same day.
James Brokenshire was in the House of Commons that day and reiterated his policy position of elevating impunity of state actors above the rights of those who suffered at their hands. This week his response to the Irish Government was to wash his hands of Britain’s obligations, basically sticking two fingers up to all victims of all actors to the conflict, and of course to their peace process co-guarantor, the Irish Government.
And something that didn’t get much attention. On the day of the McGurk’s event, the Stormont Assembly elevated British army victims over all other victims by passing the Military Covenant. A move made possible with abstentions by the SDLP and People Before Profit who clearly forgot about all state killings, the extent of state collusion and the reigning of impunity in a moment of wanting to isolate Sinn Féin, the only party to vote against it.
The media was full on as well. A piece appeared written by Brian Rowan on Eamon Mallie’s site positing a ground zero approach altogether to the past. And a total lie appeared on the front pages of the Sun and Daily Mail saying every state killing will be investigated. The PSNI quickly clarified what we all know – nah they won’t be doing that.
One of the most frustrating things said last week was that there’s no agreement on the past. That is total baloney (I’ve a better word starting with B but this is a family paper).
Next week will mark the second anniversary of agreement on how to deal with the past – the Stormont House Agreement, signed by all parties and both governments. I remember because I spent Christmas Eve 2014 reading and dissecting it instead of making trifle.
Last year as “Fresh Start” failed victims were told the parties were inches from implementation, and promised it would all happen imminently. When did those inches become miles of British bad faith? When they decided British state interests were more valuable than any Paddy’s rights to truth of justice, no matter what anthem that victim sings.
Don’t dare say there’s no agreement. To do that feeds the British Government’s narrative of Ulsterisation and legal side stepping. It’s a matter of implementing the agreement we have. Doing it with legal compliance, manners and conviction. And mixers need to stop mixing from the sidelines. Victims rights need to be honoured.
We may well have a spotlight on the past, but we need real progress for it to mean anything for those who suffer.