I had a funny old day last week. It began with me being a bit glum about all of this dealing with the past consultation thing. I am not putting a dampener on it but there have to be concerns about the proposals as they stand.
Firstly, it was annoying that it seemed like a concession that a statute of limitations isn’t in it. It isn’t in it because it is a proposal based on bias and not law, could never have stood up to the slightest legal scrutiny and even this Tory government could not stand over it.
Secondly, the easy read documents on the website annoyed me. They might be easily accessible for people with reading difficulties, but they do not include the significant elements of the legislation that families need to and do grapple with. Not having years in school does not mean families are not well aware of the legal complexities and cannot engage with them as well as any “professional”. Families are the experts in their own cases and should be treated like that.
Thirdly, the legislation really does have a lot of challenges in it. British national security remains all over the Historic Investigations Unit. If it stays as is proposed, families and their right to truth will remain at a significant disadvantage compared to the British Secretary of State’s rights under this legislation.
Fourthly, the Commission for Information Retrieval has challenges in it regarding whether people with information will provide information. The way it is constructed leaves a lot of doubt. For families that are not interested in the HIU and were thinking ICIR was the best route for them, this is worrying.
And then lastly I listened to the ill-advised intervention of Barra McGrory into the debate. It was extraordinary that he would, four years after the signing of the Stormont House Agreement, intervene to say the entire infrastructure is political and a different mechanism should be agreed, one which included a full amnesty.
My worries about the make up of the infrastructure of the Stormont House Agreement met with this nihilism by Barra McGrory.
The very same day I visited West Belfast’s Noble peace prize winner (well, she should be) Clara Reilly. She got me to do a video where she told us all that the British will always try to cover up and we always need to keep battling. It was as simple as it was powerful. It woke me up out of my gloom.
So here it is. Barra McGrory is wrong. While the Stormont House Agreement is indeed a political agreement, it is not for politicians. It is an agreement designed to deliver to the differing needs of victims. And right now, it is not perfect. It might never be. But there is an opportunity to expose the weaknesses, propose solutions and make it something families can get stuck into.
If those who drew up the legislation think families will be disheartened and go away they really are not paying attention. For every barrier they put up families’ determination and imaginative responses grow stronger. This consultation will prove that.
And as for Barra McGrory? His contribution is noted. But impunity is not an option. Families are achieving truth, despite the barriers. And they will secure justice and accountability.