The legacy consultation has closed. NIO officials are locked away with the over 15,000 submissions they say they have received and are perusing them.
It’s not really all that transparent what happens next. In fact, it’s not one bit transparent. And of course, it’s very unsatisfactory that the decisions lie with the British government, considering the architecture was agreed between all local parties and the Irish and British governments in 2014. Let alone the fact that the current British government is in existence at the behest of the DUP, who have suddenly gone all cool when it comes to delivering to victims and survivors.And of course there is the no small matter of the UK government’s agencies being the subject of the very mechanisms that are to be established and the inevitable discomfort many in the cigar smoke filled rooms of Westminster will feel.
In another era we might be comforted by the knowledge that all proposals must be designed to meet the rigour of international law and human rights standards. Convention standards to which the UK government are signatories. But we know all too well that peace agreements, human rights conventions and any other commitment are basically up for negotiation to keep Theresa May’s tiger patterned dancing shoes in Number 10.
Ironically this December will see the 70th anniversary of the signing of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights. The founding document for all human rights legislation across the globe. A document signed as the burning corpses of Auschwitz were still seared into the conscience of the world, and the devastation at Hiroshima woke everyone up to the possibility of annihilation if human beings did not reach for a higher purpose.
But we do not live in that time. We live in an era where rights can be negotiated, compromised or dismissed as a search for “consensus” is promoted. We live in the Kafkaesque time that highlighting human rights abuses and human rights compliant remedy are “partial” or demonstrating political bias. Of course, all of that is the noise of a political elite seeking to protect its own interest while dismissing the vulnerable and voiceless whose only protection has been in law and convention.
What is unforgivable is that those who were harmed during the conflict who feel allegiance to the UK narrative of the conflict have been duped into believing that due process will harm them or deny them the dignity of truth and justice. Rather than being supported to recognise that rights for one means rights for all, their understandable fears have been fed to the point where nihilism prevails and some have called for all proposals to be scrapped.
The sidelining of victims’ rights has meant that instead being able to say we are at last delivering to victims of the conflict we bear witness to a meaningless battle for supremacy over who harmed who the most, who was most responsible for the conflict or who won the conflict. No one won our conflict. Too many were hurt and continue to hurt.
Putting victims front and centre would let us see that. Instead we come to the end of the consultation and all we see and hear are those who have interests to protect and narratives to promote. It has been a very disappointing time indeed.