There are moments in the legacy debate when the issues at stake are lit up in lights. The past six months must be viewed as critical. We either take the soup or we take a stand, it is as simple as that.
December 2014 should have been when progress was made. All parties – and don’t let any party tell you different – and the two governments agreed to human rights compliant investigations. They agreed to tell the truth. They agreed that everyone should have their story recorded equally. They agreed to make statements of acknowledgement. They agreed to a pension for the injured. They agreed to a mental health service for victims. It was a high-water mark for a debate which has been called everything from divisive to toxic. At last our peace process would recognise that victims’ rights and experiences are contributors to healing and peace.
What has happened since then? To any one of those proposals? Nothing. Worse than nothing. And this is one instance where local parties are not to blame. The sovereign government for Great Britain and Northern Ireland is full square to blame. It has maliciously torn to shreds every single proposal.
Independent investigations are now framed as “witch hunts”, “vexatious” and “terrorist agendas”. Bereaved relatives are portrayed as vindictive players and those accused of involvement in state killings and collusion are portrayed as victims. The whole concept of “truth” is now a sordid battle ground where the Union Jack must fly untouched as the aspiration that “the truth will set us free” is gunned down in the trenches.
The mental health service for victims has been appropriated by the Department of Health as a trauma service for all, with victims and survivors’ experiences forced to join the queue, so as to make the promise meaningless.
The pension for the injured, a universally supported proposal, has been laid victim to a process of criminalisation for those who may have participated in non-state actions, all while those who wore uniforms are being supported to put paperwork together for ready access to a payment scheme. The utter depravity of those who are prepared to impose policies of criminalisation 40 years after the hunger strike, on the backs of those most in need, would make Old Nick blush.
All of the “legacy debate” is about the perpetuation of the British state’s narrative of the conflict here. It is about exonerating collusion, shoot to kill, the use of plastic bullets, and a system of cover up and delay. It holds international law in as much contempt as it holds the victims of our conflict.
The British state pretended to be neutral during our conflict and during our peace process. Its perpetual insult to common decency during the legacy debate is proof if any was needed that it is far from neutral. Dark forces of military intelligence and Whitehall mandarins have assaulted our prospects for peace and healing with their actions over the past six months. Once Stormont was re-established, they turned their backs on their obligations and kicked its heels in our faces.
Let no one tell you that the payments for the injured spectacle is about the parties in Stormont. It is about British government’s bad faith, British government’s contempt for the rule of law and misrule Brittania.