Nostalgia is certainly not what it used to be, given current controversies about the cause of the conflict in Ireland. A disinterested observer exposed to evidence of chronic economic and social conditions in the north of Ireland prior to 1970, might wish to examine the role of the state in perpetuating the conflict, a state that sought to respond to economic and social deprivation with a colonial mindset and military might in 1968.
The Good Friday Agreement was signed on 10 April 1998 and the devolved assembly collapsed in January 2017, yet there are regular clarion calls, ‘to draw a line on the past and move on.’ Such clichés serve to accommodate insecurities about the cause of the conflict in Ireland and constitute attempts to avoid the need to address legacy issues.
Secretary of State 20, announced a consultation process on proposals to deal with the legacy of the conflict based on the Stormont House Agreement. In spite of this, the Prime Minister has no difficulty in treating legitimate human rights issues as pernicious counter narratives. Legacy issues featured in Prime Minister’s Questions on 6 June 2018. According to Ms May,
“…the only people being investigated for these issues are our own armed forces or those who served in law enforcement…”.
In his book, The Great War for Civilisation, Robert Fisk quotes Sheikh Nahnah,
“…the greatest violence is done when a state attacks its own people”.
It would appear that the state is not only prepared to attack, kill and maim people, as in the Ballymurphy Massacre and on Bloody Sunday but it is also reluctant to deal with the aftermath. According to Ms Bradley, they are not massacres, they are not crimes, they are people acting under orders and under instruction and fulfilling their duty in a dignified and appropriate way. Mihir Bose, marking the centenary of the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre stated it was one of the worst atrocities of British rule in India and legacy issues remain unresolved to the present day. Trampling over the human rights of people in Ireland, India or any other continent or country has not and does not solve problems, it merely creates the conditions for further conflict. Apologies are no substitute for action and compliance with legislation on human rights.
There is an urgent need to deal with the legacy of the conflict in Ireland. However, the state remains reluctant to address the issues. To date, the current Prime Minister and SOS have clearly demonstrated they are not neutral participants when it comes to addressing legacy issues.
Speaking on the anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, Ms Bradley told the House of Commons she had proposed a
“short, focused set of five-party talks”,
aimed at restoring devolution and the other institutions at the earliest opportunity. Ms Bradley added
“I’m open to looking at all options as to how to achieve that.”
There is a test which may be used to establish if Ms Bradley is really ‘open’ to looking at ‘all options’ in order to address a political vacuum. Will she choose to be ‘open’ about the existence of restricted files or choose to procrastinate on spurious grounds associated with national security?
As a matter of priority, the state and its agents could begin to explain why many files in relation to contested killings and injuries need to remain restricted for many years to come. Cui bono?