'Troubles legacy commission must be candid'

Proposals to control the amount of information available to families bereaved during the North's conflict are playing God with the interests of justice, a human rights group has claimed.

Proposals to control the amount of information available to families bereaved during the North's conflict are playing God with the interests of justice, a human rights group has claimed.

National security would have to be considered when deciding how much material was disclosed, the Consultative Group on the Past (CGP) has recommended.

But British/Irish Rights Watch director Jane Winter said there were real concerns about any commission dealing with the legacy of 30 years of violence.

“The needs of families come at the end of a long list of caveats, which include the interests of national security and the objective of promoting reconciliation,” she said.

“The CGP cannot seriously be proposing that the Legacy Commission would suppress information in the interests of reconciliation.

“That would involve a degree of paternalism, abuse of power, lack of transparency, and playing god which would be counter-productive as well as wholly unacceptable.”

The CGP proposed a Legacy Commission to deal with historic murders instead of potentially hundreds of public inquiries.

The CGP was an independent group set up to deal with the legacy of the North Troubles, during which more than 3,000 people died. It was headed by former Church of Ireland Primate Robin Eames and ex-vice Policing Board chairman Denis Bradley.

In January this year the authors sketched out their ideas for a five-year £160m (€181m) Legacy Commission.

This would take over the work currently carried out by Police Ombudsman Al Hutchinson, who investigates complaints against the police, and the Historical Enquiries Team, a specialist police unit set up to investigate unsolved killings throughout the Troubles.

Ms Winter said the Legacy Commission needed firm government backing, adequate resources and enough time to complete its task.

She further criticised treatment of individuals involved in violence.

“What the group is proposing when they speak of not naming or blaming is an amnesty by any other name and impunity on a massive scale,” she added.

The CGP addressed the issue in a speech in May 2008.

“Full disclosure has its repercussions and no community would be left unscathed,” it said.

“Would the republican community like to have to tell an ageing mother that her martyred son was actually an informer? That is what full disclosure could mean.”

They said there are other ways of seeking truth that do not include long drawn out judicial processes.

“Truth and justice are not mutually exclusive but neither are they always attainable.

“How we, in our report and as a society, address this critical issue is one of the major challenges arising from the legacy of our past. We must be honest with ourselves about the realities of what any court or inquiry can deliver.”

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