Eames-Bradley: Saville Report ‘has revived the will to deal with the past'
A legacy Commission could be created with international help to deal with Northern Ireland’s troubled history, the author of a controversial report on reconciliation has claimed.
Lord Robin Eames, who co-chaired the report of the Consultative Group on the Past with former Policing Board vice chairman Denis Bradley, has told the Belfast Telegraph that he believes the publication of the Saville Report on Bloody Sunday has created a new atmosphere of “yearning to find ways of closing the door on the past”.
The Eames/Bradley report was widely criticised when it was released early last year. It included controversial plans for a £12,000 payment for families of all those killed during The Troubles.
But now Lord Eames, a retired Church of Ireland Primate, has said that the Government does not need to go back to the drawing board to find a process to deal with the legacy of the Northern Ireland conflict.
Speaking just days after publication of the Bloody Sunday report Lord Eames said he still believes a way forward can be found from the report of the Consultative Group on the Past.
And he thinks a breakthrough could be achieved if there was international input, both on the appointment of a Legacy Commission and decisions on how it would operate.
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams rejected the original Eames/Bradley proposal because the British Government would appoint the commission and write its remit.
“What we wanted was a Northern Ireland solution to a Northern Ireland problem,” Lord Eames said.
“I realised, as we all did, that the scheme depended on voluntary co-operation.
“This meant that, if any of the paramilitary groupings or political parties could not accept the scheme as outlined, then no other parties would feel they could cooperate.
“Sinn Fein has said that it could not accept the Legacy Commission because it would be British-appointed and British-answerable,” Lord Eames said.
But, after the Saville Report on Bloody Sunday, he detects a changing mood — an opportunity to look again at the proposals detailed in the Eames/Bradley report.
“Two things now have brought our proposals to the surface,” he said.
“First, the British Prime Minister has apologised for Bloody Sunday. Second, there is a yearning to find ways of closing the door on the past.
“What is being said to me now is that with some development the outline of our scheme for a Legacy Commission could answer unionist fears on examining the past and, in the new atmosphere post-Saville, could be more acceptable to republicans.
“It wouldn’t mean going back to a new starting point — to the drawing board.
“It could mean if you took the structure of the Legacy Commission we proposed and if you asked for an international dimension on how the commission was appointed and operated, given the situation post-Bloody Sunday report, then I think there would be a sufficient number of people willing to think about it again.”
Last week the Sinn Fein president Mr Adams again said he would co-operate with an independent, international truth commission.
He wants a body such as the United Nations to design the process.
The Eames/Bradley report was published in January last year — and it is for new secretary of state Owen Paterson to decide on the way forward.
“Unionists were suspicious that the Legacy Commission might once more place security personnel under scrutiny,” Lord Eames said.
“But, as we said in the Consultative Group report, our proposals could meet the requirements of all sides as well as addressing their fears.”
Four steps towards reconciliation mapped out by report
The Eames/Bradley report envisaged setting up an independent Legacy Commission to deal with issues from Northern Ireland’s troubled history by combining processes of reconciliation, justice and information recovery.
The report stated that the commission should operate for five years and would have an “investigative wing”.
The commission would also have had a £100m bursary to be distributed.
It would have been different from South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission in that there would have been no amnesty offered, although Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who headed the South African body, said such a commission may not work in Northern Ireland.
The body was to have been headed by an International Commissioner who would have been appointed by the British Government.
The commission would have worked in four stages:
e Identify areas of activity to address society issues arising from the conflict, for example, sectarianism. It would have administered funds available for specific community needs.
e Review and investigate |historical cases which resulted in death. It would have established whether there was a realistic chance of prosecution, taking into account the receding possibilities. It would have created a new independent unit to take over the work already undertaken by the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) and the Police Ombudsman.
e Seek, after completion of the Review and Investigation, to have provided families with answers to unresolved questions in individual historical cases.
e Thematic Examination. The Commission would have examined themes emerging from cases and the conflict as a whole, for example, allegations of collusion.
After the commission’s five-year period had expired it was envisaged that the need for institutions to deal with the past would have been reduced. The commission would then have submitted its final report and been dissolved.
At the end of this period there would have been a public ceremony remembering all those who suffered during the conflict.
Main recommendations from the Consultative Group on the Past
- 1 An independent Legacy Commission for five years with a £100m bursary to tackle the tasks of securing reconciliation, justice and the recovery of information.
- 2 Reconciliation Forum to be set up to help the Legacy Commission as well as the existing Commission for Victims and Survivors for Northern Ireland (CVSNI).
- 3 A payment of £12,000 for all families who lost someone in the conflict.
- 4 A new Review and Investigation Unit to replace the police Historical Enquiries Team and the Police Ombudsman's unit.
- 5 No new public inquiries to take place.
- 6 The Group did not propose an amnesty for crimes which are linked to the conflict, but recommended the Legacy Commission make proposals on how “a line might be drawn”.
- 7 An annual Day of Reflection and Reconciliation and a shared memorial to the conflict.
Brian Rowan: Why doing nothing is not an option
Lord Eames has said he believes any legacy commission established should have an “investigative wing”.
It is a way of saying there will be no amnesty, and this one proposal could prove to be the biggest barrier in the way of truth.
Who is going to come forward to tell their story — to provide information — if there is the slightest prospect of arrest and prison?
There is not going to be individual storytelling by those directly involved in the war, no sharing of the fine detail of who did what and when.
The most we can hope for is “corporate” co-operation from the loyalist groups, the IRA, the security forces, governments, political parties and others.
The question is whether this new Government wants a Legacy Commission.
Is it prepared to commit to such a process and allow it to be designed internationally to achieve maximum participation?
What Lord Eames is saying is that the process is there in the report of the Consultative Group on the Past.
He believes it just needs that international input to make it work.
The Bloody Sunday report answered some questions — but there are many more unanswered, many other ‘bloody’ days to be addressed.
Doing nothing is not an option.
The challenge is to do the right thing, and that will mean republicans, loyalists, the security forces, governments, politicians and others all at the same table of explanation.