This Friday public consultations on the Eames/ Bradley proposals for dealing with our horrific past end. The pair have been roundly reviled — unfairly — for suggesting a £12,000 payment to the relatives of every person killed in the Troubles, a suggestion that initially came from some relatives themselves.
Critics saw the payment as a good way of sidetracking discussion on any part of Eames/Bradley.
If they could discredit the pair by highlighting the payment issue then maybe other parts of their document would also fall by the wayside.
For the pair also made a proposal that has many people running scared, from paramilitaries to police and military chiefs.
It suggested setting up a Legacy Commission with Information Recovery and Investigation units.
The idea was that by one means or another — either a renewed police investigation or through admissions by paramilitary or security sources — relatives of people killed during the Troubles and whose killings have never been solved could get some kind of closure.
This idea has its genesis quite |obviously in the Truth Recovery forums of South Africa post-apartheid. There, all sides were forced to face up to what they did in the years of violence before.
Will that happen here? Not a hope in hell’s chance.
As I have said before, too many people have too much to lose by |letting the truth out.
William ‘Plum’ Smyth, a former UVF or Red Hand Commando |terrorist who served time for attempted murder, spoke for an awful lot of people with guilty secrets when he condemned “Nuremberg-style trials” examining Northern Ireland’s past.
Many of the investigations by the Historical Enquiries Team — the squad of detectives set up to examine ‘cold killings’ during the Troubles — have turned up either loyalist suspects in the case or been critical of past RUC investigations.
Mr Smyth said there was a choice to make “closure” or “opening up a can of worms”.
When he said “closure” he meant forgetting about the past and letting dead men and women lie.
Does he think that just because Gusty Spence, announcing the loyalist ceasefires in 1994 at which Mr Smyth was the chairman of the meeting, said loyalist killers were offering “abject and true remorse” for their past deeds that that |absolves them from all their responsibilities?
Mr Smyth said continued investigations into past killings were destabilising the situation.
No matter that, possibly for the first time, some killings are being properly investigated and that there is an opportunity to find out what really happened. No, don’t worry about the victims or their relatives.
We should really feel sorry for the thugs and terrorists on all sides who took life wantonly.
For Mr Smyth’s comments are not just aimed at getting loyalists off the hook.
It will also mean that republicans and the security forces will also be given a ‘get out of jail free’ card. “The past is too uncomfortable to confront, so don’t let us bother” seems to be the attitude.
Others, like Gregory Campbell, cannot see any version of the past but their own. As a further delay was announced in the publication of the Saville Inquiry report into the killing of 13 innocent civilians by paratroopers on Bloody Sunday in 1971, Mr Campbell described the tragic event as “besieged soldiers acting in self-defence against a violent mob”.
Even the discredited Lord Widgery, who held the first inquiry into Blood Sunday and whose name is now synonymous with “whitewash”, didn’t take that outlandish view.
What seems certain is that we are nearly at the end of all investigations into past deaths in Northern Ireland. Sorry if you had a relative killed, but you are on your own.