Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Editor's Viewpoint: We need better way to deal with the past

When Prime Minister David Cameron appeared on a big screen at Londonderry's Guildhall Square in June last year to apologise for the "unjustified and unjustifiable" killing of 14 civilians by paratroopers on Bloody Sunday, he was roundly cheered.

He seemed to be a man who recognised the sensitivities of the tragic history of Northern Ireland and was responding accordingly. That reputation took a severe battering yesterday.

Why did he summon the family of murdered solicitor Pat Finucane to Downing Street to deliver what they regarded as a totally unacceptable answer to their demands for a public inquiry into the killing? Surely the antennae of the Northern Ireland Office could not be so poor that it held out any prospect of the family accepting a simple review of the case by a QC as a way of gaining closure. Little wonder the family essentially walked out of the meeting in disgust and anger.

Of course the Prime Minister's suggested way forward in the case has divided opinion here. Nationalists feel the Prime Minister has acted in bad faith in not following Judge Cory's recommendation to hold a public inquiry into the murder while unionists feel that a simple review is the right approach and that there should be no more lengthy and costly public probes. In the middle a family is still awaiting answers to simple questions - why was this man killed, by whom and on whose orders? The Prime Minister has accepted that there was state collusion in the murder and has apologised for that, but it is unlikely any further answers will be forthcoming.

What this case illustrates is the need for some mechanism to deal with the past. It will be extremely difficult for politicians and the two communities to create a shared future unless they can draw a line, somehow, under the history of conflict. One potential blueprint is in the Eames-Bradley report and it may be time to revisit that to see if a broadly agreed approach can be devised to find out the truth without undue expense or delay.

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