Belfast Telegraph

British policy is a hindrance

By Declan Kearney

Theresa Villiers's speech earlier this month announced much more than the British Government's decision to end the on-the-run (OTR) administrative scheme.

She set out a British and unionist view that there is a single narrative of the past; showing deliberate disregard for the suffering and injustice inflicted upon republicans and nationalists.

She also said the rule of law must apply and opposed immunity, exemption, or amnesty from prosecution, while ignoring the immunity and impunity for the actions of British State forces and agents during the conflict.

Britain was not a bystander then and now has a central role to help resolve the past on behalf of all our people.

By setting out the primacy of a single narrative and rejecting the use of immunity as one instrument to assist in dealing with the past, the British Government has come out against the Haass compromises. That is a very retrograde political position. But the ramifications of her remarks extend even further.

The OTR administrative scheme was not a side deal. Resolving this issue was agreed with the two governments in the context of the Weston Park Agreement. Theresa Villiers knows that.

Her speech indicates this government has now stepped away from Weston Park.

Sinn Fein has said repeatedly that, while this Government is strategically disengaged from the peace process, it has been very engaged making negative political interventions.

Everything changes, however, when all that suggests an emergent Government strategy to derogate from the terms of binding agreements to suit an exclusively Conservative and unionist agenda. That should cause serious concern for everyone.

Conflict resolution is a process of change and compromise, based upon good faith and commitment to implement agreements. Theresa Villiers's speech sent out a message that such principles no longer apply.

Theresa Villiers and those overseeing this British Government's Irish policy have become part of the problem.

Belfast Telegraph


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