Why there will not be a truth recovery process.
Much has been made recently about the Haass talks. I had no such expectations this time in contrast to the Good Friday agreement. The politicians cannot agree. I am with some of the Unionists in not letting the Union flag be debased or devalued. One element that still has to be resolved is ‘the Past’. I was convicted in the ‘70s of numerous terrorist offences and I was given Special Category status recognising the particular context and background to the serious violence that was happening in our country.
I think there will not be a truth commission/recovery process for the following reasons. Firstly such a process cannot operate in N.Ireland because there has been no clear winner. The situations where truth recovery has worked has been where there was a clear winner, such as South Africa.
Secondly, there is no immunity for ex combatants.(Does that include British soldiers and RUC men?) What good is limited immunity? What rational person would say ‘I will go and tell what I know only to have that later come back and convict me in a court of law? Trust is major element of the truth process and I think its fair to say that that isn’t there. And could anyone envisage the day when an British Intelligence member would publically say , yes we were involved in bombing the capital of a neighbouring country that resulted in men, women and children being killed?
Thirdly there has been the most acute discrimination and vilification of loyalist ex-prisoners both from the statutory bodies and sadly the unionist community. Republican ex-prisoners have the political power of Sinn Fein to protect them and their families. Disrespect and disdain has been actively shown from some unionist politicians to loyalist ex-prisoners who have cut their links with their respective groups, have raised families and tried to lead normal constructive lives. Time and time again there are those who will never let the past be the past.
Fourthly and more worryingly are the unaccountable agencies who agitate and character assassinate- the gutter press. I can imagine certain so called journalists rubbing their hands with glee as a truth commission would unearth facts that they would take and use, manipulate, sensationalise and exaggerate without redress. The process would be a farce. If our gutter press can show suicide victims hanging on their front page and interview paramilitary touts who then turn up dead, then they will think what they would when honest disclosures are made to a truth process. And on the same line if loyalists where honest in such a process would they then become targets for the dissidents?
Fifthly and most important would be the families of any ex combatant and I include security forces. If a truth recovery names people, then what about protection for their current wives, partners, children and in many cases grandchildren. Would such innocent people become collateral damage? How their lives would be impacted?
If a truth recovery process did take place, what about the people who set up the circumstances that led to the Troubles? The politicians who did carry out prejudice and discrimination in a blatant way? Would they be called to account? Whoever asks about the ‘great and the powerful’ before the Troubles came? What of their actions and behaviour? I was a teenager in 1970 caught up in a melee of violence, fear and hate. I could have had a far better life without the Troubles. Will anyone hold their hand up to such a drastic failure to build a decent life for us? And by us I mean ALL the children of that time. Or is this a grand PR exercise to heap all the blame on the bad paramilitaries and divert attention from certain other sectors.
Finally and possibly the biggest stumbling block—-Would elements of our society (both sides) accept the fact that some paramilitaries were also victims of the Troubles. Not all paramilitaries where victims. Many young Prods and Catholics joined because something happened to their family members. Will this be recognised?
At the minute I think there will be no truth recovery process because of the complexity of the issue. Because of party politics that will be played out. Because of the spotlight that would be put on the security forces. Could the public, both here and mainland, really cope with the truth? There won’t be a truth process because to many want to see the world from their perspective rather than get at the truth.