Crowe challenges Secretary for Northern Ireland on legacy issues

Local Sinn Féin TD Seán Crowe has challenged the Secretary for Northern Ireland James Brokenshire on his belief that inquiries into legacy issues arising from the conflict in Northern should be time-limited. 

Speaking yesterday at a sitting of the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly in Cardiff, Mr Brokenshire said the reasons behind implementing a time limit is because current inquiries are too slow, cumbersome, not delivering, not balanced and one sided.

Deputy Crowe, who is Chair of the All Party Oireactas Committe on Victims, and who was in attendance, said;

“I agree with British Secretary Brokenshire’s remarks that inquiries into legacy issues arising out of the conflict in the north are not delivering for victims or their families, and that they are both slow and cumbersome.

“I am in no doubt that many of the victims’ families, including those of the Dublin and Monaghan bomb victims, who have been looking for decades for British files to be released would agree with these words.

“Unfortunately, the figleaf of security consideration is all prevailing when it comes to the British government’s approach to dealing with the past and when it comes to victims and their families

“The blocking of the processes involved, through the use of a ‘national security’ veto, is central to this problem. It is a handy, ready-made and deliberately false justification for criticising, and undermining, the value of such inquiries.”

A newly published report on legacy by UN Special Rapporteur Pablo de Greiff looks likely to increase the attention on the after effects of The Troubles.

James Brokenshire took over the job of Secretary of State during the summer saying that addressing legacy issues was one of his key priorities but there has been no great moment in the process for dealing with the past since then.

The outline of a plan was included in 2014’s Stormont House Agreement and again in last year’s Fresh Start. However, implementation is log-jammed by the British government’s national security veto and a hold-up in funding for historical inquests.

The Northern Ireland Office said Mr Brokenshire wanted to shift the process to a “more public phase,” and Sean Crowe believes he should honour that. He said:

“James Brokenshire should uphold his obligations by addressing the requirements of the North’s Lord Chief Justice’s five-year plan to clear the backlog in legacy inquests.

“The slow and cumbersome nature of the inquiries, as well as the failure to produce satisfactory results, is due to British political manoeuvring rather than any procedural deficiencies. The British government and Mr Brokenshire must accept responsibility for this matter and work on improving their engagement with the inquiries.

Deputy Crowe also questioned Mr Brokenshire’s specific call for “time limited” inquiries and queried his remarks in relation to a lack of balance when it comes to inquiries. He said;

“Mr Brokenshire was critical in his speech today and called for more balance in the electing of legacy cases to be investigated and suggested that the British state were involved in a minority of killings during the conflict.

“Aside from disagreeing with his narrative, what message he is sending to victims and their families today? Is he trying to say that victims of State violence should step aside and drop their cases or that their pain and their cases are somehow less relevent?

“It is extremely worrying that the British Secretary is suggesting that inquiries, established to uncover the truth and aid in the cementing of peace in Ireland, should be limited in their duration.

“The obvious and immediate criticism is that such a stipulation would open the door to further whitewashed inquiries by way of simply waiting it out.

“I don’t believe that such a development would advance the purpose of historical inquiries, which is to provide victims, relatives and communities with some closure by unearthing the truth and by bringing those responsible to justice.”