Former NI Secretary Warns Against Going Back to the Past

Former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Peter Hain MP yesterday spoke against returning too heavily to the past in Northern Ireland.

Talking to Good Morning Britain News Mr Hain said:

“I do not think that going back 40 and more years in this fashion is actually going to take Northern Ireland forward, nor do I think, in the vast majority of unsolved cases, it will bring any sense of justice to victims.”

New Approach To Crimes Unresolved In Northern Ireland 40 Years Ago Or More

The Guardian, 

Crimes committed during the Troubles, including around 3,000 murders, should be left unsolved, a former Northern Ireland secretary has said.

Speaking on the eve of Irish president Michael D Higgins’ state visit to the UK and Martin McGuinness’ planned attendance of the state banquet alongside the Queen, Peter Hain said that a de facto amnesty was needed in order to allow Northern Ireland to put the past behind it.

“I think there should be an end to all conflict-related prosecutions. That should apply to cases pre-dating the Good Friday agreement in 1998. This is not desirable in a normal situation. You would never dream of doing this in England, Scotland and Wales – but the Troubles were never normal,” he said.

In an interview with the Times, Hain added: “You can keep going back all the time and you can keep looking over your shoulder or turning around all the time, but what that does is take you away from addressing the issues of now and the issues of the future.”

The call for an amnesty by the former minister comes after the collapse of the trial of suspected IRA bomber John Downey in February. Hain said at the time that he was “astonished” that case even made it to court.

In March, he said that a similar amnesty should be put in place in relation to the Bloody Sunday killings. His latest comments, however, go further.

He said that the same should be extended to everyone allegedly involved in violence during the Troubles.

“A soldier potentially liable for prosecution who’s being investigated for Bloody Sunday has got to be treated in the same way by whatever process emerges as a former loyalist or republican responsible for a terrorist atrocity,” he said.

Similar proposals have not proven popular in the past. Seamus McKendry, the son-in-law of Jean McConville who was abducted and murdered in 1972, said that, while he could understand, he did not agree with Hain’s suggestion.

He told the Times: “I don’t agree but I understand where he’s coming from. You have to let things go at some time, but people just can’t forget that easily. Jean McConville has become such an iconic figure, a tragic figure. And there are other such cases, like Bloody Sunday. I think if you can resolve some of those bigger cases, at least it lets the people know they haven’t been forgotten about.”



Pat Finucane’s death is a terrible stain on Britain’s record in Northern Ireland

The Guardian, 12th December 2012

The De Silva report into the brutal murder of Pat Finucane, coupled with the prime minister’s searing confession to parliament, revealed probably the worst atrocity by the British state within UK jurisdiction in recent times.

Pat Finucane was a respected Belfast solicitor who had often represented republicans during the height of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. On 12 February 1989, he was assassinated while eating Sunday lunch at home in front of his wife, who was wounded, and their three children.

His murderers were loyalist gunmen, one of whom, Ken Barrett, eventually pleaded guilty when put on trial in September 2004. However, this was not just another of the many grisly loyalist killings at the time. Special branch agents were directly involved and, with IRA terrorism widespread, encouraged loyalist terrorists to kill republicans. So did the army’s secret Northern Ireland intelligence agency, the force research unit (FRU), a team of army officers tasked to recruit and train double agents within the paramilitary organisations.

Pat Finucane had republican sympathies but he was a lawyer, not an activist, still less an IRA member. Yet, as De Silva confirms, the FRU and other state security officers obstructed the subsequent police murder investigation which would have exposed their complicity.

The Finucane family fought bravely for many years to get the truth out into the open and wanted a public inquiry. The Labour government pledged to hold one as part of the peace process. But when I was secretary of state for Northern Ireland from 2005 to 2007, the family would not accept one under the 2005 Inquiries Act – the only vehicle available – because evidence from the security forces could be given confidentially. Their position was entirely understandable – why should they trust the British state that had killed Pat?

But the reason for this restriction was to enable the security forces to provide key evidence without compromising sources or methods and therefore their ability to continue confronting terrorism. The impasse remained until more recently, when the family apparently indicated they would accept a 2005 act inquiry.

Nevertheless, De Silva has revealed that British government agents, supposedly acting in the name of democracy and the rule of law, totally betrayed those principles: a truly horrendous stain on Britain’s record in Northern Ireland. The prime minister should be held to his pledge that the attorney general will examine possible prosecutions and that other cabinet ministers will ensure that lessons are learned and nothing like this can ever happen again.

BBC Northern Ireland Interview

Interviewed as a former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland by BBC outside Parliament about the brutal murder of Pat Finucane on 12 February 1989, a respected Belfast solicitor, victim of state collusion with Special Branch agents and the Army’s covert Force Research Unit involved. A shocking stain on Britain’s record in Northern Ireland.