Kate Nash critically assesses the latest guff and PR puff from British secretary of State Theresa Villiers. The writer, Kate Nash, lost a brother to the British state war crime known as Bloody Sunday.
On October 12th the British Secretary of State Theresa Villiers issued a statement on the need to revise proposed legislation on dealing with the past in line with the Stormont House Agreement. This statement came just days after the legislation, which was presented to the five main Stormont parties on September 29th ,was leaked to the public.
In advance of the legislation being leaked we had raised a range of concerns in relation to a discussion document we received in August and proposals contained in a policy paper released by the NIO on Sept 23rd.
Unfortunately for many victims, the Statement issued by the British Secretary of State has caused further consternation and we feel that it is incumbent on the British Secretary of State to address the concerns of victims and allay their fears.
In her statement the Theresa Villiers acknowledges that for some victims the “suffering is as great today as it was then.” And that "For many victims, their priority is bringing to justice those responsible for the death of their loved ones.” Whereas "Others simply want to know more about what happened.” Whilst this would reflect the feelings of a range of victims, the proposals to date coupled with the Secretary of State's selective language has left some of us who lost family members during the troubles fearful that after decades of seeking justice we are no further forward. This is compounded by the insistence of the Secretary of State to create a hierarchy of victims, a matter we hope to address.
In her statement the Secretary of State states that 90% of the killings which took place during the troubles were carried out by paramilitaries.
When Ms Villiers states 90% of deaths in the Troubles were caused by paramilitaries will she now publicly state how many of those killings involved agents of the state?
From agents within Republican groups such as 'Stake-knife' to Loyalists such as Mark Haddock who as a paid agent of the British State has been alleged to have been involved in multiple murders.
Furthermore how many murders were carried out by paramilitaries who received intelligence and support from the British State or it's forces?
Will the Secretary of State now reveal to the public the numbers of murders involving state forces or their agents or will she use the National security card in order to avoid national outcry and embarrassment?
The Secretary of State has also said that "this Government will never accept equivalence between those who did their duty protecting people from terrorist attacks, and those who spent thirty years inflicting terrorist attacks. In this the Secretary of State attempts to differentiate between the actions of paramilitary groups, state forces and the British Intelligence services. The “unjustifiable” Bloody Sunday murders were carried out by state forces just months after 11 civilians were murdered in Ballymurphy over a three day period by the same regiment.
The actions of the parachute regiment on Bloody Sunday were in breach of established protocols in that shots were fired at unarmed and fleeing civilians. Under the current definition, Bloody Sunday was a war crime.
Despite this Theresa Villiers goes on to add "As a government we believe in the rule of law, which should be applied without fear or favour.” And yet 43 years after the brutal murders of our loved ones William Nash and Manus Deery and the attempted murder of Alexander Nash who was gunned down as he attempted to rescue his fatally wounded son none of the Bloody Sunday State sanctioned murderers have been arrested and questioned nor has the murderer of 15 year old Manus Deery. It would seem Theresa Villiers' words are as hollow as State investigations into State murders.
If we as a society are to heal and move forward then the past needs to be addressed in a manner that as far as possible meets the needs of all victims, including where possible, prosecutions. To do this the state needs to acknowledge their role and the fact that Britain was not a neutral party. Furthermore politicians in Stormont whose personal histories compromise any notion of independence need to take a step back.