Processing for political advantage rather than for harmony has done noting to divest the North of its more acrimonious and acerbic character. The parsimony of power splitting and not the generosity of power sharing has bequeathed Northern society a soulless peace.
One area in which progress has been both superficial and skewed is in the criminal justice system where the North's British police have worked sedulously to derail justice. There is a close resemblance between the manner in which the PSNI is dealing with investigations arising out of both the Northern present and its much more volatile and violent past.
Last week in the Belfast High Court, during hearings into inquest procedures, Lord Justice Weir expressed his concerns about delays in bringing the inquests to a conclusion. In the case of Derry IRA volunteer Seamus Bradley, shot dead by British soldiers in 1972, Judge Weir said:
No. More delays. It’s very important given the time frame that we get on with this. All these delays laid out end to end waste time ... This is wearing a bit thin ... Even though the Bloody Sunday Inquiry could locate all the soldiers involved in that, but you can’t find these ones. I find that very difficult to believe. You’ll have to employ a tracing agency like they did for the Bloody Sunday Inquiry. It’s about time we knew who these people are.
In the case of the schoolboy Manus Deery, gunned down by the British as he ate a bag of chips in the same city in 1972 an exasperated Judge Weir admonished Barra McGrory's prosecutors:
You were asked for these in November. Are these manuals being delivered from Taiwan? You have one week to produce these manuals ... I find it very difficult to understand on what basis this is being requested other than to create unproductive delays. A little bit of common sense needs to be shown. I often wonder who suggests these things to these people. This cannot be a case of kicking the can down the road, it’s too old and it needs to be dealt with.
Contrast this to the speed and sense of urgency with which the PSNI set about haring off in pursuit of the Boston College tapes. No kicking the can endlessly down the road there. The PSNI is instinctively, intuitively and irrevocably incapable of pursuing lines of inquiry that lead back to the state.
There is a clear strategic continuity at play which the change of name from RUC to PSNI has done nothing to offset, something that is apparent in the case of imprisoned republicans, Alec McCrory, Harry Fitzsimons and Colin Duffy. The men have already spent their third consecutive Christmas banged up and their day in court seems no closer. Judge Gordon Kerr told the prosecutor during a bail application by Harry Fitzsimons that:
If the preliminary inquiry is not completed on this occasion you're likely to be faced with a position where delay has been extensive and cannot be tolerated.
It says a lot about the collapse of the republican opposition in the North that British judges rather than erstwhile opponents of the judiciary now figure among the more strident voices to be heard criticising police and prosecutors.
How little was achieved in this area can be gauged by the odyssey of the Director of the Public Prosecution Service, Barra McGrory, who has made monumental career strides but microscopic steps in delivering justice. His real achievement to date has not been to upend the bad practices established by the RUC but to turn on its head, the accomplishments of his late father, PJ, a thorn in the side of, rather than a badge in the cap, the British state.
Justice delivery and Barra McGrory? Hard to see the word association.