British bad faith belies season of goodwill

Posted By: December 27, 2023




Distributed to Congress by Irish National Caucus

“As Brian Feeney explains, there is no end to England’s bad faith when it comes to Ireland. And, I would add, that is never going to change as long as England has power over any part of Ireland. We have 854-years —and counting—proof of that.”—Fr. Sean McManus.

British bad faith belies season of goodwill

Brian Feeney. Irish News. Belfast. Wednesday, December 27, 2023

CHRISTMAS is certainly not the season of goodwill as far as the British government, or at least its most junior department, the NIO, is concerned.


Last week the DUP let its proconsul down badly when he had expected to finish the political year celebrating what would have been the single success of his failed tenure at the NIO.


It was not to be, so he retaliated by humiliating Donaldson. In the last of the Hillsborough talks he shocked the DUP team by announcing in the presence of the other parties that time was up and talks on the Windsor Framework were ‘concluded’.


Nothing more than everyone knew already but, to the exasperation of the other parties, he had maintained the fiction to give cover to Donaldson’s dithering. Now the game was up. If Donaldson wouldn’t play ball, neither would the proconsul. He went out and repeated his announcement to the waiting press.


The DUP trio then had to give their reaction with egg splattered on their faces, intensely embarrassed. Bah, humbug.


No sooner had the proconsul expressed his ill-concealed annoyance at the DUP standing him up than he was hit by another blow with news that the Irish government was initiating an inter-state case at Strasbourg against the UK’s disgraceful legacy act.


This welcome Irish decision was obviously a shocking surprise to the British, evident from the petulant tone of the NIO statement in response. The blustering response of the NIO’s unelected bag carrier, Lord Caine, on BBC NI conveyed the same sense of shock. Laughably, he could not “rule out consequences”. So, it is Christmas: ho-ho-ho. Who does this guy think he is?


Caine arrogantly proclaimed his rotten legacy act as the “only show in town”. He neglected to explain why that is. It’s because the lying government he serves ratted on the agreement they signed with the Irish government to implement the 2014 Stormont House agreement within 100 days of the January 2020 New Decade, Same Approach con job.


Instead, the British unilaterally abandoned all their agreements on legacy the same day as they announced restrictions on legal action against British soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq. Now the proconsul has the nerve to complain of Dublin taking unilateral legal action.


The January deal was the first Johnson ratted on after he was elected prime minister in December 2019. It wouldn’t be the last. Caine and his like will learn very quickly the low international opinion in which his untrustworthy government is held. Besides, threatening “consequences” for taking action in the European Court of Human Rights won’t go down very well in Strasbourg.


He also asserted that the act was “compatible” with Britain’s international obligations. Complete rubbish and he must know that. International legal experts have been lining up to condemn its incompatibility with human rights ever since the bill was first published. As Micheál Martin pointed out, both the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk have raised serious concerns. In fact, Türk called for the UK to drop the legislation because “it fails to comply with the state’s obligation to investigate serious human rights violations”.


Its incompatibility is obvious even at a cursory glance. The Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Retrieval (ICRIR) isn’t independent. The NIO controls its budget, exercises supervision, and can (and will) censor ICRIR reports, though they use the weasel word ‘redact’ instead of censor. Furthermore, the ICRIR can’t even decide how many cases to investigate.



“The legacy act is so preposterously incompatible with human rights legislation that you have to ask whether it’s just a cynical exercise to pacify vociferous Colonel Blimps on the Conservative back benches and to provide fodder for right-wing tabloids to attack Labor with. So, if, as he has promised, Starmer repeals it and/or the Strasbourg court finds it incompatible with the ECHR, the Conservatives can say, well, we tried. It was those nasty Irish that did us down.


Finally, how can the Commissioner of Investigations, Peter Sheridan, former RUC/PSNI officer, be seen to meet the essential elementary requirement that an investigator must be independent from everyone under investigation when he could be investigating former comrades’ actions?


Sadly, in the meantime, British unilateral bad faith, which has provoked this inter-state case, may handicap attempts to restore a Stormont executive. The British in their petty hissy fit will certainly rat on their obligations under the Good Friday Agreement to consult and cooperate with Dublin. Why wouldn’t they: they’ve reneged on everything else?

“The British unilaterally abandoned all their agreements on legacy the same day as they announced restrictions on legal action against British soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq.