British government has changed definition of a victim and has the nerve to blame Sinn Fein

Posted By: June 10, 2020

Victims Commissioner Judith Thompson described the public stand-off as “cruel, callous and insulting” to Troubles victims. 

Brian Feeney. Irish News. Belfast. Wednesday, June 10, 2020

On Friday the EU negotiator Michel Barnier said: “We must stick to our commitments if we are to make progress.”

He then listed a series of examples where the British had walked away from commitments Boris Johnson had signed up to in the Political Declaration last year. As a former senior French minister, Barnier will not have been surprised. After all, decades ago President De Gaulle concluded, “there is no alliance or treaty the English keep, nor any truth that counts with them.”

Any British parliament can overturn any action of a previous parliament. Since 2010 Conservative governments have, mainly at the behest of DUP MPs, systematically walked away from or nullified agreements made about The North by Labour governments from 1997-2010.

They resiled from  50:50 police recruitment and thereby stalled the desired increase in numbers of Catholic officers. Egged on by Unionists, they tried to unpick the deal on the so-called ‘on the runs’ until Tony Blair warned the Westminster NI Affairs Committee, that dangerous, mischievous unionist playground, of the likely hazardous consequences. Throughout the last decade Conservative ministers and successive proconsuls [ NI Secretaries of State] have ignored the Good Friday Agreement’s requirement for ‘rigorous impartiality’ between the two communities here, instead behaving consistently in an openly biased manner in favor of unionists, most foully during Theresa May’s time.

Which brings us to the current impasse on pensions and compensation for Troubles victims. Urged on by Unionists, Conservatives have tried to work round the legal definition of a victim in the 2006 order because the DUP never accepted it. Now, in the current proposals, Westminster has in effect subverted the 2006 order. Outrageously our current know-nothing proconsul has the nerve to say that Sinn Féin want to reopen the definition of a victim when it is as plain as the nose on your face that it is his government that did it.

Why would they do such a thing? First, to please unionists, secondly to please unionists, but also the British government who object to any implication of equivalence between former IRA volunteers and security forces. That’s also why our proconsul has walked away from the Stormont House Agreement which he trashed in April, incurring protests from all northern Catholic bishops, among other interested parties. Needless to say, the DUP agrees, though no one seems to have asked Arlene Foster why she no longer supports the SHA. Answer: as soon as it became clear the Historical Inquiries Unit would investigate state forces the DUP walked away.

Abandoning pre -2010 commitments, the guidelines for compensation and pension are designed as far as possible to discriminate against [Irish] Republicans. Taking a 30-month sentence as the cut-off point for eligibility from the 1978 Rehabilitation of Offenders Order, the British government and their DUP patsies hope to exclude most Republicans. It doesn’t matter how many others – including loyalists – are affected; the DUP don’t care as long as it hits the maximum number of republicans.

The legislation, as you’d expect from this incompetent, inept, thuggish government, is as full of holes as Emmental cheese. The tribunal guidelines contain phrases like ‘exceptional circumstances’, relevant conviction’, thereby offering a field day for judicial review. Already there is substantial case law after the Conservative/unionist attempt in 2013 to block former prisoners from civil service work. As one lawyer commented, “this new legislation will make Belfast ‘Judicial Review City’”. Legal challenges will take years. The only people who will benefit in the short term are m’learned friends.

As this newspaper commented on Monday there has to be a political solution to the impasse. The dispute about who pays, Stormont or Westminster, is a sideshow. The real tussle is the operation of the legislation. The British have excluded Sinn Féin from the process of devising its operation. You can’t push aside the biggest party in Ireland and the representatives of the majority of northern nationalists. The British must secure the buy-in of Sinn Féin.END.