Chaotic Stormont House Agreement to be subject of Congressional hearing in Washington

Posted By: October 12, 2015

Jilly Beattie. Belfast Live. Monday, October 12, 2015

US Congress ‘concerned’ about Stormont’s proposals to deal with the legacy of the Troubles as five main parties examine their position

Fr. Sean Mc Manus tells victims to stand firm in their pursuit of justice

The chaotic Stromont House Agreement is set to be the focus of a Congressional Hearing in Washington, Belfast Live can reveal.

America’s most powerful Irish voice, Fr. Sean Mc Manus, head of the Irish National Caucus, said Northern Ireland politicians and the British government have been trying to “steamroller” the legislation into law.

He said: “I had been warned that the dissenting voices had it all wrong: that it was not amnesty about the proposals within the Stormont House Agreement.

“Now it transpires that the dissenting voices were quite right to sound the alarm.

“It appears that the parties and other groups were asleep at the switch, which often happens when those in power are intent on pushing things through – steamrolling over the public.

Fr. Sean Mc Manus says he prays for peace and works for justice

“I am glad I listened to the brave voices of dissent to the Stormont House Agreement, and that I passed on their concern to the US Congress, which is now equally concerned.

“And I am sure many of the issues will be the focus of a Congressional Hearing.

Concerned voices having been discussing the Stormont House Agreement proposals in Washington

“As I’ve stated, it is not for the Irish National Caucus to chart the course on this. We simply want what the families of the victims want, Protestants and Catholics alike.

“And we firmly believe there should be no hierarchy of victims.”

Fr. Mc Manus’ revelation comes on the day the SDLP confirmed that have told the British government not to table the bill in Westminster.

Earlier this week, a draft of the legislation detailing how disclosure of “sensitive” information in relation to historical investigations could be regulated,  was uncovered and released by the Mirror.

Alex Attwood said the proposals were against the Stormont House Agreement and he said the government was “creating impediments” to reopening cases.

He told BBC, Northern Ireland’s Sunday Politics program, that victims and survivors want justice and answers to questions about the past.

He added: “Northern Ireland has bespoke mechanisms to dealing with issues of disclosure and the British government now drives a coach and horses through that by saying they will decide what information can and cannot be shared.”

And he accused Northern Ireland Secretary, Theresa Villiers, of a “deliberate attempt to ensure that people don’t get the access to information and truth that is at the heart of dealing with the past”.

Fr. Mc Manus urged the Northern Ireland public to hold fast and push for justice and truth, and remember that all victims understand pain and grief.

He said: “Tears are neither Orange nor Green; grief is neither Protestant nor Catholic; a sense of loss is neither English nor Irish.

“Truth and justice is of the very essence in all of this. And the truth is that when those who are supposed to uphold the law, actually break the law in a most fundamental and systematic way, then the very foundations of civic life and democracy are threatened.

“That is the ‘appalling vista’ that the late Lord Denning shamefully refused to acknowledge. In 1980, as Master of the Rolls, Denning disgracefully and inexcusably rejected a civil action by the Birmingham Six against West Midlands Police because to accept their case that police officers had lied about their confessions and had beaten them would have opened up ‘an appalling vista’.

“Now the Stormont House Agreement must face this appalling vista, namely that the British Government, its leaders, agents, soldiers and police not just lied and beat people, but actually murdered them. And here I would urge Unionists/Protestants to make a distinction between the IRA breaking the law and the British Government breaking the law.
“After all, the IRA proudly declared that they were ‘outside’ British law: that in that sense they were ‘outlaws’. If the Unionists/Protestants do not make that distinction, they are, in effect endorsing the historic, traditional IRA position: that the Army Council of the IRA is the legitimate government of All-Ireland.

“Surely the Unionist position has to be – legally, constitutionally and morally – that there is a qualitative difference between ‘outlaws’ breaking the law and Her Majesty’s Government breaking Her Majesty’s law?

“To me, the ultimate question about the proposed Stormont House Agreement is this: Was it written primarily in the interest of the British Government?

“Is Brian Feeney’s claim correct: “It begins with the unconvincing claim that ‘the institutions have the needs of the victims and their families at their heart’. No. The needs of secrecy in the Ministry of Defense, the NIO and the Home Office are at their heart.”

“The only Agreement the Irish-American community will support is that which has the support of the families – not an agreement meant to deny an appalling vista.”