Posted By: October 08, 2014

“Grayling has recently magically changed the embargo on documents relating to the Guildford Four from 30 years to 75. Why? The lawyer who asked for the papers, Alistair Logan, says it’s because the papers are ‘full of lies’. Guess whose lies? Not the Guildford Four’s.”

Brian Feeney. Irish News ( Belfast). Wednesday, October 8, 2014.
OUR current proconsul often gives you the impression she would rather be somewhere else, certainly not here. Aloof, detached, devoid of charisma, she is the perfect colonial governor. You notice she only gives powder puff interviews to the local BBC in carefully controlled circumstances, usually sitting at the Conservative party conference.

She has the easiest job in British politics. This place is still regarded as a ‘war posting’ so any time she trips the whole party gets behind her in the Commons and roars her on, drowns out the critics. She’s never given a full on, free ranging interview but she’s not alone in that.

Her predecessors, both Labour and Conservative, have kept well away from the likes of Noel Thompson and Seamus McKee. It wouldn’t take long to expose her ignorance. She couldn’t tell the difference between Maghery and Maghera and can’t pronounce either.

It’s not that she has nothing to say.

We’re not talking about carefully prepared set pieces like announcing talks to a completely apathetic conference hall. No, no-one has ever been able to challenge her about her betrayal of the rights of people whose relatives the security forces killed in the Troubles. The European Convention on Human Rights obliges the British government to ensure independent and effective investigations into such killings. Forget about ‘prompt’, another requirement, because some of the killings were carried out 40 or more years ago.

Our proconsul has been rather sleekit about this aspect of her government’s obligations. True, she’s a senior member of the self-confessed ‘nasty party’ so it could be argued she’s doing no more than proving it. First, she never said there would be no more inquiries, public or otherwise, into contentious shootings but, as you read here, once she turned down the Ballymurphy people she couldn’t give any other. There will be no more.

That was no surprise to people who had decided four years ago that a Conservative government was not interested in what the army or police did and accordingly people switched to inquests in lieu of inquiries. Of course the NIO spotted that and advised the proconsul to invoke the catch-all ‘national security’ excuse for not revealing relevant material. It’s rubbish and everyone knows it. Another ploy is simply to fail to release material. The senior coroner John Leckey has repeatedly complained that decades after the events he still can’t hold inquests because of our proconsul’s failure to ‘provide proper disclosure’.

It would be a pity to single her out for her disingenuous wheeling and dealing. Her colleague, the very very right wing Chris Grayling, secretary of state for, wait for it, ‘justice’, is also laughingly described as the Lord Chancellor. That despite the government’s former attorney-general describing Grayling’s paper on the ECHR[ European Court on Human Rights] as ‘puerile’. Others say it’s legally illiterate. Grayling has recently magically changed the embargo on documents relating to the Guildford Four from 30 years to 75. Why? The lawyer who asked for the papers, Alistair Logan, says it’s because the papers are ‘full of lies’. Guess whose lies? Not the Guildford Four’s.

Now thankfully our proconsul is being challenged about the funding of inquiries. All through the troubles the NIO was paying out sums into five figures in compensation for killings involving security forces directly and also collusion. The UK government was admitting responsibility. Why now is it up to the devolved administration to find money to conduct inquiries into the behaviour of people for whom the Ministry of Defence was responsible? After all, who paid for the Bloody Sunday inquiry? Who paid for the ill-fated and never published Stalker-Sampson inquiry or the Stevens inquiry?

If anything ever comes out of the talks announced a fortnight ago, who will pay for any structures or institutions recommended for dealing with the past? Remember all those units Haass proposed in January? Even if Unionists had agreed there is no money here for anything. It’s a fraudulent prospectus.

However, we’re back to the start because the colonial overseer will simply block any meaningful inquiries by invoking, all together now, ‘national security’, or make an exception to the 30 year rule by reverting to the 100 year rule for embarrassing public records.

Still, no danger of our proconsul explaining herself.