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March 10, 2008

GFA 10th Anniversary: Peace Without Justice

Northern Ireland: Peace Without Justice

It has been 10 years since the Belfast Agreement ended centuries of
armed Nationalist resistance to English rule in Ireland. The British
took their time implementing the demilitarization measures and the
elected Assembly and, in the mean time, loyalist militants would kill
over thirty Catholics. Despite the good intentions of Prime Minister
Blair, the Army and MI-5 have blocked all progress on the Agreement’s
call for independent inquires into security force collusion with
loyalist death squads and the corruption of law in the North.
America weighed in once before to bring about the peace. Will it do
the same now to see that justice is done?

The accord was immediately dubbed the “Good Friday Agreement,” with
its adoption in 1998. Civil rights activist and former Member of
Parliament Bernadette Devlin, who survived one assassination attempt
at the hands of the British Army, panned both the document and the
label by stating “I think they should have waited until Holy
Saturday.” In several respects she was right. The British were
anxious to reduce the violence to manageable levels. The period
leading up to the agreement from 1994 to 1996 included a surge of
loyalist slaughter including the butchering of 16 year old James
Morgan and the murder of dozens of others including Ben Hughes and
John Slane, two fathers who left 11 children behind. By the time the
second IRA cease-fire ended in 1996 with the Canary Wharf bombing,
the British people were weary of the failed Irish policies of the
Thatcher-Major era.

The peace pact was the result of a unique collaboration between,
President Clinton, who took his own counsel on N. I., and Prime
Minister Blair, the first Labor leader in living memory who didn’t
need loyalist votes to govern. Add to their patience and wisdom the
skill of the moderator, former Senator George Mitchell and a new era
was ushered into Irish history. Well almost. The ink was barely dry
when the loyalist and British backsliding began on both the letter
and spirit of the documents. The elected Assembly —without policing
and justice powers---has functioned only since 2005 and troop
withdrawals were regularly delayed. Although violence has subsided,
thirty-one Catholics have been killed since 1998 including Gerald
Lalor, Danny McColgan, Ciaran Cummings and most recently Michael
McIlveen aged 15. To appease militant loyalists two supplemental
understandings were adopted at Weston Park and St Andrew’s. However,
the ‘truth and justice’ sections, as they have come to be called,
have languished with negligible progress.

Just what are these justice issues?

• Unsolved killings—Sinn Fein and others including the Irish
government were apparently under the delusion that Britain would make
some effort to explain the failure to arrest, prosecute or convict in
over 1000 unsolved murders in the North. The victims were mostly
Catholic. The Director of Public Prosecution also failed to indict
even one person from the investigation of British Constable Stevens
who documented murders involving collusion with security forces.

• Bloody Sunday, Dublin/Monaghan & Omagh—Thirty-six years after that
fateful day in Derry Britain will not indicate when its report into
the Bloody Sunday massacre will be released.

The single largest atrocity of the conflict, the Dublin/Monaghan
bombings were carried out by a loyalist death squad and the British
Army. An investigation into that act of war, which for Ireland was on
the scale of a “9/11” attack, has been stonewalled by the British
Ministry of Defense.

Likewise the Omagh bombing will not be independently looked at because too many secrets of the security forces would be revealed.

• Pat Finucane & Rosemary Nelson---These two lawyers were assassinated
for their work challenging the corrupt justice apparatus Britain
established to prop up garrison rule. Security force involvement in
the assassination is certain. Britain is not cooperating with
investigators fearing disclosures will destroy the spin and expose the
deceit of their ‘upholding the rule of law.’

Can American leadership again be expected to bring some urgency to
getting answers to the justice issues? The chemistry of Clinton and
Blair is not likely to be repeated unless Senator Clinton were to
become President. The Department of State remains blinded by a World
War II ‘special relationship’ psyche. Their diplomacy with the U. K
is based on deals not justice. Britain’s delay and cover up on these
matters is understandable. Slowly a picture has emerged in Northern
Ireland of a violent 40 year criminal conspiracy by the governments
against the Catholic Nationalists. If America and Americans don’t
demand Britain live up to the justice issues of the Belfast Agreement,
there will be no accountability, no justice for the victims of their lawlessness and a history of the era built on lies.

Michael J. Cummings, Member
National Boards of the Irish American Unity Conference
and the Ancient Order of Hibernians, and former National
Executive member of the Irish Northern Aid Committee
12 Marion Ave
Albany, New York 12203-1814
518-482-0349, 518-447-4802
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