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May 31, 2008

IAUC Responds To Consultative Group on the Past


Contact: Kate McCabe, 734.657.2436

IAUC President Responds To Statement Of Consultative Group
On The Past

May 31, 2008 — On Friday, May 23rd, Irish American Unity
Conference (IAUC) president Kate McCabe met with Denis
Bradley of the Consultative Group on the Past in Derry,
Ireland to discuss the IAUC's position on truth recovery.
In light of Thursday's announcement by the Consultative
Group on the Past, the IAUC would like to take this
opportunity to respond publicly and to reiterate its
position on how best to deal with the legacy of the past.
The following is a statement from Kate McCabe on behalf of
the IAUC:

"At our meeting in Derry, I discussed the IAUC's support
for the victims groups' call for the establishment of an
international, independent truth commission as the only way

The IAUC disagrees with Mr. Bradley's belief that this is
the wrong time to be dealing with the legacy of the past,
that the timing of this process is much too soon. That
such a process would be better undertaken 80 years from
now, as Bradley believes, does not make sense. Truth
commissions are normally established on the momentum of a
regime change, and the more time that goes by with a change
in government, the less likely it is for such a commission
to be successful in terms of gathering support as well as
evidence. The importance of timing is crucial, and this is
surely a factor with which the Consultative Group is

The purported purpose of Thursday's speech was to "define
the problem" as the CGP sees it, in an attempt to further
the discussion over these next few months before their
recommendations are made. We are concerned with what we
believe to be a cursory attempt to reframe the debate, and
we take issue with several points.

First, it is simply not historically accurate to say that
the British government sought to be an 'honest broker'
during the conflict. Rather, the British government was a
principal actor in the last 40 years of struggle. The
British government has long attempted to characterize
itself as a neutral intermediary or a middleman attempting
to keep the peace between fighting factions in the north of
Ireland, and this is simply untrue.

For the Consultative Group—a panel set up by the British
government—to support this claim belies their position as
an independent body or a group of well-meaning individuals
tasked with the difficult responsibility of leading all the
people of the north forward towards reconciliation. To
decontextualize history is to reconfigure reality, to imply
that there is equal culpability when there is not.

It is important to recognize that nationalists and
republicans did not "find themselves" in an alien state or
"feel" as though they were being treated as second-class
citizens. The entire political, economic and social
structure of the northern state was designed to perpetuate
discrimination towards the minority Catholic community.
This fact alone shows that there was not equal culpability,
and to imply otherwise is not logical and certainly is not
useful towards furthering the debate on truth.

The State must be held to a higher standard due to its very
nature as a sovereign government involved in targeting its
own citizens. The State's involvement in collusion, shoot-
to-kill, and state violence necessitate full disclosure—
especially because their victims cut across all sectors of
society. This conflict was fought through people. The
State was in charge, and it gave certain people impunity
for their actions. The appeal to sentimentality induced by
the image of an elderly mother learning of her son's role
as an informer is both diversionary and disingenuous.

Though we recognize the pain and trauma experienced by all
sectors of society, and believe that all victims have a
right to know the truth about what happened to their loved
ones, we believe the onus must be placed on the British
government to come clean about the extent of their
involvement in the 'dirty war' of the past few decades.

A failure to uncover the truth in these areas undermines
the British government's commitment to basic democratic
principles and human rights, while giving credence to the
widespread perception that members of the security forces
and others in the north of Ireland have been able to
operate outside the law with impunity.

As a sovereign government and a central party to the
conflict, the state has a responsibility to do more than
just acknowledge and apologize for its involvement in
criminality, and in particular its use of informers. An
apology is not a substitute for a proper investigation, and
as such can only come after the truth recovery and
examination process is completed. There must be official
recognition of past harms and abuses, and that recognition
must go on the public record. In order to ensure
independence and public confidence, it is necessary that
all actors involved in a truth commission were not active
participants in or parties to the conflict.

In order to have the support of Irish America behind the
recommendations of the CGP, the issues of collusion, shoot-
to-kill, and state violence must be addressed to the
fullest extent. All parties to or victims of the conflict
must be given a platform to share their experiences. Such
a process is necessary for sustainable peace, cross-
community cooperation, and the future economic regeneration
of historically marginalized areas. There can be no lines
drawn under the past if there is to be confidence in the

McCabe also discussed the newly formed Thar Saile and the
IAUC's campaign to seek a final resolution to the plight of
former IRA prisoners living in the United States. McCabe's
remarks on this issue were positively received.

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