Lambeth Palace legacy talks pair need to engage with critics of the process

A letter from Dr WB Smith:

Sunday, 20th December 2020, 11:02 am
Rev Harold Good and Jim Roddy, who have been presiding over the Lambeth Palace talks on legacy. Dr WB Smith writes: "These discussions have raised serious concerns amongst unionist elected representatives and victims’ organisations, which deserve a more generous response than a defensive press release"

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s office has issued a statement on behalf of Rev Harold Good and Jim Roddy.

It indicates that they intend to continue with their Lambeth Palace legacy talks.

They are of course entitled to discuss whatever they want with whomever they wish. Both gentlemen have in the past promoted conversations for reconciliation.

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Letter to the editor

But these legacy discussions have raised serious concerns amongst unionist elected representatives and victims’ organisations, which deserve a more generous response than a defensive press release (which is reproduced below).

It is clear that the ‘seminar’ on 2 November was directed at influencing policy on legacy issues.

The NIO was represented by its top civil servants, sitting alongside the MOD and the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs. The secretary of state, Brandon Lewis, has not ruled out NIO participation in future meetings.

Uniquely amongst Northern Ireland’s political parties, Sinn Fein was invited.

Perpetrators were represented; victims were not.

It was arranged with high-level support from the British and Irish governments.

The November meeting centred on a presentation from QUB academics and activists from the campaign group Committee on the Administration of Justice. CAJ describes itself as an ‘independent human rights organisation’. One of the academics (Anna Bryson) is its chair.

The CAJ’s latest annual report denounces the government for ‘reneging on its promise’ to legislate for the legacy structures set out in the Stormont House Agreement.

However an NIO public consultation in 2018 revealed huge opposition to these convoluted proposals from politicians and victims’ groups.

Respondents pointed out that the structures would be intrinsically biased against the security forces, fail to investigate the terrorists who were responsible for the vast majority of human rights abuses during their campaign of violence, and in effect facilitate the republican movement’s attempts to rewrite history.

Rev Good and Mr Roddy declare themselves dismayed by ‘some of the misinformation and misrepresentation of our meeting in Lambeth Palace’.

Until they clarify what exactly has been misrepresented, the suspicion will linger that their agenda is to restore the discredited Stormont House model.

This is what Simon Coveney has been demanding — with no scrutiny of the Republic’s role in the Troubles.

Dr WB Smith, Belfast BT15

• The statement that was issued on behalf of Rev Harold Good and Jim Roddy

LEGACY CONVERSATION TO CONTINUE

We met today (Wednesday) with colleagues who took part in the seminar in early November at Lambeth Palace to discuss the legacy of the conflict.

As detailed in a statement earlier in the week, that event involved a presentation from Professor Kieran McEvoy and Dr Anna Bryson concerning the options paper produced by them and their colleagues in the Model Bill Team entitled ‘Prosecutions, Imprisonment and the Stormont House Agreement’.

Professor McEvoy presented preliminary findings at the Victims’ Forum in February 2020.

This paper from Professor McEvoy and his colleagues was premised upon the implementation of the Stormont House Agreement. It contains options which would see Article-2 compliant investigations into conflict-related deaths, information recovery, oral history and reconciliation work being undertaken.

We believed that a thorough review of these options was warranted so we asked the Archbishop of Canterbury to host the seminar to facilitate that discussion. We proposed an invitation list of people who we have been in regular conversation with in relation to Legacy over recent years.

We have been genuinely humbled and moved by the words of support and encouragement that we should continue with this work from many in civil society, including victims. We have also been frustrated and dismayed by some of the misinformation and misrepresentation of our meeting in Lambeth Palace.

We have nonetheless heard the criticism that we should have done more to include a broader range of victims’ voices in the conversation. In recognition of that criticism, we have in consultation with the Archbishops office and those who attended the previous meeting decided to reschedule our follow up discussion which was planned for tomorrow.

In the time remaining between now and Christmas and immediately after we and our other stakeholders plan to engage in wider discussions with the victims’ sector and others. Time is clearly of the essence.

We have worked together for years on peace and reconciliation and have a passionate belief in the capacity of people in Northern Ireland to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles. The legacy of the conflict can be addressed with some political and legal imagination on the part of civil society, the joint stewardship of the two governments and the efforts of our local political parties. We will continue with others to work towards that end. END

Jim Roddy, Harold Good (Rev)

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