Dealing with the past: postponed until further notice

Looks like the Observer's Henry McDonald has been hearing the same rumours around Belfast as I have – namely, that the report by the Eames-Bradley Consultative Group on the Past is to be postponed (yet again) until the end of the year at least.

The Group concluded its investigation as long ago as January. When I last blogged this topic in late May (Northern Ireland: 'It must never happen again'), at the time of a high-profile speech by the Group's chairs Archbishop Robin Eames and Denis Bradley, I mentioned that the report was expected later in the summer. Then, it was said, it would be out in September. Then October. Now McDonald is reporting December, while I am hearing that we could be into next year before the Group's findings finally become public.

As previously mentioned, the Group which was established by the UK government's Northern Ireland Office (NIO) and had its terms of reference written by the NIO, may now find its work being postponed by pressure from the same NIO (a claim they deny in the Observer report).

I'm sure the argument against publication suggests that, given the ominous political deadlock currently on display at Stormont, might it not be better to hold off until politically more conducive times…

But which of the political parties or UK or Irish governments would really welcome effective scrutiny and exposure of their past actions at any time?

Let's hope that Eames, Bradley and the rest of the Consultative Group will show real independence of mind and not give in to the special pleadings of those in positions of power, whether in Whitehall or Stormont Castle, to delay indefinitely.

However, the real test for the Group is not about the timing of their report, but its contents and whether or not they are willing to stand up for truth and justice in a way which is not compromised by any competing claims for pseudo-reconciliation.

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