The Republic of Ireland has ignored its responsibility to victims of the Troubles for decades
It was one of those jaw dropping moments when I read the article by Adrian O’Neill, the Dublin government’s ambassador to the United Kingdom, in the most recent edition of The House magazine.
The ambassador was lamenting the injustice in the governments recently published legacy legislation and bemoaning, quite rightly, the injustice of it all. What was shocking about it is that the Irish government does not have clean hands on this matter and seeks to point the finger at the UK government in a political act of false piety and deliberate distraction.
The ambassador called for “a partnership approach”. Yet the sad fact is the Republic of Ireland has been woefully untrustworthy and a completely inadequate “partner” for the best part of the last two decades when it comes to dealing with the past.
Without recounting how ignoble Leo Veradkar was throughout the Brexit negotiations, with his active and insincere campaign of flaunting photos of UK security installation in Newry and Armagh from the 1970s and threatening that Brexit would bring back this security nightmare and thus appealing to the lowest denominator in Irish politics.
The Republic has ignored its partnership obligations on legacy for decades. The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee has heard evidence that up to 700 murders in Northern Ireland throughout the Troubles were committed by IRA members who fled and got sanctuary in the Irish Republic. They quite happily used the actual border as demarcation line for their violence and terror.
Who needs a hard border when you can dart back and forwards over the soft border and commit murder and crime in the knowledge the soft border is your biggest protection from justice?
The Irish government does not have clean hands on this matter
Any efforts to get the Republic of Ireland to meet its obligations and provide evidence and assistance with investigations into these 700 murders has been met with stonewalling, silence and excuse for inaction. Yet the ambassador has the audacity to castigate the UK government for this legacy legislation. How dare he!
I am no fan of the government’s legacy approach but at least I have a right to speak about it without contradiction. Ambassador O’Neill’s government would be better staying silent on this one, as his public comments only serve to highlight the hypocrisy of successive Dublin governments and a gross failure to act within its own jurisdiction.
The Dublin government has a responsibility to act. It is not tied by UK legislation but has to date done next to nothing in uncovering the failings of its state throughout the Troubles, the collusion of its most senior politicians and police in the actions and activities of the IRA.
If the ambassador really cared about the victims, he would open the state files in the Republic to scrutiny from the victims and their representatives. Will the guards, at long last, make their state intelligence files available to the victims and their families and share the truth behind who murdered their loved ones? Because, to date, these requests to even meet state officials has been blocked.
Will the ambassador even make himself available for a public hearing of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee to be probed on these matters? To date Irish ambassadors’ have hidden behind “private meetings” with the committee, rather than face public scrutiny.
Make no mistake: the government’s legislation on legacy is not wanted by victims, but neither is the failure of the Republic of Ireland to open its books and provide answers to victims who know the state has blood on its hands.
The Northern Ireland Select Committee heard this week that the Dublin government will now use the legacy legislation in UK to block cooperation on historical inquiries in the south because the legislation is not compliant with Article 2 of the Convention on Human Rights, providing a technical opportunity for Dublin not to assist families in Northern Ireland.
If ambassador O’Neill is sincere about what he says, let’s see how he addresses this catalogue of shame by the Dublin government.
Ian Paisley is the Democratic Unionist Party MP for North Antrim.
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