By Jim Gibney (for Irish News)
The generosity of many of the relatives of people who died in the conflict never ceases to amaze me.
While there was an understandable media and political focus on the row at the launch of the report by the Consultative Group on the Past, popularly known as the Eames/Bradley report, there was an incredible gesture of human kindness on the BBC’s Talk Back programme this day last week which went practically unnoticed.
The sentiments expressed were truly moving and befitting of more media coverage and commentary than they were given. Ken Adamson told Talk Back’s David Dunseith that he had lost three members of his family in the conflict.
His father was shot and died in March 1973; his broken-hearted mother could not cope with her loss and died by suicide on the second anniversary of his death and five days later his brother was killed by loyalists while preparing to attend his other brother’s wedding.
When asked by David Dunseith what he thought about the recommendation by Eames/Bradley that a sum of money be given to each family who lost a loved one in the conflict, irrespective of the background of the person, Ken Adamson accepted that the grief of all families should be recognised.
He actually said that had the loyalist who killed his brother died in the conflict then his family were entitled to the sum of money in recognition of their loss.
This remarkable and uplifting spirit of appreciating other people’s grief stands in sharp contrast to those, especially the unionist parties, who politically exploit their communities’ raw emotion at times like this.
This was reflected last Monday in the assembly when the DUP sponsored a motion condemning the Eames/Bradley report.
They sought to trivialise the report by narrowly focusing on a few recommendations such as the payment to all families, whereas others - especially relatives’ organisations campaigning for truth, and Sinn Féin - decided to study the report before responding definitively.
This is sensible because the report is comprehensive and complex - almost 200 pages long and has 31 recommendations.
The Eames/Bradley group in preparing their report laboured under the suspicion that they were established by the British government to report to it on how the legacy of the conflict should be handled.
The suspicion was well grounded given the history of relatives’ organisations campaigning for the truth and being met by the deceit of the British government and its armed forces.
There is a long list of British government approved inquiries into collusion and shoot-to-kill operations -Stalker, Sampson, Stevens, Cory and the Police Ombudsman.
There is a body of evidence which clearly points to a high level of collusion between the British government’s armed forces and loyalist paramilitaries which led to the deaths of hundreds of Catholics.
So far the British government has managed to protect itself and its agencies from those seeking to probe deeper into this sinister world.
That is why truth campaigners are insisting on an independent, international inquiry, preferably under UN tutelage because any other form will be ignored or shaped to suit the British government’s interests.
The recommendation from Eames/Bradley that a Legacy Commission be established to deal with the past is the report’s primary and crucial recommendation.
The powers such a commission will have to deal with the past will determine its acceptance and effectiveness.
It is therefore understandable for Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams to point out that the proposed Legacy Commission is “not the independent and international commission... that Sinn Féin believes is necessary to properly address this issue”.
Given the scale of collusion between the British crown forces and loyalists I expected Eames/Bradley’s report to have a clear focus on this issue.
Instead the report is peppered throughout with references to ‘alleged collusion’, with collusion being defined as a ‘thematic’ issue to be investigated by the Thematic Examination Unit.
That said the report is thoughtful and sensitive and is both victim and society-centred.
Whether it can achieve its stated objectives largely depends on the British government.
Thirty-seven years ago the British army publicly massacred 14 people on Bloody Sunday in Derry.
We are still waiting to hear the truth and that is because it is dependent on the British government.