Brexit and amnesty

Published in Editorial, Issue 5 (September/October 2021), Volume 29

editorNeedless to say, the ongoing kite-flying by the British government of a de facto amnesty in the form of a statute of limitations for crimes committed by members of the British security forces during the Northern Ireland Troubles 1968–98 is not what I had in mind in my last editorial (‘The Civil War and amnesty’). I suggested that it was time to consider a ‘truth for amnesty’ scheme, as advocated by the Truth Recovery Process (TRP), As the TRP makes clear, its proposal is not an easy ‘get out of jail free’ card. Yet this is precisely what we have here, to be issued by one of the parties to the conflict—the British government—to itself!

Nor is it motivated by any concern for the victims of the Troubles. It is pandering to the same ‘Little Englander’ chauvinism that brought us Brexit and all its complications, particularly for the people of Northern Ireland, and which shows no sign of being ‘done’. Rather than ironing out the undoubted difficulties created by the Protocol (part of a binding international agreement signed by the British government itself), and enhancing its positive economic possibilities (‘the best of both worlds’, according to the DUP’s Arlene Foster), the British government (and the DUP) have sought to politicise the issue, with potentially disastrous consequences for community relations in the North.

This has echoes of the Home Rule crisis of over a century ago, when the concerns of Ulster unionists were shamelessly exploited by the British Tory establishment. Judging by the recent musical chairs in the leadership of the DUP (who scuppered Teresa May’s earlier proposals for a ‘soft’ Brexit), if that was tragedy, this is farce.

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