The British government have in the last week or so published the Bill incorporating the main elements of the so-called Stormont House Agreement and included in its provisions is a proposal for an Oral History Archive to collect memories of the Troubles.
In all the history of law-making there surely can be no equal to the asinine, vacuous and ultimately cowardly thinking that went into the framing of this idea. Surrendering almost entirely to the victims’ lobby in Northern Ireland, the drafters have included a provision that at a stroke of a pen renders the OHA useless, pointless and irrelevant.
This is what the drafters have inserted:
- The OHA will not be exempt from any court order served for the release of information in an oral history held by the archive, including requests for disclosure in relation to criminal investigations. Nor will it be exempt from any statutory duty to report crimes.
It goes without saying that any former member of any of the North’s various paramilitary groups, either Republican or Loyalist who decides they wish to tell his or her story honestly, frankly and completely, would have to be completely insane to co-operate in any way with the Oral History Archive.
All they would be doing is talking themselves into a jail term. Note that the Bill will oblige the interviewers and bureaucrats running this idiot scheme to report any crime or offence admitted by the interviewees. People co-operating with this madness would save everyone an awful lot of time and money by instead making an appointment at the nearest PSNI station.
As an idea designed to discover the truth of what happened during the Troubles, the OHA as described in this Bill is a piece of lunacy.
It is also a disturbing example of the power now wielded by victims groups and the cowardice of those in power.
The victims (and we were all victims in one way or another) have a right to know what happened to their loved ones. But this idea will not advance their hopes in one smidgen. Rather it will set them back forever.
The victims groups must decide what they want. The truth or revenge. If it is revenge then they will never get it, certainly not by the OHA route. If they want truth then they should lobby government to erase this killer clause.
As for academia, the OHA is a challenge to their courage and integrity. There is no doubt in my mind what they should do. Boycott this OHA, deprive it of the respectability and integrity it needs to survive, do so openly, publicly and loudly and by so doing force NI’s politicians to do the right thing.
The truth shall set you free, but the OHA will put you behind bars.
Here is the Bill: