What is behind Britain’s desire to erase the history of unrest?
The question of how to deal with the past has haunted the North since the conflict with the Good Friday Agreement ended in 1998. The late Lyra McKee has written about how ancient belligerent paramilitary murals were covered in more touristy images. Some of them show a playful King Billy on his white steed, surrounded by orange lilies, on the shores of the shimmering Boyne. “Maybe we were trying to erase our own memories, hoping for collective amnesia by erasing reminders of what had happened,” she wrote. “But all you had to do was scrape off the paint and you would discover the city’s past, like a ghost refusing to go to the next world.”
But even by such low standards of behavior, what his government has now done is breathtaking.
Now Northern Secretary Brandon Lewis has announced his government’s solution. You deal with the past by erasing it. You deny that this has happened. You call the story stopping. You draw a line. The document he recklessly presented to Westminster this week proposes to ban not only prosecutions – the amnesty he had already announced by any name last year – but all “current and future” judicial inquiries as well. on “disturbance-related conduct” before 1998. This will include courts, inquiries, civil cases, inquiries and inquiries into inheritance by the Police Ombudsman. The legacy branch of the PSNI alone has ongoing cases involving nearly 1,500 people. From now on, it will be as if 30 years of murder and mutilation never happened. Troubles? Which problems ?