RICHARD HAASS AND THE BLUE BLOOD PRINCESS
COMMENTARY BY MICHAEL CUMMINGS – President Obama’s Special Envoy to Ireland, Ambassador Richard Haass, will shortly end his mission to seek common ground on three contentious issues stalling the progress of peace in Northern Ireland. Actually the disputes over flags and parades are the side show. The main point of contention is the legacy of the conflict that is, accountability for the violence which cost 3,500 lives. Weighing in for Her Majesty’s Government is the Burke’s Peerage-listed Theresa Villiers, the youthful pom-pom cheerleader and Secretary for Northern Ireland who just finished a U.S. tour “…briefing American leaders.” Much of her tour was spent dismissing Mr. Haass’ chances for success and deceiving Americans about the U.K’s. commitment to the 1998 Belfast Agreement.
Although Britain is a signatory to the Good Friday Agreement (GFA), it has ignored and undermined key provisions of the pact that squarely focus on the legacy issue. Elements within the British government have long resented the U.S. role in negotiating the peace accord and fear the justice provisions under the GFA have the potential to disclose England’s campaign of violence stimulating the IRA response. Indeed, the recent release of journalist Anne Cadwallader’s book “Lethal Allies” and a report by Margaret Urwin of the Patrick Finucane Center, document the grim picture of a nation’s descent into systematic oppression. Ms. Villiers’ job is to take control of this latest intrusion by the U. S. without abusing the special relationship and without revealing why Her Majesty’s Subject has been systematically lying to the President and Congress alike.
Confused? Let’s look at the big picture. Although Britain partitioned Ireland in spite of Sinn Fein’s 1918 election victory, it was the United States and President Wilson’s refusal to include Ireland in the Small Nations clause of the Versailles Treaty that sealed the existence of the sectarian state and sowed the seeds of conflict. The Department of State covered for the human and civil rights abuses of its Cold War ally as evidence of police and military excesses mounted. Internment, arrest without charge, juryless courts, censorship and State-sponsored terrorism including the assassination of five elected Sinn Fein Councilors followed.
President Clinton’s approval in 1994 of a visa for Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams underscored how much Britain’s actions in Ireland had deprived them of all credibility. They had overplayed their hand too often with Congress and the White House. The 1998 Belfast Agreement contained three key legacy provisions which, if addressed, could have provided a measure of truth, justice and reconciliation. Fearing exposure of their misdeeds if actually implemented, Britain has spent15 years stalling their implementation while deceiving Americans and the people of Ireland and England. The curtain has been raised on yet another Act of this Irish tragedy: enter Secretary Villiers and Ambassador Haass.
Ms. Villiers has continued the tradition of a long line of Northern Ireland viceroys who act as little more than spin doctors for Whitehall, the name of the building housing Britain’s Ministry of Defense. Her recent remarks show just how far Britain has diverged from U. S. understanding of both the spirit and intent of the provisions of the peace pact.
The Dublin-Monaghan bombing codicil, for example, requires documents be turned over to the Irish Government detailing the British Army’s role in the 1974 no-warning bombing which to this day is the largest act of slaughter of the entire conflict. In a veiled slap at Dr. Haass’ mission, Secretary Villiers claimed: “England does not own the past.” But, of course, it does. By refusing to comply with this Treaty requirement, Britain attempts to escape a terrorist label for bombing a neighboring country with which it was presumably at peace.
The Historical Enquiries Team was to investigate the murders of over 1,000 Catholics – many for the first time. Ms. Villiers won’t explain why HET’s work has been so corrupted and has ground to a halt, but the smart money is on the fact that investigators were getting too close to the truth of those murders. In response to a recent bomb threat by IRA dissidents, Ms. Villiers stated: “…if those responsible think this criminal activity will further any agenda they are completely mistaken.” Who would know better about the use of violence to advance a political agenda than Britain? Their deployment and support of loyalist death squads in killing innocent Catholics and the use of the Army to assassinate elected officials were intended to instill terror amongst the Catholic minority and dampen their electoral support for Sinn Fein.
The U.K. was to hold an independent public inquiry into the murder of attorney Patrick Finucane. Prime Minister Cameron publicly stipulated that British security forces were involved in his death but has thus far has ignored implementing an independent public inquiry that might discover the senior government officials who ordered Finucane’s death. In another slap at the Haass mission, Ms. Villiers warned that “… any mechanism dealing with the past needs to be consistent with the rule of law.” What she means is that any resolution of legacy issues must be consistent with Britain’s public interest, the rule of law be damned.
In an interview while in the U.S. the N.I. Secretary observed that legacy issues are the “poisoned chalice” of the current discussions. Indeed, the task of finding the hidden truth of British violence has been poisoned by her and those who sent her on this spin mission to America. No one here heard her explain why Britain is undermining the GFA. Her claims of seeking community healing and prosperity for the North are easily rubbished by the 2013 Community Relations Council Peace Monitoring Report. Fifteen years after the Belfast Agreement, it reveals every single measure of deprivation is significantly higher in Nationalist/Catholic communities than in Unionist/Loyalist communities. And to prove British arrogance knows no bounds, the Secretary visited Boston College to speak to students. You can be sure no explanation was offered for the political use of a U.S.-U.K. Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT), which used Attorney General Eric Holder to obtain records from the Irish archives at Boston College. The records were never intended for prosecution but to smear Gerry Adams, a Member of the Irish Dail.
The British believe they can pigeonhole Dr. Haass and any forthcoming report. They have done so with many past commissions and inquiries. However, Secretary of State John Kerry has a long history of interest in Ireland’s conflict. It was his disappointment with the progress of the peace process that prompted President Obama’s appointment of the Special Envoy.
Finally, Great Britain has burned some bridges in Washington in recent years. No country has done more to undermine U.S.-U.N. sanctions against Iran than the U.K. One entirely government-owned British bank, (Royal Bank of Scotland), recently pled guilty to violations of the Trading with the Enemy Act for laundering $200 billion worth of prohibited oil transactions. HSBC was fined for laundering Mexican and Colombian drug cartel money. Adding to the mix are extradition disputes with the U.K., the LIBOR debacle, and the release of the Lockerbie bomber. Listening to another snow job from Secretary Villiers loses its appeal.
Congressional hearings on the problems and lack of progress of the Belfast Agreement are long overdue. U. S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Chairman of Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Co-Chairs Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ) of the Joint Committee on Security and Cooperation in Europe, have the weight to ensure accountability by the British and to put an end to the blue smoke and mirrors show from the Blue Blood Princess.
Michael J. Cummings, Member, National Board
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