Lady MacBeth Villiers
As Richard Haass ended Belfast talks on parades and flags in time to miss Orange feet parading flags through Belfast, it was said the past could be a sticking point. Certainly anyone could be stuck trying to bridge the divide between the past nationalists lived and the English rose-tinted version Theresa Villiers wants delivered for her Westminster statutory re-write.
Britain’s colonial secretary is duly committed to truth about the past, she solemnly proclaimed in a speech to the British –Irish Association, unless the facts are unduly critical of uniformed crown forces, unduly costly or unduly glorify terrorism. By unduly Villiers seems to mean ‘the least bit’, while her last bit are the new code words meaning speak nothing but evil of the men and women that many of us honor with pride at Easter Commemorations.
James Connolly said of the British troopers who were about to shoot him, that he would “pray for brave men who do their duty according to their own lights”. Cardinal O’Fiaich said of those in Long Kesh, that their beliefs were deeply rooted in the country’s past and most would have never seen the inside of a prison but for the extraordinary circumstances of the country’s conflict.
Equality of esteem between those for and against British rule would reflect such compassion, and allow that there were honorable individuals from opposing backgrounds and allegiances acting to maintain the right as they saw it, in the extraordinary times of 1969-98.
Instead Villiers attempts to foist a "parody of esteem", in which Britain is blameless albeit 'fully prepared to apologize where the state failed to uphold the highest standards of conduct.'
Like a modern Lady MacBeth, Villiers imagines she can rub away the bloodstains from Britain’s hands by whitewashing all misdeeds out of the Haass talks; all the while proclaiming the British 'will not be party to attempts to re-write history.'
Amnesty International just published a report which includes sections on unlawful killings by British crown forces, torture, and state collusion in murders carried out by loyalists. Amnesty concluded that the repeated failures of the British to prosecute or make its forces accountable amounted to "impunity". The families of victims may not see impunity for crown forces as the “highest standards of conduct”.
The endgame strategy is obvious. Robinson will push the case for Britain. Haass will press nationalist parties that he cannot return home without something agreed by Robinson. Villiers can further exonerate Britain in her Westminster legislation. Any recognition of wrongs done to nationalists can be taken back later by Florida post on Robinson’s next holiday!