Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied
A Letter from Ireland
It’s deadline day. It's Ground Hog day. Last May, the people in the North of Ireland voted for a new Assembly and Government. They returned Sinn Féin as the largest party and Michelle O’Neill as the First Minister Elect. It was a historic election. Sinn Féin had topped the polls and for the first time, an Irish Republican had taken the top spot.
The reaction of the largest pro-British Unionist party, the DUP was denial. They have blocked the election of a speaker and the formation of a government. Sounds familiar.
This holdout has been going on for nine months under the watch of three British Prime Minsters.
Under the rules, if a government was not formed within 6 months fresh elections would be called. The British government was insistent that the rule would be kept. We hit the deadline in November, the rules were changed and the election was put back to a new date. The new absolute date for a government to be formed or elections announced is January 19th. The British government has now said that it will review the issue. Deadline day is now groundhog day.
We are told that “an election will not change anything and may make things worse”. An argument that would be dismissed anywhere else in the world. It is now up to the British Government to demonstrate a clear plan and pathway to have the May election result respected and the government re-established.
The current British Government has a caviler attitude to Good Friday and subsequent agreements.
Next week the British Government will progress legislation in the House of Lords that will end all police investigations into the past conflict, close down inquests and ban victims from accessing the courts. Legislation that is opposed by all parties, victims, national and international human rights bodies, the Irish Government, and the US Congress. The proposals are an attack on the rights of victims and are irreconcilable with Good Friday and other agreements.
In advance of a meeting between the British and Irish Governments, the Irish Times published an opinion piece by a British Minister in which he says of the legislation,
“The UK Government is determined to deliver better outcomes for those most affected by the Troubles, and we welcome continued engagement with all stakeholders, including the Irish Government, as the legislation passes through parliament.”
The Irish Government is not a “stakeholder” to be consulted, they are co-equal partners in international agreements. The statement is clear; the British government will consult but carry on regardless. We will see if the British House of Lords will pass the next stage of this illegal legislation.
Irish Government’s Role
This legislation is not compatible with agreements and in particular the European Convention on Human Rights. If passed it will be overturned in the European Courts. That process may take up to ten years.
That timetable could be shortened to two years if the Irish Government were to take up the case.
The Irish Government should not allow itself to be relegated to a stakeholder but assert its position as a co-equal partner to the agreements and hold the British to account. It should publicly make clear its intention to prepare and take a case to safeguard the agreements and rights of Irish Citizens in the North of Ireland. Justice delayed is justice denied.
Ciarán Quinn is the Sinn Féin Representative to North America. Each week he writes a letter from Ireland with news and analysis. It is featured in the weekly Friends of Sinn Féin USA Newsletter. Be sure you are subscribed to stay up to date.