Time to stop ‘festering’ about our past: Denis Bradley
by Catherine DOYLE for Northern Ireland Foundation
7 August 2014
It was a packed house that welcomed investigative journalist John Ware’s interview with Hugh Orde in the Balmoral Hotel for the Féile an Phobail (Festival of the People).
Organised by Relatives for Justice, Clara Reilly (Chairperson) explained that the debate was important for addressing victims’ loss “in the context of transition, truth and justice”. She also called for the Eames-Bradley and Haass-O’Sullivan reports to be implemented.
The biggest revelation delivered by the ex-PSNI Chief is his belief that the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) is on its way out.
The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) Head suspects that the HET will close. John Ware brought up the HET’s failure to produce any new reports and Orde said: “If that’s what success looks like, that’s not very successful.”
In July 2013 Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) harshly criticised the HET.
Talking about the HMIC report, Orde said he felt “upset” and “disappointed”.
He claimed that if still in charge, he would shut the HET down, due to a “rigid, binary, and thoughtless” Inspectorate, saying: “We were just set up to fail.”
Orde considers that many cases can go no further legally, “so we need to do something else”.
Looking back, Orde described his surprise at the families who he thought wouldn’t touch the HET with a “barge-pole” as responding with “great dignity”.
Orde asserted that he “set [the HET] up with the very best intentions”, but knew it wouldn’t satisfy everyone. He said: “I never tried to be the universal solution.”
Ware questioned whether the HET had cross-party support, particularly with Sinn Féin. Orde evaded answering, saying that it will be revealed in the chapter of a book he will never write. He described any discussions he may have had as “quiet conversations”.
During the comments section of the event many victims’ families criticized the HET. Their complaints ranged from being uninformed of processes, failing to receive the reports about family members and being took on “emotional rollercoasters”.
Councillor J.J. Magee held a spontaneous poll, when he called for those who lost a relative to raise their hands, and then for those who still have trust in the HET to keep their hands up. The majority put them down. Orde said that the group wasn’t a fair representation of the families that the HET dealt with.
Sir Hugh defended what he had earlier described as his only ‘original idea’. He said: “I’m sorry if I didn’t work for everybody”, [but] we did make a difference to some.”
Ware described Orde’s “baby” as having “teething problems”, but defended the “admirable” HET officers.
The ACPO President pointed out that the discussion focused on the past, instead of coming up with solutions. He said: “What I’m really interested in is what is it we do now to make a difference?”
Denis Bradley gave the closing remarks. He talked about “festering” around our past, saying: “We are obviously still deeply hurt by it”. He also defended Orde, saying that the HET was supposed to be an interim, and “never ever set up to be the thing that should actually engage with our past”.
He recalled its establishment and the definition of how limited it would be, and accredited Orde for unofficially helping establish the Consultative Group because of his engagement with the government.
Talking about those who believe that victims’ relatives will never be satisfied and shouldn’t be engaged, he said: “I think that is bad politics. I think that is bad sociology. I think that is bad Christianity.”
He mentioned the Sinn Féin-DUP disagreement over the Maze/Long Kesh site and the aviation society show being cancelled, saying that: “Unless we deal with the past, we do not have a good political present.”
He warned that no matter which consultative group is used; it will lead to some being charged, including former paramilitaries, ex-combatants and former police officers.
Bradley finished by calling on the relatives to “lobby not just the political parties here, but the two governments” in the endeavour for a consensus.