Posted by: the watchmen | February 5, 2009

The Victims and Eames/Bradley__Gail Walker.

Gail Walker: Why money isn’t answer for victims

By Gail Walker

How on earth did we ever sink as low as this?

Does anyone recall, from all the public debate over the last 10 years, when we first had the luxury of talking about a ‘post-conflict society’, any mention of a cash value being placed on the lives of those who were killed?

Forget about how one is expected to accept such a token price-tag placed on a loved one.

Forget about how the pocket calculators must have smoked and fizzled as God knows how many variables and qualifying formulae were punched into them, before they threw up the magic figure. Twelve grand. Not twelve and a half grand. Or eleven and three-quarters.

Twelve. On the nose.

Forget even about the sheep-and-goats row raging now, about whether or not just one ‘innocent’ victim should buy you three terrorist dead or two slain butchers, or one-and-a-half security force dead.

The point is: how did two honest citizens arrive at the conclusion that such calculations had anything at all to do with fairness or justice or parity of pain or equality of distress?

We’re told the sum of £12,000 is based on the figure of €15,000 paid out by the Republic’s government to the victims of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. But that’s not an answer. After all, how was that figure arrived at? And why? And had a loyalist terrorist been killed planting those bombs would the powers that be in the south have ordered his relatives get €15,000 too? Of course not. It would have been political suicide.

So just how did anyone think releasing such a quite demented fact — that a conflict-related killing was worth £12,000 tax free — was actually a showcase judgement, one to be paraded before the public as only a tidbit for the full report to come tomorrow?

The Eames-Bradley conclave — not to be confused with the Victims Commissioners, or indeed any Historical Enquiries or ongoing tribunals of investigation — has managed to find a wholly unsuitable, insulting, inappropriate and truly bizarre route towards their aim of feeling everyone’s pain equally.

Just when did cash come into it? How did two gentle clerical types like Robin Eames and Denis Bradley, end up in banking? And assigning to human life a value so insanely pitched, so stupidly unapt and so clearly unnecessary in the first place?

These are astonishing days, I know. But I doubt, even in our capacity to expect the unexpected with our current rulers, anyone would have predicted this turn of events.

Some might have thought a boring old monument, with some culturally potent function of remembrance or simple tribute at its heart, would have proved a means to register the levelling impact violent death has on all its victims? It needn’t even have had names inscribed and so avoided much of the trauma engendered by the Omagh experience. It needn’t even have been the centre of an annual civic act of commemoration. It needn’t have been anything other than itself, somewhere, as a gesture however flawed and troubled itself, but at least there, in a place, and finished.

But no. It’s folding stuff. Greenbacks. It’s a suitcase — albeit a very small one — stuffed with fivers, thrown over the hedge onto the doorstep.

Two killings in the family? Two suitcases.

And what do you do with the cash? Pay for a holiday? Buy a new car? Frame the cheque and stick it on the wall?

It’s genuinely a macabre and ill-judged recommendation. It’s yet another botched mission. Like the failure of the justice system even now to render justice in high-profile cases involving high-profile perpetrators, past or present.

Even now, Bradley-Eames proposes yet another series of measures to last years, still involving cash expenditure of eye-watering proportions.

It’s as if we have all been shareholders in Troubles PLC and what we experienced was some kind of violent Northern Rock collapse, and those who were killed were shareholders who lost more than us and this is as much as the sequestrators can afford to pay out as compensation after the company has been wound up and the creditors paid. We get peace and uncertain government because we’re alive, they get cash because they’re dead.

There is absolutely no tolerable rationale for this proposition. It will do nothing to achieve that ‘equality of the dead’ the two gentlemen talked so much of. In fact, it will only irritate it like an ulcer. It’s already begun its work.

And the question remains: how on earth did we sink to this point? Because it’s not just or only the Eames-Bradley process. It’s all of us. We should all have called a halt to this retributive insanity long ago. Pain cannot be healed. Loss cannot be restored. Nothing can even soften it. It’s permanent.

There may be some merit in pursuing the perpetrators of the more heinous actions of the period. But can even that be said to be contributing to parity, equality and healing? I don’t think so. It’s about doing something else, connected to justice, which in most cases has little to do with feeling better about anything.

And it’s certainly not a job for the clergy.

So, good night, Robin and Denis.

Thanks. But good night.

Post a comment


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: