Lord Carswell calls for an end to Troubles inquiries


NO FURTHER inquiries into killings during the Troubles should be held because Northern Ireland “badly needs stability”, the former chief justice of Northern Ireland, Lord Carswell, has told the House of Lords during a debate on the findings of the Bloody Sunday report, which took 12 years to complete and at a cost of £200 million (€210 million).

Saying he would not comment on “the elaborate and expensive form” the Saville Inquiry took, Lord Carswell, speaking on Wednesday, said he had “come to the conclusion” that no more inquiries should be launched.

“People have been hurt – many badly and some dreadfully. Much can and should be done to help them in various ways.

“However, as a society we badly need stability. One of the best ways of achieving that would be a long period with as little disturbance as possible. Furthermore, Northern Ireland is now in the process of tackling the many problems of today. It needs all the impulse and creativity that it can summon, untrammelled by the weight of old divisions and antipathies.

“To this end, the talents and energies, both emotional and practical, of its people must be harnessed. That can only be for the public good.

“Like all societies riven by divisions and strife, Northern Ireland has to put them behind it if it is to flourish. In that, increasing prosperity can only be a useful lubricant. If people in countries with problems such as those experienced by Croatia can do it with some success . . . we can do it.

“If we are to develop as a mature and peaceful society, it is better that we should do so without inquiries, which are commonly so prolonged and often controversial, and may produce too little real enlightenment in the end.

“To reiterate the cliche: it is time to move on,” said Lord Carswell, who was lord chief justice in Northern Ireland from 1997 to 2004.

Former Church of Ireland archbishop of Armagh Lord Eames said he welcomed the decision not to have more open-ended inquiries “in the light of the expense and everything else involved”, but he raised questions over what will be created instead. “If we do not come to terms with the sensitive nature of dealing with the past in a place such as Northern Ireland, there will be a constant drip-by-drip exposure and calling of attention to atrocities, to events and to suspicions – the list is endless.

“Coroners’ courts, investigative journalism and ancillary events to court cases will go on and on not just for our generation but for the generation – the most important one – that will read of the Troubles in history books,” he said.

Demanding an inquiry into the 1984 Brighton bombing, which killed five and left his wife in a wheelchair, former Conservative minister Lord Norman Tebbit said “there are different standards for Northern Ireland and the rest of this kingdom”.