The British Government: beyond shame

A Letter from Ireland

a Chara,

The British Government appoints a Secretary of State to “govern” the North of Ireland. I say appoints as none have a mandate in the North. The incumbent is Chris Heaton-Harris elected by the good people of Daventry (you will have to Google it).

Mr. Heaton-Harris is the latest in a long line of British Secretaries of State. The post for many is the high point of a mediocre political career. One constant has been Jonathan (now Lord) Caine.

Lord Caine, has worked as an advisor on the North to the British Conservative party since 1988 including stints as a Special Advisor to the Secretary of State from 1991 to 1995 and again from 2010 to 2016. He had a brief period in 2008 as a Director at Bell Pottinger Public Affairs. The firm closed following scandal and bankruptcy in 2018 and was described by the New York Times as “always seemed defiantly beyond shame.”

On being appointed to the Lords he described himself as “an unashamed and unapologetic unionist”. He is now the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Northern Ireland Office. He oversees the shameful British Government legislation that will end inquests, judicial investigations, and police ombudsman inquiries into killings during the conflict.

The legislation has been opposed by all political parties, the Irish Government, victims’ groups, and national and international human rights bodies. It contravenes the Good Friday Agreement, the Stormont House Agreement, and the European Charter of Human Rights. It undermines the process of reconciliation and acknowledgment. Yet the British government plows on.

Last week a leading group of Congress Members reiterated their call for the British Government to abandon their unilateral legislation and return to their agreements. This week the Irish America Unity Conference made public their correspondence with Lord Caine.

Lord Caine made clear that they will continue with the legislation that could be passed as early as the first week in September. Claiming that it has been improved and is consistent with legal obligations. A position that is rejected by victims groups.

Despite the pretense of engaging, the British government is not listening. Irish America and the Congress are not stupid, they know when they are being played and sold a line. This British Government is beyond shame.

But they are not beyond political gravity and the reach of the courts. There must be a diplomatic cost for breaching legal obligations and international agreements.

The Irish Government can and should bring the British Government to the European Courts when they enact this legislation. They will have broken the rights of citizens living in the north.

We have much to do to ensure that Britain honors its agreements and the rights of victims are upheld. This issue will not end with the passing of legislation. The truth will win out.

Is mise,


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.nn