In their 30 year-long search for truth, the relatives of the trawlermen who lost their lives on the Gaul had to compete against a number of adversaries whose interests would not have been best served if the reasons for the tragedy had become known.
The victims’ relatives were not aware of the nature of the fight they were in, nor did they know the identities or the motives of their adversaries. All they knew was that they were not being given straightforward answers to their questions, and that the facts were somehow eluding them.
Although, in theory, meant to provide an explanation as to the most likely causes for the tragedy, the 2004 Gaul Formal Investigation, like a number of other public inquiries, became, in fact, nothing more than a case of ‘shadow commercial litigation,’ organised and controlled by the very parties whose interests would have been adversely affected by an impartial verdict. The Gaul RFI was therefore an unequal fight - dressed up as an expert and unbiased analysis - a fight the outcome of which was both pre-determined and inevitable.
Concerns have already been raised that, due to their legalistic and adversarial nature, many formal inquiries, instead of pursuing the truth, provide in fact a platform from which opposing parties, flanked by their legal representatives, can pursue their specific interests, and that, when the ‘adversaries’ are not evenly matched, it is usually the interests of the mightiest that prevail.
It is evident to us that improvements in respect of the rules by which formal inquiries are conducted are necessary and important.
However, above and beyond any rules and safeguards that may be applied, what is most important is the professionalism and personal integrity of the individuals involved - the principal guarantee that the results of an inquiry will be meaningful and sincere.
(More details to come)