Dealing with the legacy of the past

Published Friday, 15 November 2013
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The American diplomat Richard Haass is due back in Belfast next week for another round of talks.

Waiting for him will be a new report on dealing with the past, which is part of his remit along with flags and parades.

The report has been compiled by the group Healing Through Remembering.

Long before the Haass process was thought of, the group was considering approaches to the past, looking internationally for possibilities.

Inside the offices of Healing Through Remembering, an exhibition on display is a reminder of the darkest days of conflict.

But the thinking inside the project is not just about the past - but how we move forward addressing - rather than ignoring - the most difficult issues, including who and what we remember.

Dr Dominic Bryan, of Queen's University, said: "This sounds a harsh thing to say but the dead are the dead.

"In the short or medium term, the idea of getting one commemorative space would be very difficult.

"Is it possible in the long term? Of course it is. When you look back now and see terrible events in the past, the people have grown to understand that there were victims on all sides.

"It is possible in the future but it will be difficult in the short-term."

The author of this latest document, Professor Kieran McEvoy, is clear about one thing - that the thorny issue of amnesty must be grasped.

"The reality is in international experience and indeed, the historical experience here, that unless you build in some kind of an incentive, some kind of a protection for people that they are not going to face prosecution as a result in engaging in some kind of truth process, it's very difficult to see how you are going to incentivise them to come forward," Prof McEvoy said.

"[Take] the Spanish experience, for example. The Spanish civil war finished in 1939, they are still dealing with the past, they are still involved in a process of truth recovery, they are still trying, they are digging up bodies of people who were killed during that process.

"It doesn't go away and you, like me, will have spoken to people who were involved in the negotiations of the Good Friday Agreement.

"It wasn't feasible to do it then in 1998, it would not have been possible to include it as part of the agreement.

"I think over the years we have got to a stage where we are able now to have very difficult conversations including on the amnesty question, but other difficult conversations that we weren't ready for. So I think we are probably more ready as a society to have these difficult conversations now than we were," he added.

Former PUP leader Dawn Purvis, who is the Healing Through Remembering chair, said: "I think the British and Irish government want to do something but they probably don't know what it is that they can do."

© UTV News
Comments Comments
max mogollon in ireland wrote (153 days ago):
moratorium on parades for ten years if parades are allow , all names of participants and supporters,should be given to the police before the march, as well of the names of the stewards.a form of photo ID.for members,same for protesters. MANDATORY JAIL TERM FOR LAW BREAKERS, COST OF RIOT AND POLICING TO THE ORGANIZERS.
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