Debating the Past in the Northern Ireland Assembly?

Alliance MLA Chris Lyttle is due to bring a motion before the Assembly today ‘calling for the Secretary of State Owen Paterson to convene party talks to find a way forward in addressing the legacy of the past.’

I think that our politicians need to provide more leadership in the debate about dealing with the past, so I welcome the Alliance proposal.

Whether it is realistic to expect local parties to lead this debate is another matter. During the summer Denis Bradley said that he thought that the Irish and British governments would be better-placed to kick-start (and lead?) the process.

But recent events – not the least of which is Martin McGuinness’ Irish Presidential campaign – continue to demonstrate that the past just isn’t going to go away, you know.

A Healing Through Remembering press release, issued today, notes the recent upsurge of ‘news items related to the legacy of the conflict in and about Northern Ireland.’

Such items will continue to dominate the news, and will probably continue to be dealt with in a piecemeal and unsatisfactory manner, until Northern Ireland gets sensitive and effective political leadership on how we remember its violent past.

  • OneNI

    ‘When confronted with the difficult decisions of the present the Assembly spent more and more time talking about the past.’
    Will this become the phrase the public increasingly use in reference to the Assembly?

  • Turgon

    In the comments section of the second link in the above article joeCanuck suggested the Eames Bradley report was undead. Indeed it seems to be: either than or Bradley is a latter day Dr. Frankinstein desperately trying to create life from the dead.

    We all know that the local partes are not going to agree on a Truth Commission. Hence, the peace processors of whom Denis Bradley is now chief priest (since Eames left involuntarily for the wilderness) need to find a way of bypassing democracy which is where appeals to Paterson come in. Fortunately there is already a way of dealing with the past: it is called the HET. Owen Paterson praised it at the Tory conference when he also ruled out a “Truth Commission”.

    One day the likes of Healing Through Remembering and the assorted Liberal Dissident peace processors may realise that their sacred religious text Eames Bradley is gone and is not coming back and that we are not going to have expensive Truth Commissions etc. It may take a long time, however, because many of them have made successful careers out of “peace” and seem to be mightly aggreived that their gravy train looks likely to be coming to an end.

  • Cynic2

    Running back to Mammy again? Is that really a good idea?

  • Last time I checked Chris Lyttle and other Alliance MLAs were democratically elected. I wouldn’t classify an elected MLA calling for debate in the Assembly ‘bypassing democracy.’

  • Turgon

    Indeed Gladys, however, Denis Bradley called for exactly that. Furthermore it is interesting that Lyttle is not calling for all party talks himself: no he is calling on Paterson to convene them despite the fact that last week Paterson told politicians in Northern Ireland to get on with things themselves. If NI’s politicians have decided not to have any Truth Commissions etc. then that is the democratic decision. It seems to be one which Paterson also supports which sort of puts the peace processors in a difficult position.

    Maybe we need a victims organisation for peace processors traumatised by the fact that their view of how we deal with the past is not shared by most people here and as such they and their views on the past will not get anything.

  • wild turkey

    … and if the assembly does not accept Mr Lyttle’s motion, can we take it that HTR accepts this as the the “democratic” decision of the body politic?

    kids are home from school soon and they expressed a desire to watch the Ground Hog Day DVD after homework. why i have no idea.

  • They all (including Alliance) sit round the same Executive table and hold collective responsibility for community relations etc. Why don’t they do something for themselves instead of passing the buck!

  • “until Northern Ireland gets sensitive and effective political leadership on how we remember its violent past”

    Gladys, as a US citizen whose home is now here, can you tell us if the US had a process to deal with the legacy of its Civil War? AFAIK there was no such process following the Irish Civil War in the 1920s or any of the insurgencies in these parts prior to 1966.

  • No, there was no dealing with the past process after the US Civil War in the way that contemporary societies around the world have initiated truth commissions… It is too simple to say that a failure to deal with the past was the only reason the oppression of African Americans was allowed to continue, but I reckon it was one factor among many. I’m not proud that it took a century after the Civil War for African Americans to get some semblance of civil rights.

  • Here we go again.
    Some facts.
    There are according to the Commission for Victims and Survivors….500,000 people who feel they have been affected by the Troubles. That includes me…..and many other Sluggerites. It does not include other Sluggerites.

    Of this 500,000, 81% consider that that they do not need any help “just now”. That includes me. It would have been nice to get some help in several months of 1975.
    In those days we didnt know of “help”. When I did seek help in 1982/83, the person from the responsible agency …..laughed at me.
    Since then of course, The Sunday World runs regular features on the abuse of “help”.
    Only 10% of the 500,000 have been bereaved….ie a family member. This does not include me. It does include Mrs FitzjamesHorse (actually twice).
    The Truth?
    People have been yelling and screaming the Truth for nearly four decades.

    Claudy……..Bloody Sunday………Bloody Friday….McGurks Bar….La Mon………
    The yells and screams of people patently telling the Truth were ignored by the Middle Class.
    Now the Middle Class Academics want to listen (occasionally for a price and occasionally for the purpose of their academic career) but mostly its…………….a kinda yearning that THEY want to part of the narrative that they themselves had avoided for decades. Now the only way that they can feel validated is to LISTEN. And they can only get their fantasy of retrospective involvement if the Victims SPEAK to them.

    The CVS is totally discredited.
    To give itself a boost…it has found new areas of Victimhood on which to lay its healing hands.
    The victims of ordinary crime………now that necessarily expands the dateline from 1998.
    the victims of Church and lay institution abuse…….they are due congratulations for finding a new market.

    and………. victims of “manipulative and exploitative bankers, financial speculators and property developers”…….
    No Im not making it up.

    The problem that Conflict Resolution has….is non-compliant Victims. Having given up on persuading the 81% people not ready to comply with their agenda…….they simply extend the remit to include more victims.
    Gin and tonics all round!

    The message to Conflict Resolutionistsa nd Liberal Dissidents is simple…….Get off our Backs.

  • fjh, I can’t find Denis Bradley’s contribution to BSI: TS140 but a portion of it is available here on the BBC:

    [DB] said: “At that particular time I was a Catholic priest.

    “Many people spoke to me about many things; people from the Provisional IRA, people from the Official IRA, people from the British Army, people from the RUC.

    “Most of it would have been confidential and I would have considered it confessional and I would not be in a position to actually say what they told me.”

    Lord Saville eventually got a bit fed up with DB’s time-wasting:

    Lord Saville said: “These people who you feel uncomfortable in naming, would you feel uncomfortable in quietly going to them and urging them to come forward voluntarily to the tribunal so that we can, as I think you want us to, find out the whole truth about Bloody Sunday?”

    Ten years on and Dennis still doesn’t appear to have got the message: “Those who hold important secrets are not going to talk” – he being one of them.

  • Limerick


    That just about sums the whole thing up.

  • the wrong side of 40

    We are not ready for Truth Commissions and the like. Does anyone really think that knowing all the details of how their loved ones lost their lives is actually going to bring closure? It certainly won`t bring convictions as immunity will have to be in place before any groups are prepared to participate.

    Some things are just to raw.

  • “the oppression of African Americans was allowed to continue”

    Gladys, there can’t be too many groups from these islands that have no skeletons in that sad saga – or the native American one; Lynch is an Irish name.

  • Mark

    How do you build a peace wall in a Rwandan village ? The West expects the locals to live side by side after carving eachother up for ten years .

    Some of the most brutal acts of ” war ” took place in that country yet they are expected to grin and bare it .

  • “the wrong side of 40”
    It would be a mistake to think that a Truth Commission or similar is for the benefit of Victims and Survivors.
    It is for the benefit of people in Cultra and Upper Malone who need to be able t say “oh how horrible……if only I had known …….I share your pain”.
    We must not allow these people to ease their consciences so easily….and at public expense.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    The problem with a truth commission is that it would become another battleground, with the two communities competing to get “their victims” prominence and publicity. I worry about the impact on those victims pressurised to speak up when they may not want to; and on those who don’t speak up and then feel their experience counts for less. Only if the desire from victims for this were overwhelming would it be worthwhile. But I’m not hearing that.

    Better to train our historians well, fund them well and encourage them to communicate the full picture of the Troubles more clearly to wider society.

  • Into the west

    pretty persuasive fitz
    I put my money on finding an agreed narrative
    but that won’t be easy either.

  • ForkHandles

    The past is past and can’t be changed. There is no need to remeber it by continualy talk about it, it achieves nothing.

    The local assembly is supposed to run NI as best as possible to provide the best quality life for people here. They should try doing that and stop wasting time wallowing in ‘the past’. I often feel that NI politicians revert to talking about the past because they are unable to achieve anything worth talking about in the present.

  • Little James

    In West Belfast, for example, there is a proliferation of “victims groups”, they all need their piece of the pie so their local elected representatives are only too happy to keep beating this particular drum.

  • ForkHandles

    what happened to the other thread on this nonsense? somebody pull it because they didnt like their nonsense made fun of?

  • ForkHandles

    oops, its still there. me no searchy well…..