“There is a great deal at stake – nothing less than the future itself.”

It’s been mentioned once or twice already during the week but today we have confirmation from the Secretary of State for Wales etc, Peter Hain, that Lord Eames and Denis Bradley are to co-chair a consultative group to ask “how Northern Ireland might approach its past in a way that heals rather than poisons, that enables everyone to focus on building a shared future, not looking constantly over shoulders to a divided past.”. Bit late warning about the poison I’d suggest.. And I’m still in agreement with Malachi. And, on that point, one report says that Peter Hain “said he had appointed the two [co-chairs] after consultation with First Minister Ian Paisley and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness”… Updated below
From Peter Hain’s statement

The Group’s terms of reference are:-

To consult across the community on how Northern Ireland society can best approach the legacy of the events of the past 40 years; and to make recommendations, as appropriate, on any steps that might be taken to support Northern Ireland society in building a shared future that is not overshadowed by the events of the past.

To present a report setting out conclusions to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland by summer 2008.

In going about its work, the Consultative Group should consider:

i. the landscape of initiatives that have already been taken by Governments and non-Governmental groups;

ii. work already done – and ongoing – in this area, including consultation exercises;

iii. the resources that would be required to implement any recommendations that it makes.

The Group’s report will be published. Funding will be provided for a secretariat to support its work.

As the group begins work, it may well choose to engage additional advisers to ensure it has access to a wide range of expert advice, both on international issues and on other specialist areas.

And the consultative group..

The group will be co-chaired by Lord Eames, the former Archbishop of Armagh and Denis Bradley, the first vice-chairman of the Policing Board.

The full membership of the Group is Jarlath Burns, former GAA captain of Armagh and GAA analyst, Rev Lesley Carroll, Presbyterian Minister, Willie John McBride, former captain of the British and Irish Lions rugby team, James Mackey, former lecturer in philosophy at Queen’s University Belfast and visiting professor at Trinity College Dublin, Elaine Moore, alcohol and drugs counsellor at Northlands, based at Magilligan Prison and David Porter, Director of the Centre for Contemporary Christianity in Ireland.

Hmm.. looks like Mr Hain took Simon Jenkins’ advice about the need for an ethicist.. but there are far too many supernaturalists on that panel.

Adds In the Irish Times, Peter Hain explains.. [subs req]

Recent political progress in Northern Ireland should make us pause and ask whether reliving or even refighting the Troubles in the courtroom or the public inquiry or through police investigation is really a healthy way forward.

And whether a focus on identifying issues which happened 30 years ago at a time of terrible conflict is productive for a society which has after May 8th, 2007, resolved that conflict politically.

And whether the hundreds of millions of pounds involved could not be better spent on the future. These are questions I cannot and should not answer as an outsider: only the people of Northern Ireland can decide.

But the questions should be asked. That is why I have decided, having consulted First Minister Ian Paisley and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, to set up a group to consult widely and suggest how Northern Ireland might approach its past in a way that heals rather than poisons.

The Times also has [an edited version of] that explanation [no subs req]

As I said above

Bit late warning about the poison I’d suggest.. And I’m still in agreement with Malachi.