Dealing with the Troubles…

Henry Patterson notes that the issue is dominated by a politics of ‘competitive victimhood’, inevitably overdetermined by politics. However it is unlikely we are going to get a truthful history of the Troubles:

– Neither Army Council of the Irish nor former members are likely to talk about their role as perpetrators.
– Two governments would have to open their archives as the British did for Saville.
– Yet many victims/survivors want an opportunity to act as witnesses.

Patterson noted that has been argued that the harsh experience of Fermanagh and South Tyrone Protestants has been a major source of a broader unionist narrative, yet Patterson questions the exactness of the truth of that narrative.

Unionist victim groups come disproportionately from Border areas. Yet he notes that historical experience of Fermanagh and South Tyrone is more complex than in other places. It has also proved extremely difficult territory for anti Agreement Unionists and the DUP.

In 1999, Arlene Foster then in the UUP was also Co-ordinator of FEAR (Fear Encourages Abandonment of Roots), and espoused an attitude of stoical endurance in the face of several onslaughts from the IRA, not least an attempted killing of her own father. The worst years in Fermanagh were 72/3 and 80/81. In the latter case 11 Protestants were killed with a large proportion of the victims in a tiny area bounded by Roslea, Newtonbutler and Lisnaskea.

Newtownbutler in particular became the focus of sustained media attention in 1980, when over a period of time, including three members of the same church – Galloon Parish Church. Paisley’s response to call it genocide, Molyneaux talked in more measured tones. In fact, it was part of a series of killings targeting (mostly off duty) members of the security forces.

His conclusions:

– A true historical reckoning cannot just deal with victims but perpetrators as well.

– Unlikely to be accomplished for decades. In the interim an oral history of the Troubles should be a major priority.

– It will need to displace the present binary division between ideologically defined categories of victims

– Finally there is a danger of a DUP/SF ‘pacto de divido (selectivo)’… In other words, a high level agreement to silence, similar to the one that followed the death of Franco in Spain.

See also Michael Finucane’s blog on Comment is Free: Ulster’s Open Sore

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

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