These communities were never completely of the same mind as to what was done [in their name]?

The report talks about the effects of paramilitary domination of the most vulnerable communities. They note the disappearance of normal forms of law and order in favour of the kinds of summary justice that persist to this day:

The Group heard how they had to endure over many years the presence in their midst of their ‘own paramilitaries’ and at the same time absorb the concentration of heavy military and police presence. Those presences over the years became more and more oppressive. The burden was further added to when their ‘own paramilitaries’ acted as judge and jury in punishing anti-social behaviour in the most harsh and brutal manner.

These punishments often resulted in horrendous injuries to the individuals concerned and further emotional disruption to their families. Others were exiled from their communities because they were suspected or accused of anti-social behaviour or of providing information to the security forces.

They identify collusion with the security forces as an aggrevating feature of day to day life in paramilitary run areas:

…the Group recognises that intelligence gathering is an integral part of security activity, the sense of oppression was even further increased by the numbers of people who were recruited by the State and induced to act as informers.

It recommends story telling ventures under the aegis of the Victims Commission:

Forgiveness and reconciliation need to take place within communities as well as between communities. Some of the stories will be difficult to tell and to listen to but all the more important that they be told and that they be heard. This, of course, will only happen and then only tentatively when people and communities are convinced that the conlict is over and done with and that a truly safe place exists for all.

This is not to recommend that people from within these communities publicly admit to having been recruited as agents or to having passed on information to the security forces but rather to face the truth that these communities were never completely of the same mind or conviction as to the legitimacy of what was being done. These communities were made up of people who were fallible and under enormous pressure.

Unlike the more official issues being piled into the Legacy Commission which are likely to be time bound by a 5 year period; the caveat here is this process is likely to be pretty long term and open ended. Its the type of sensitive work already being carried out by charities like Healing Through Remembrance.

In post Franco Spain they took the opposite view to Eames-Bradley and established a Pact of Forgetting. An agreement that is now slowly falling apart some seventy years later, often with locally traumatic results.

If you want to add your comment you on this post you can do so over at the Consultation on the Past site here.

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