Dealing with the past is – past

People may not have woken up to the fact  that inquiries into Troubles cases have ground to a halt. This is said to be  as a result of the financial pressures on the PSNI as disclosed by the Belfast Telegraph.  The Historical Enquiries team has been wound up,  the historical  role of the Police  Ombudsman which was  once progressed with determination by Michael Maguire has ground to a halt and the chief coroner continues to fulminate impotently about delays. So much for the Haas agenda. One way of dealing with the past is to ignore it.  What’s the betting that the forthcoming  interparty talks will sort this out?

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  • Michael Henry

    The British are removing funding making fines so the PSNI does not have the resources to investigate their crimes- and it’s working- Justice wears a Brit mask-

  • Jag

    There’s a clever new episode of the US comedy “The Big Bang Theory” in which Sheldon (the Spock-like nerd) uncovers in a drawer in his apartment, a rental DVD that should have been returned seven years previously. His room-mate Leonard (the Wall-E sympathetic nerd), whose job it was to return the DVD all that time ago, asks Sheldon to forget about the DVD. To which Sheldon replies

    “you completely disregard how uncomfortable unresolved issues are for me. It’s, it’s like, a, an itch in my brain I can’t scratch”

    Sheldon agrees with Leonard that Leonard will wear an itchy jumper until Leonard resolves the unreturned DVD, and then mischievously tosses in the fact that the DVD store has now closed, sends Leonard on a wild goose chase to track down the owner (who has died) and their relatives to make good on the unreturned DVD, all the time with Leonard wearing the itchy jumper that is bringing his skin out in a rash. All so Leonard “can walk a mile in my shoes” (“He can’t walk in my actual shoes. He has the feet of a toddler.”)

    It’s an entertaining take on the concept of resolving issues and problems, and how humans deal with unresolved issues, and makes the point that some people find it easier than others to live with unresolved issues. And perhaps it poses for us the question whether or not we need to resolve issues in order for us to live our lives.

    So, the HIA is being wound down because of funding issues. But given that a 25-year old in 1970 is now 69, and in Northern Ireland, is likely to die in the next six years, won’t this aspect of our past increasingly become meaningless, no supposed victim or the relatives can get what they regard as “justice” because the perpetrator has died. As for flags and parades, in 100 years time, there’s likely to be tensions about certain parades/rallies/gatherings, but if you have two narratives sitting side-by-side, perhaps all we can do is manage the issue to minimise trouble, and leave it unresolved. It mightn’t suit some Sheldon-like personalities, but to the vast majority (increasingly, as society normalises), these issues will be akin to an unreturned DVD, and just not that important; for the minority for which these are issues, they’ll just need cope with them being unresolved.

    And, maybe accepting that issues will remain resolved, is the best resolution we can achieve.

  • Slater

    We can leave history to the historians now as Republican lawyering ultimately kills the golden enquiry goose.

  • Ernekid

    Nice Analogy Jag. I think its time to leave the past in the past. Somethings are best left to be forgotten/

  • BarrelOfPorter

    Rem 1690?

  • Jag

    “Forgotten” is probably unlikely Erne, there’ll be a spectrum with an extreme of those for whom the past pre-occupies their lives to those who at the other end, who are too young, too-recently immigrated or who are just not inclined to place significance on the past.

    As time goes on, the latter extreme will grow; for the present, we will just need to accept unresolved issues.

  • Jag

    Remember Burma and 1942 and all that, and the British veterans turning their backs on the Japanese emperor on the Mall in London in…..1998! And you’ll still find today in a Home Counties nursing home a Brit brutalised by the Japs who will never forgive, or forget (or buy a Japanese car!)

    1690 will be celebrated in 2114, and certain Orangemen may turn their backs on the Irish president on an official visit to the Stormont museum (such is the inevitability of the demographic tide). Never forget, just learn to live with unresolved issues.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Carl Jung used the motto he found in the writings of Erasmus, “Vocatus atque non vocatus Deus aderit” above the door of his house at Bollengin. It is usually translated as “Bidden, or unbidden, God is present.”

    The political pathologies created by 1690, and by colonialism, and by more recent troubles are there encoded in the deep experience everyone here, even in that of those who could never point a finger to the source of their rage or unease.

    If these things could die out with the generations who experienced them directly then Irish history would have taken a very different course.

  • BarrelOfPorter

    Yes but you wont find a teenager in the Home Counties joining a “**** the Japs” flute band. Because of what “they” did to Grandad. Nor a young Japanese joining a paramilitary styled youth movement to be ready to protect against Yankie Air pirates…. Or however you want to overplay the analogy. We, culturally, don’t do getting over things.

  • BarrelOfPorter

    Or… To mix my analogies, it’s not so much that we want our DVDs returned as we want to see Leonard develop eczema.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Here’s a radical suggestion for dealing with the past: historians. And they are offering to help:

    However, I think the idea of having vague assertions and half-truths subjected to academic rigour scares just about everyone. Especially those with most to lose, which would be those whose vague assertions and half-truths are currently dominating media portrayals of the Troubles.

    The trouble is, while they can keep historians out of the truth recovery process, they can’t stop them writing history books. Though I’m sure they would if they could.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    As George Santayana wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Some things are best forgotten, but the Troubles are not among them.

  • Sergiogiorgio

    The victims of the past are being played by the politicians of the current to perpetuate their vision of the future.

    God help them to keep suffering and the rest of us for accepting this political bullshit.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    ” Nor a young Japanese joining a paramilitary styled youth movement to be ready to protect against Yankie Air pirates….”

    Its all a matter of how closely you are prepared to look……

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Hey, MU, and those who do remember are condemned to watch all the amnesiacs repeat the mistakes of the past despite our dire warnings.

    As all those goon film directors wanting to splash out and overspend my carefully allocated film budgets (the fruit of experience and memory, and a rather mean Norn Iron temprement) used to try on at meetings:

    “Just try it my way first, and we can try it your way (with what little money’s left) if that fails…..”

  • SeaanUiNeill

    And when “the latter extreme will grow” we will find that a signaifiant proportion of them will remember these events through the usual haze of historical distortion. It’s what always happens here.

  • danielsmoran

    It’s the attitude of the establishment [NIO]here that shortages of funds is useful for them to abandon funding for sources demanding justice [such as Bloody Sunday which they don’t want to deal with anyway. Just like tories and welfare benefits, ie, recession is perfect for their real agenda , which lets them cut it to the bone . Their ideology is to do that anyway.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Although I agree in broad terms, MU, the degree to which “academic rigor” can be considered a kind of “penicillin” to rectify the “vague assertions and half truths” is still subject to the agenda those historians have.

    Don’t get me wrong, the discipline of rigerous examination using all (rather than carefullyselected) evidence must improve our true understanding of what has happened, but as F.S.L. Lyons pointed out, the project of objectivity must be considered as suspect for those of us who have understood the part played by unconscious promptings, let alone disguised bias.

    And have you noticed just how “objective” the historian agreeing with our own viewpoint looks?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Objectivity is a chimera of course. But on the other hand historians – plural – being critical of each other’s work through peer review (and as long as they accept criticisms from non-historians with other areas of expertise) offer a unique and highly relevant set of skills. They are the experts in establishing and challenging factual assertions; but also in contextualising facts and building explanatory frameworks.

    While there is no single framework, there are myths which can be exploded (to take a minimalist line on what historians could offer). Done rigorously and fairly, then propagated so people know about it, that myth-busting alone could be a massive contribution to a better public understanding of what happened in the Troubles.

    The current prevalence within the telling of the Troubles story of half-arsed, flaky folk history, unchallenged and regurgitated by often uncritical media, is a big cause of continuing tension and a major reason why reconciliation post 1998 has been so patchy. The truth may not be simple, but nor will any old crap do. Ruling out the worst of the myths (e.g. that the IRA acted ‘defensively’ or that Loyalists tried their best to target known paramilitaries) and marginalising those who continue spouting them, could be very healing. There is a sense that the paramilitaries have written the story we’re all expected to believe about the Troubles. There’s a desperate need to rid public discourse of this inaccurate, self-serving spin, which is morally confused and ultimately vacuous. Historians can give us some meaning back and help the voices of the 3000+ who died drown out those of the terrorists who killed them.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Well we agree in general on all the pluses about proper historical analysis, MU. But remember, analytic history, unlike the politically inspired interpretations of history we both seem to loathe, has no cut off point. The “troubles” did not begin with the troubles, and the actual boundary between myth and truth is highly debatable in even the most rigerious analysis, because the most carefully established facts are still subject to contextulation and interpretation, something in which we always carry the weight of our cultural inheritance and personal experiences. As William Faulkner said in “Requiem for a Nun”, “the past is never dead, it’s not even past.”

    Irish history in its entirity affects everything and therefore no consciencious historian can limit him/herself to simply the historically situated story of the sufferings of the 3000+. This would be to favour an isolated set of facts at the expense of the suffering of others. No-one ‘side’ or ‘tradition’ comes out of any genuine historical research looking unquestionably righteous. The truths Clio proclaims are no respector of subjective opinions or ideologies!