Baroness O’Loan reflecting on the foundations required to build peace

Sunday afternoon wasn’t Baroness O’Loan’s first visit to Corrymeela. When setting up the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland, she brought staff up to Ballycastle to talk through how they would ensure that their own backgrounds and experiences would not hamper the impartiality of the office and it’s investigations.

She began her address speaking about being “lost in the wrong territory” while driving around Northern Ireland without a map in the car during the Troubles. She reckoned it’s a concept that still applies today.

In her opinion there isn’t ever “a good time” to do things in Northern Ireland. So we have to get on and implement changes. On her list of issues still to resolve:

1. Providing a service for our victims. Some victims are having to choose between physio and pain relief. Trauma experienced years after events was not factored into budgetary calculations.

Twaddell Avenue is creating more division and tension up in North Belfast. We need leadership on a massive scale …

2. If we haven’t got a policing system that’s working properly, if we haven’t got a coronial [coroners] system that’s working properly … we haven’t got the rule of law.

We need to think about the foundations for a solid and sustainable peace … We still don’t, as Catholics and Protestants, understand that we’re not a threat to each other …

Nuala O'Loan Corrymeela APERTURE festivalThe former law lecturer went on to comment that in contrast to the work that we know is unfinished, “the world has seen and observed our Troubles and thinks we’re getting on with it”. There is a fear of the consequences of revealing truth. Conflict is always messy and fears that what might emerge will be damaging.

Referring to the imperfect South African system of truth-telling and amnesty, Baroness O’Loan said that Northern Ireland could not just adapt somewhere else’s model.

Quoting from Maya Angelou:

History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.

She contrasted personal, inward-looking “healing” with the “reconciling” of society. Healing may bring people to truth.

While structurally Northern Ireland needs commissions and inquiries – and during the Q&A she commented on the financial merits of running those inquiries – she laid out four “foundations” on which we build.

1. Courage. Stepping outside the party line. Our politicians need courage to work across the lines – the reorganisation of local government has left us with much more sectarian councils. We need the courage to name wrong doing.

2. Compassion and love. Compassion is not about not feeling sorry for people, but instead walking with them in their suffering.

3. Trust.

4. Integrity. When corruption or partiality creeps into our society it needs to be called out.

With those four pillars, maybe young people won’t be lured back into the terrorism of our past.


  • chrisjones2

    “Courage. Stepping outside the party line. ”

    ….and the incentive is? Electorally it seems zero so why would they even consider it

    “Compassion and love. Compassion is not about not feeling sorry for people, but instead walking with them in their suffering.”

    …. and we are very good at that providing its with oursuns not themuns. Again the question is how do you make this happen when the politics is still a zero sum game and lots of her legal colleagues are devoting their careers (Human Rights Lawyers TM) to making sure it stays that way / seeking justice.


    … what can I say. Personally I don’t trust Unionist or Republican / Nationalist politicians on any level. So where do you start?

    “Integrity. When corruption or partiality creeps into our society it needs to be called

    …. I totally agree but the evidence is that we are speeding backwards at a huge rate and that if anything isn’t nailed down one side or the other will make sure they acquire it – purely in the public interest of course

    So sorry Nuala, great sermon and you are right on all the points, but noone who matters here is listening. Or if they are its only to see how they can bend it to their personal / party advantage

  • Granni Trixie

    Talking about compassion and love and stepping out of the usual boundaries (which includes church teaching I presume) did anyone challenge the Baroness on her opposition to SSM?

  • kalista63

    The growing number of people ho don’t vote is the only thing that gives any hope. Let’s stick ‘none of the above’ on ballots.

    What kills hope i the manipulation of voters, as exemplified by the antics in May.

  • Zeno


  • hurdy gurdy man

    Same sex marriage?

  • chrisjones2

    Steady on woman..we can only go so far in equality

  • Granni Trixie

    It’s no more exciting than “same sex marriage”.

  • Deke Thornton

    A Sunday school lesson to her Sunday school age ‘children’. Full of semi religious waffle and pseuds corner guff. I suppose when you’ve hit the public money jackpot, you might as well try and follow up on accessing the revenue streams still available for such cut and paste speeches as far as you can milk it. Total charlatan. But hey, if you can sell water at £26 a bottle.

  • Zeno


  • Gopher

    Part of the troubles industry and got well paid for it. As part of that “corrupt” industry just another cog that keeps the past turning to keep the pay packets rolling in. There needs to be a statute of limitation or act of oblivion introduced to rid us of these ( as Deke says) total charlatans

  • Newman

    Some of the personal vitriol towards a person who has made a genuine contribution to post troubles Northern Ireland says a lot more about those who are blogging than Nuala O’Loan. Is post modernism and subjectivism beyond critique in this brave new world where we are all judged definitively on how we define marriage?

  • Turgon

    There does seem a whole industry in the non specific religious “be nice to everyone; I feel your pain” groups. As I noted in a previous thread (and was attacked for it) Corrymeela is the sort of unofficial intellectual centre for this. It is, however, all over the place. We have semi autonomous boards of the Presbyterian Church (and equivalents in the other churches) which spout this sort of stuff. It is ignored by almost everyone and has only passing relevance to a church’s main activities.

    However, that along with academic conflict revolutionists, and certain parts of the victims sector seem to have a sort of merry go round of conferences, soft jobs etc. and pass the largess of such appointments to their friends and acolytes.

    The most shocking thing about all this is that despite being highly politicised (in a classic letsgetalongerist fashion) and despite receiving significant sums of public money there is no democratic political oversight.

    In addition until now, due mainly to the fawning approach of the media, no one has been asking pointed questions about the waste the way they do of Stormont.

    It would be useful if someone (such as the taxpayers alliance) looked at just how much money has been spent over the years on all this and which individuals have made the most money from it. Then we could ask whether it was all worth it.

  • murdockp

    I agree, the reasons the lawyers s are so up in arms is the falling caseloads.

    a good murder was worth £50 — £100k for a lawyer.

    one undertaken by the army /psni could be worth upwards of £25m

    the economics of war…..

  • mary

    True peace with come when build trust – those who planned, ordered used fools do their dirty work, god fathers taken to task. All guilty as sin . Mure is murder, crime is crime, why is government & those who hurt , harmed innoncent. Respect is earned, not given on a plate, NI dysfunctional. Deal with it, face it victim’s first.

  • Nevin

    Turgon, I quite rightly exposed your scurrilous attacks on the fine work that the late Ray Davey and his associates not just inspired but also personified – if I can borrow some New Testament terminology – in the style of the Good Samaritan. I’ve got little time for the Pharisees and Levites and many of them can be found in the churches and political parties; some of them poured fuel on the flames of our contesting political passions; they bear some responsibility for the trauma that followed.

    I’m with you all the way when it comes to accountability [including Corrymeela, other charitable institutions, quangos and inter-state bodies]; you’ll find a few examples of that over on my NALIL blog; indeed some of the FoI material I posted was pulled from Slugger threads – perhaps because it didn’t suit someone’s narrative. A senior member of the legal profession attempted to bully me – I just smiled back.

    Nuala has made much of the word ‘trust’ yet had nothing to say about the outworking of the 1998 tug-of-war constitutional arrangement or about the commemoration of the funeral of Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa. There have been plenty of acts of courage so why she had to single out a paramilitary bomber beats me.

  • Turgon

    Ah yes Corrymeela and the parable of the Good Samaritan: how apt. Maybe a token look at the injured man but then most of the time trying to understand the motivations and needs of the robbers who beat the man up. I suppose they continued in the vein of Ray Davey and his views on the war.

    A pretty good analogy: thanks Nevin one I must use.

  • Nevin

    Turgon, I thought you might have been familiar with these verses:

    33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.

    34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.

    36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

    37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

    Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

    I don’t subscribe to your warped spin.

  • Turgon

    Well having members of loyalist and republican paramilitaries to speak at your “conferences” sounds very like trying to understand the motivations and needs of the robbers.

    Keep spinning Nevin.

  • Granni Trixie

    I for one greatly admire the Baroness for how she conducted herself when In office. However the way she dealt with often complex challenges as Ombudsman seems at odds with her utterances since which to me smacks of conservatism Catholicism. But then you perhaps share her world view?

    Ps would be interested in your opinion of Mary McAleese a practising Catholic but one who at times challenges Romes direction.

  • Nevin

    You’re a quare geg, Turgon, the presence of a few parapoliticians, politicians and clerics in the course of a year’s programme is statistically insignificant. Is it not telling that you see the pin in the haystack but not the haystack?

    Here’s a quote from Ray in October 1965 that I’ve used previously:

    “We hope that Corrymeela will come to be known as ‘the Open Village’, open to all people of good will who are willing to meet each other, to learn from each other and work together for the good of all.”

    Sadly too many folk listened to the folk of ill-will but maybe, just maybe, exposure to the spirit of Corrymeela as expounded by Ray and to those verses I’ve quoted will have a beneficial effect.

  • Turgon

    Ah yes that’s the Ray Davey who was at Dresden and so opposed the RAF trying to help the Red Army defeat the scourge of Nazism. I will take little inspiration from him and that sort of neo Nazi propaganda. Again sounds like being concerned about the robbers and not the victims.

  • Nevin

    Can you put up a brief quote to justify your use of the term ‘neo-Nazi’?

  • Turgon

    Well the opponents of the Dresden bombings are almost all neo Nazis apart from the obsessionally anti British (often one and the same thing) and a few pseudo historian cranks: the archetype being David Irving.

    We are never going to agree on this Nevin. You regard Ray Davey as an almost saintly figure and Corrymeela as representing a selfless and righteous organisation.

    Other views do, however, exist seeing Davey and Corrymeela in a much less rosy light.

    You have your analysis and I have mine. We will not agree so I suggest we leave this conversation as it is not going to reach a mutually agreed conclusion.

  • Nevin

    So you were unable to provide a quote, Turgon. Here’s one from Ray’s wartime diary:

    “Dresden was something I could never forget. It underlined to me the futility of all conflict, and when I returned back home, the challenge of trying to do something about conflict stayed with me, especially in my own society which was so polarised.”

    It’s not in any way linked to neo-Nazism but rather a reflection on the devastation that he observed. He would have made much the same comment about Coventry and Corrymeela is a Coventry Cross of Nails centre.

    I don’t regard Ray as a saintly figure but rather as a downright upright honest man, a good neighbour to all who knew him. Note his emphasis on the value of inclusive community: “Presbyterian Community Centre” and “Corrymeela Community”.

  • Turgon

    Exactly. In his quote we have classic neo Nazi views: that Dresden was futile. That Nevin is a view opposed by most historians apart mainly from the Nazi sympathisers and a view opposed by most Germans apart from Neo Nazis.

    As I said you regard him as ” a downright upright honest man, a good neighbour to all who knew him.”

    I, reading exactly the same piece, from his own stated views, regard him very differently.

    We are not going to agree. Why not you reply to this piece from me (seeing as I started it) and then we leave it at that: a deal?

  • Nevin

    Turgon, if you pay a little more attention to the detail, you’ll note ‘the futility of all conflict’. Once again, you see the pin but not the haystack. You make attributions which are wholly unwarranted. Ray would not have been privy to the intentions of Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin.

  • Turgon

    I will break form my suggested end to say again I disagree with Davey and regard his views as morally questionable. I do not regard ALL conflict as futile. Some conflicts are necessary to save lives. Stopping the Nazis would be a good example as was stopping the arm amputators in Sierra Leone or the genocide of Rwanda. Calling that futile is in my view immoral.

  • Nevin

    Questioning the ‘all’ is one thing but linking Ray to ‘a hatred for Jews and a love for Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany’ is quite disturbing. Remember that he was reacting to the devastation, not least the incineration of people, many of them fleeing from the Red Army.

  • Turgon

    You have one view of Davey and Corrymeela and I have a different one. We have both rehearsed our arguments. We both hold them honestly and with integrity. Let us agree to differ

  • barnshee

    Sorry- she ran a one sided partial organisation which PROVED virtually nothing.
    How many people were brought to account?

  • Nevin

    Perhaps I should just leave you in the hole you’ve dug for yourself; you indulge in mud-slinging and brand it ‘integrity’.

  • Turgon

    As you choose.

  • Newman

    It’s a world view that has stood pretty well the test of time and I’m not sure we will be quoting Dawkins or Peter Singer seven centuries after their demise, as with Aquinas or Augustine. The Catholic Church combines Rerum Novarum and a passion for social justice with a view of the human person, which seeks to uphold the dignity of all human beings, from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death. In today’s world, so deeply influenced by the excessive emphasis on autonomy and a moral relativism that views truth as subjective I think the Catholic Conservatism moniker as a term of abuse is a little premature. So yes I plead guilty to holding the same world view As Nuala O’Loan.

    I also admire Mary McAleese as an outstanding President,Her challenge to Rome is a little more fundamental than Rome’s direction of travel.I disagree with some of her analysis on Church matters.She is much better at politics than theology!.

  • Deke Thornton

    K I know what you mean Newman, I’m” in with the in crowd “also. Those awful evolutionists and their ‘science’.

  • Gopher

    Interestingly there was a slightly more famous diarist who was actually in Dresden the night of the raid. A jewish convert to protestantism who was going to be deported to his death along with the *remaining* Jews the next day. He found the raid far from futile. His diary unlike Mr Davey’s became a best seller and a source often quoted by historians. Victor Klemperer if anyone is interested. Frederick Taylor’s “Dresden Tuesday February 13th 1945” I can recommend without reservation, a truly outstanding work dealing with all aspects including the propaganda surrounding the aftermath of the raid.

  • Newman

    What has science got to do with this discussion? Dawkins is cited as a controversialist and antagonist not an evolutionary biologist. Stringer is a philosopher.

  • Nevin

    “lost in the wrong territory” .. Nuala

    Might there be a market for a Norn Iron satnav, one that wouldn’t lead you deep into ‘themuns’ territory. Perhaps The Ulster Fry could commission some research.

  • barnshee

    That would be the same church which denies the validity of other (Christian) faiths–whose education establishments continue to promote the all prods go to hell line –that church?-

    which ” combines Rerum Novarum and a passion for social justice with a view of the human person”

  • Newman

    You have obviously got the most limited understanding of the Catholic church. Both your allegations are entirely wrong and thus prevent you from making any serious point.

  • barnshee

    I have the child of ” mixed marriage ” informed that her mother a “non catholic” could not take the “bread of life” and thus could not enter heaven

    “Non catholic marriages” are not recognised as valid. handy if the old annulment needed

    I have recent direct family experience of the above

  • Nevin

    “reflecting on the foundations required to build peace”

    The friends and acolytes of the ‘ourselves alone’/’chosen few’ unionist/nationalist/church organisations seem greatly troubled by the wide range of unaligned organisations that don’t subscribe to their little world views.

    Although Corrymeela was established prior to the outbreak of our more recent troubles these words by Ray Davey in 1965 are just as relevant now as they were fifty years ago:

    “We hope that Corrymeela will come to be known as ‘the Open Village’, open to all people of good will who are willing to meet each other, to learn from each other and work together for the good of all.”

    There’s also the Community’s foundation statement:

    “Corrymeela is people of all ages and Christian traditions, who, individually and together are committed to the healing of Social, Religious and Political divisions that exist in Northern Ireland and throughout the world.”

    Nuala and I have each noted the majoritarian nature of our new district councils, a nature which very much runs counter to the Corrymeela spirit as well as to the development of a constructive shared future and is evidenced in such trivia as the naming of websites.

    ‘Letsgetalongerism’ is used as a term of abuse by tribalists and is applied to groups that have little in common other than a sense of good neighbourliness. Corrymeela folk may well have been inspired by these lines from Romans 12 and 13:

    Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another.

    Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men.

    If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.

    Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

    You shall love your neighbour as yourself.

    Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

    As a limited company and charitable organisation, Corrymeela is subject to the Companies Act and the evolving code of the Charity Commissioners. Presumably those bodies which allocate public funds are subject to democratic scrutiny eg Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, one of the funders of the recent festival. I see from its website that Corrymeela has received financial support from, amongst others, DCAL, the International Fund for Ireland, the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Big Lottery Fund. For me, lottery support is very questionable because of the links to gambling and the blight that the latter casts on society.

  • Newman

    I am sorry that you have had such an experience. The statements made are incorrect and you have been presented with a distortion.

  • barnshee

    “I am sorry that you have had such an experience. The statements made are incorrect and you have been presented with a distortion.”

    A distortion -no actual activity by an organisation
    “with a passion for social justice with a view of the human person”

    Non catholic marriages are valid and cannot be used as reason for annulment?