Dealing with the past

A discussion on how to deal with the past was held as part of a concluding reflection on the Holywell Trust’s series of Forward Together podcasts.  The panel was author Julieann Campbell, the commentator Denis Bradley (who was co-chair of the Consultative Group on the Past and former deputy chair of the Northern Ireland Policing Board) and Maureen Hetherington of the Junction, plus myself as the person who conducted the interviews for the 35 podcasts. This podcast also includes a …

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Politicians feel threatened by the prospect of a civic voice, argues Robin Eames

Politicians in Northern Ireland feel threatened by the concept of a strong civic society, but we should pursue the ambition of creating a ‘People’s Assembly’, argues Lord Robin Eames, the former Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland.  Robin was interviewed in the latest Forward Together podcast. “We’re at a very delicate stage where our society is beginning to learn that the party politic regime doesn’t necessarily reflect their deepest concerns,” he says.  “I’m talking about …

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‘Brexit means that Northern Ireland’s constitutional future has become an issue for Europe’, says Denis Bradley

Denis Bradley was keen to move on in the latest Forward Together podcast interview to discuss the constitutional position of Northern Ireland.  “Well that’s the one that intrigues me because I don’t know the answer!,” he says. “First of all I think something very important happened within the last couple of weeks and has not received attention. And that is that the Europeans have said if there a no deal situation we will still have to deal with the Northern …

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Eames-Bradley process ‘should have done more to take the Irish government with it’ – says Denis Bradley

The Eames-Bradley process should have engaged more closely with the Irish government and ensured it was on board with the recommendations, says co-chair Denis Bradley in the latest Forward Together podcast. Eames-Bradley – properly called the Consultative Group on the Past – was published more than a decade ago and was intended to provide a way of dealing with the past and the needs and concerns of victims and survivors.Denis says “I do [think the] report itself is an extremely …

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‘Let’s create an all-island, integrated, health service, and let’s begin now’

There needs to be an all-island, integrated, health service, and its creation should not be dependent upon the agreement or timing of a united Ireland, argues Professor Jim Dornan – one of the architects of existing cross-border co-operation in health services.  Jim was interviewed in the latest Forward Together podcast. “In many ways Ireland is a Goldilocks sized country for health provision,” he explains.  “We can cherry pick the best of health provision throughout the world and let’s introduce it …

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“A leadership vacuum” that must be filled

A leadership vacuum is causing harm across Northern Ireland, including in loyalist areas, and contributes to the lure of paramilitaries, warns victims’ campaigner Alan McBride in the latest Forward Together podcast. “I think we probably need to put a lot of investment into areas like East Belfast and the Shankill and other areas to try and improve the leadership potential,” he argues. Alan adds: “As a grassroots working class Protestant loyalist myself, I have a real feel for that community. …

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‘Let’s look again at the Eames-Bradley approach to the past’

The Eames-Bradley report was the best approach yet to how Northern Ireland should deal with Troubles legacy issues, argues Mark Durkan.  The former SDLP leader and deputy first minister was interviewed for the ‘Forward Together’ podcast series immediately before declaring his candidacy for Fine Gael for the Dublin constituency in the European Parliament elections. Mark argues that the proposals tabled for the 2013 talks mediated by US envoy Richard Haass were “not as good as Eames-Bradley”.  The challenge is also …

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Call for an Amnesty referendum faces parties and governments with the big decisions

Sir Des Rea the first chair of the Policing Board and Robin Masefield the former head of the Prison Service are people of conscience and great experience. They are no ivory tower observers.  Prompted it seems by the risks to stability threatened by the Adams interrogation, in very flat language they make public their fundamental proposal that cuts the Gordian knot of humbug and misplaced principle over the availability of justice . It is what much if not most of the professional establishment …

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Boston College tapes unlikely to lead Adams to gaol but suggest any truth process is pointless

The arrest and charging of Ivor Bell has been covered already on Slugger and below Mick has mentioned the fact that Gerry Adams has made himself available to questioning by the PSNI. Although the McConville family remain hopeful many have suggested that it is inconceivable that Adams will be prosecuted. Adams has repeatedly denied that he had anything to do with Jean McConville’s murder just as he has denied that he was ever in the IRA. He has also claimed …

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OTR crisis begins to abate: totally inappropriately

The crisis has begun to abate, without the direct threat of Stormont collapsing in the immediate future. Despite various claims from the predictable sources in both former government and pliant media circles this was and remains a major scandal and a colossal indictment of the whole political process. The first suggestion at minimising the relevance of these events has been that the suggestion that these letters to suspected terrorists as arranged by Sinn Fein (was the old term Sinn Fein …

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Victims and the redress of historic grievance: shall we forbid them, or not?

A sharp observation from Malachi O’Doherty in yesterday’s Belfast Telegraph that the past is becoming more not less livid, put me in mind of a line from the King James Bible (Luke 18:16), “suffer little children to come unto me” followed by the less familiar “and forbid them not”.  With new campaigns springing up it seems that the demand for redress for past injustices is transferring through the generations: The eloquence and passion of the grandchildren of the McGurk family, the …

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Maltreating victims may condemn us to the folly of repeating the past

So here I am seven months on from the appointment of Mary McArdle as Special Advisor to the then new Culture Minister Carál Ní Chuilín . That appointment – of the only person convicted of my sister Mary’s murder – caused untold stress both to me and my family. While Sinn Fein seemed not to see a problem with it, it sent us a strong signal that what our family felt didn’t matter, just as it didn’t matter to them that …

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Thoughts on Victims, the past and the future of the past

The furore over Mary McArdle’s appointment as special advisor to the new Culture Minister Caral Ni Chuilin is showing no sign of going away. As Pete mentioned below McArdle has made a comment in the Andersonstown News expressing regret that Mary Travers was killed: regret but no apology and certainly no repentance which would as Jim Allister and others have pointed out, have to mean naming the other members of her murder gang: something her oath to the overall murder …

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Bloody Sunday debate exposes doubt and disagreement over dealing with Northern Ireland’s past

No points to the Commons and Lords for the scheduling clash between the debate on lessons from the Bloody Sunday inquiry in the Upper House and Lord Saville’s personal appearance before the NI Select Committee yesterday. MPs failed to lay a glove on the now retired Supreme Court member over the epic 10 year time scale and £190 million cost of an inquiry whose impact casts a long shadow over the whole public inquiry system.. MPs were naturally caught between …

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“an important contribution to the debate about the past…”

For what it’s worth… As the BBC reported, yesterday the Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Owen Paterson, published “a summary of responses to the previous Government’s consultation on the Consultative Group on the Past Report” [pdf file].  But not the current Government’s response…  Apparently they’ll be considering the four three Victims Commissioners’ recent “constructive advice” “in detail over the coming weeks”. Pete Baker

Look again now at the legacy commission

While the past should not nor cannot be forgotten as Eamonn rightly says, the question is how best to deal with it. Reconciliation or justice? appears to be the choice before us if moves towards winding down legal process gain traction.  It’s no easy decision and advocates of further legal action have by no means lost the battle. Saville’s para 4.7,  in which he’s unable to confirm or deny the existence of  a “culture” of impunity towards the army may …

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Time to admit the limits of dealing with the past

It is pretty clear that the State – or a part of it at any rate – is moving towards closing legal process in three years for dealing with the past and that anything further will be dealt with and funded privately. In the wake of the Saville report, nothing is to be gained by Westminster and Stormont prevaricating about this any longer. On Monday David Cameron referred all further cases to the Historical Enquiries Team which in March the …

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