Memorandum submitted by Mr David Bolton
SOME THOUGHTS ON HOW TO PROGRESS ON "THE
1. Discussions about how best to handle
the past have been gathering pace with various institutions etc.
considering the issue. The idea of a healing and cathartic Commission
or Forum to address "outstanding matters" has been around
in various forms but with no clear view as to what precisely such
a process would address, how it would be done and whether any
initiative would in fact make a contribution to progress at this
2. This means different things to different
interests. For some it means very specific outstanding judicial
matters. For others it has to do with a wider sense of "justice"sometimes
not very specific (and which at its root might mean something
else other than somebody been arrested, prosecuted and imprisoned).
In that connection, for some it is a psychological matter to do
with acknowledgement, (perhaps compensation), the need to see
someone else punished or held account, to be remembered (or have
one's loved one remembered) in some way as one who has suffered,
3. For others it has to do with relationships
and the need to establish new (for the first time) or heal broken
relationships, or is seen as a spiritual matterto do with
our relationship with God and each other.
4. Clarity is needed. A distinction needs
to be drawn between the state's need for formal matters to be
dealt with (ie judicial matters) and the possible objectives and
benefits of any initiative over and above such goals.
5. There are a number of interests that
to one degree or another have an interest in seeing the past addressed.
Some of those affected by violence.
Governments to enable the political
process to progress.
Political parties to the extent that
they see the victims issue as requiring attention.
Businessto promote a positive
image of NI and to create improved conditions for investment and
Some of the churches-faith communities
for religious reasons.
The community relations community.
6. To embark on any measure to address the
past we need a number of key tests against which proposals could
be examined. These could include:
(a) Any initiatives will make a distinctive
and positive contribution to progress.
(b) They will secure specific and agreed
outcomes aimed at helping those who have been most directly affected
(c) They will enhance relationships and trust.
(d) They will secure sufficient support and
engagement across the community.
(e) They will not be misused for political
or sectional advantage.
(f) They will be cost effective.
These are challenging tests.
7. At this stage in the political process
when most of the key features of political change are in place,
any initiatives will require the voluntary engagement of individuals
and organisations. It is probably doubtful that the engagement
in a collective quasi-judicial forum of for example, paramilitaries,
security forces and governments could be secured in sufficient
measure to produce a positive effect.
8. Clarity on what it is intended or requires
to be addressed, is needed to assist in determining what could
and should be done. There appear to be at least three main areas
of "outstanding matters". These are:
(a) Justice issueswhich takes a number
of forms for different parts of the community.
(b) Acknowledgement, recognition and remembrance
issues which likewise means different things for different groups
(c) Health and Welfare issueswhich
relates to the direct personal consequences of violence (pain,
disability, grief, trauma etc) and related direct impacts on personal
opportunity and development.
9. Each of these requires different responses
and the nature of the response will be determined by the capacity
of the community to address these issues.
10. It is not likely therefore that one
single initiative will be able to address all these issues at
once. Indeed any effort to do so could flounder as it would be
11. Justice issues produce different and
powerful responses depending upon who or what interest is calling
for justice. Some justice claims might be underpinned by political
motives or the desire for political outcomes. Some claims represent
the desire for fairness, clarity or "truth", accountability
and the continuing desire to advocate on behalf of those who have
been killed, for instance. Also, the conflict has been more complicated
than is often presented or assumed. It is clearly more intricate
than seeing the conflict in terms of republicans and loyalists,
or by including state security service as a third party.
12. The challenge of addressing justice
issues is well known. Again perspective plays a part in determining
what requires a justice response and what institutions and processes
are legitimate in attending to such matters. Political negotiations
have led to some pragmatic decisions to hold public enquiries.
Whilst solving one set of problems such decisions disenfranchise
many others who feel that their experiences of injustice are being
ignored. These have to do with for example, the 1,800 or so unsolved
13. It might be helpful to separate the
states' objectives in carrying out (or reviewing) murder enquiries
and to see what it is that families would like. We hear that some
people do not want someone behind bars for the murder of their
family member. So when such people say they want justice, what
is it exactly that they are seeking? Processes that facilitate
the sharing of information, explanation and openness about the
difficulties in pursuing cases so long after the events took place
might be more helpful for some, than formal judicial processes.
14. Some of those affected directly by violence
might not want to be involved in any initiative as they have resolved
the matter or reached an inner acceptance of what has happened.
Others might have created new lives for themselves and the past
is in the past. A widow remarried for many years and with a second
family, might find dealing with the past in this context unhelpful.
15. Some feel that the systems of justice
are in place and no other action is required other than the due
process of the law. They feel entitled to this and anything else
would be less than they (or their loved one) deserved. The implications
of this are that any alternative process, which for example addresses
the outstanding cases, has to have gravitas. It also has to pass
the human rights test.
16. Acknowledgement, recognition and remembrance
are related to the significance that people and communities place
on their experiences of bereavement and violence. This area might
also be relevant to people's experience of unfairness or to how
people feel thy have been `used' for political or other purposes.
One problem with processes of acknowledgement and remembrance
is that they can have a zero-sum effect (to acknowledge one is
to dis-acknowledge another). Related to this is the issue of inclusiveness.
Some of those affected by violence will feel more comfortable
than others in having their experiences and loss acknowledged
and remembered along side those with whom they have strong differences
and whose part in the conflict they see very differently from
their own part. The challenge is to find ways in which reverently
and with due respect and sensitivity, the community can acknowledge,
remember etc. whilst respecting the individual's perspective on
what is the most appropriate way to remember etc.
17. One frequently used and talked about
initiative is to facilitate story telling and the establishment
of archives. Much has been done in this field already. A number
of such archives exist, usually confined to the group and locality
in which the experiences were gathered. Localised and group initiated
story collections have their place (and for some this is where
their stories should remain).
18. Stories work because they are of the
person; they are authentic insights into what a person has experienced,
into the consequences of violence on them and their family. They
have a levelling effect in that, whilst we might not agree or
identify with the story teller's political view of they world,
we can recognise and appreciate the human experiences of loss,
trauma, disappointment, hope and triumph.
19. As personal histories these are special
human stories. Should these not have a more central and honoured
place in our landscape of remembrance? And what about those who
have yet to tell their stories and those whose stories are yet,
too difficult to tell? Is there not therefore, a place for a central
collection of experiences that is granted respect in the process
of collection and in the way in which stories are preserved and
honoured in future generations?
20. To help us to remember well, it would
be helpful if agreement could be reached for example, on the use
and placement of memorials, and of other events and symbols that
represent the experiences of a community or individual or family.
This is not to stifle, or to neutralise remembrance, but to allow
it to happen in ways that contribute to the greater good.
21. With regard to health and welfare issues,
the focus is on those needs and outcomes that are directly related
to experience of violence and which can be addressed through developing
policy and services.
22. Progress in policy, in services and
in other intiatives has been made. More needs to be done however,
to ensure that the needs of those affected by violence are being
addressed, and we should expect that for some time to come people
will present with health and wider welfare related needs that
have their roots in the violence.
23. Strategic health and well-being promoting
measures would contribute to progress by directly addressing health
and well-being needs and by providing a non-partisan analysis
of needs and solutions.
24. We also need to be thinking about the
needs of children. We know from the experience of those affected
in childhood by abuse how devastating the effects can be on the
adult. We need to be planning for these needs both in children
and adult services.
25. Clearly major challenges in community
relationships remain, focussed on the interface areas, but present
in wider society in various forms. It would seem we need to put
as much energy and imagination into addressing relationships as
we have put in to the political project, and as we might put into
addressing the past. The challenge of "A Shared Future"
remains with us.
26. Our political discourse is still very
combative and fragmented. It is important that politicians model
good relationships and consideration.
27. There is the feeling in the wider community
that ordinary people no longer have a role to play. For reasons
we all understand, politics has been at the forefront of change,
but this has disengaged the contribution and interest of ordinary
people, or caused them to avoid facing the need for change or
to recognise that they too have a part to play. As each political
crisis unfolded since 1998, increasingly they were solved by negotiations
between Governments and parties and the wider civic contribution
seemed irrelevant and at times unwanted.
28. Inevitably Governments work and think
in terms of policy, processes, measurable outcomes etc, all important
and well tried mechanisms for delivering progress and change.
Is it possible however, to draw upon the creativity and imagination,
upon the instinctive good will and human compassion and understanding
of people, to bring about change? How might such a potential source
of energy be enabled to make its contribution?
29. There is a need for the evolution of
shared histories, which for example would ultimately be found
in school curricula. With honest language and appraisals of historythis
is a critical one for future generations.
30. There is something about a mature community
being able to attend to the needs and concerns of its members
in ways that are able to acknowledge its own collective shortcomings
in the tragedy that has befallen us all, in ways that are forward
looking, anxious to make progress. There is something about being
able to do these things in ways that are not intended to cause
affront and where the last pound of flesh is not required.