Memorandum submitted by the Guild of Uriel
In meetings of The Guild of Uriel we sit in
a circle with everyone introducing themselves. Visitors are given
the floor to present whatever stories and ideas they wish to share.
They tell their stories and we respond. The "we" being
a group of cross community/cross border volunteers seeking to
facilitate dialogue in a private context. This simple format enables
change to take place with ripple effects permeating to the wider
reaches of society and sparking other developments.
We seek engagement with, and between, all who
wish to engage. People from all walks of life have shared the
experience and there are no restrictions, with participants setting
the agenda. There are no (or few) "experts" and this
enables the sharing of experiences. Nor are we seeking "truth"
in the sense of accuracy but when people honestly share their
stories "truth" is present. The Guild, over most of
10 years, has engaged with republicans, unionists, loyalists,
victims (including security force victims), Orangemen, people
from the interfaces, political parties and so on. Whoever engages
with us engages with the other because we ourselves include both
We are flexible and try to respond as we see
the need. We prefer the image of an organism rather than organisation.
We have joint chairsone a unionist from the north and the
other a nationalist from the south with a core membership of approximately
16 people drawn from unionist and nationalist traditions. We bring
people together in what they experience as a lively, dynamic,
creative, challenging and fulfilling encounter.
Members and friends occasionally visit parts
of Northern Ireland characterised by disruption and violence.
Once we met in Dan Winters Cottagebirthplace of the Orange
Order and this was a moving experience. We have had tense moments,
as when former security services members tell of harrowing experiences.
The work is not centred on the past although in early days we
emphasized the healing of memories. Uriel was the name of an area
centred on County Louth in medieval times. It included parts of
adjacent counties heavily influenced by the Anglo-Normans/Old
English and we seek reconciliation with that past and in the present.
We believe this work is most effective in small
groups away from media attention. The important thing is that
people's stories are listened to and responded to positively and
even critically but respectfully. Honest but respectful and empathetic
feedback is given to those sharing their stories. We engage after
sharing a meal together. This sets the tone in preparation for
open discussion. We close each session with a minute's silence.
In contrast a public truth commission might
not heal wounds. The roots of the conflict are too deep and complex
to be elucidated to everyone's satisfaction. Conflict over whose
truth is accepted would seem inevitable in such circumstances.
Some would feel their story was misrepresented or neglected and
they might be left in greater pain. Some facts, as opposed to
"truth", would be recovered, but limited knowledge can
be dangerous. We feel however that there is a place for more formal
and "authorised" story-telling, perhaps facilitated
by a university, in which stories could be told, heard, responded
to and recordedin private. An initiative in this direction
is being considered but the lessons learnt over almost a decade
29 November 2004