Memorandum submitted by Senator Maurice
One of the great problems for societies like
Northern Ireland emerging from a protracted period of civil conflict
and violence is how to achieve reconciliation and justice for
victims. There is often a tension between the two. Although there
are common themes for a lot of cultural and historic reason, each
situation tends to be sui generis It is dangerous to think that
a "solution" can easily be imported from another conflict
There are two conflicting demands for justice
(meaning punishment) and truth(full disclosure of who was
responsible). In South Africa and Chile, this was resolved by
offering amnesty, which did not please all the victims.
Furthermore, justice can be retributive (involving
punishment) a restorative, involving the repair of community relations.
I do not believe that there is any simple universal
prescription. It may be necessary to work through a range of modest
initiatives rather than in one grand scheme.
Tribunals on the lines of Saville are scarcely
to be considered. Apart from the time and expense involved, they
seldom get at what might be regarded as "truth" and
do little for reconciliation.
I do not believe that the South African style,
Truth and Justice Commission, can be transplanted to Northern
Ireland. I have spent some time on visits to South Africa speaking
to some who were involved. Many of them would not wish to repeat
In any case, the South African conflict is over
and all are agreed about the outcome. This is still in dispute
in Northern Irelandwhich is still in transition. Many indeed
require truth as a means of personal and familial closure, but
there are others who see the search for truth as a means of prolonging
The Good Friday Agreement talks of a new beginning.
There is an argument for drawing a line under the past, on all
sides, and pressing on, leaving it to future historians in more
settled times to tease out what actually happened.
If there is to be a scheme, it should not simply
be thought up in the N10 And announced to the world. There is
much to be said for assisting groups representing victims (on
all sides) to work out for themselves how to handle the pain of
the past. There should be no hierarchy of victimsall have
suffered, and in some cases perpetrators are victims too.
A question arises about what to do with the
1,800 unsolved murderswhich could absorb all police resources
for years ahead. It may be possible to give relatives, who require
it, a summary of what is known and then close the file.
Paramilitary organisations as part of any settlement
might be asked to provide information on the disappeared.
People should be given the opportunity to tell
their story which could be recorded and preserved in an archive.
Perhaps, the best contribution so far has been
"Lost Lives" of McKettrick el al and a new edition might
be funded which would flush out the stories with whatever new
information might be gleaned.
Some people need therapythey should have
Others have suffered through the loss of a breadwinner,
lost education, homes broken. They should be compensated in one
way or another.