Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Written Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Senator Maurice Hayes

  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 situation.

  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 the process.

  In any case, the South African conflict is over and all are agreed about the outcome. This is still in dispute in Northern Ireland—which 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 struggle.

  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 victims—all have suffered, and in some cases perpetrators are victims too.

  A question arises about what to do with the 1,800 unsolved murders—which 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 therapy—they should have it.

  Others have suffered through the loss of a breadwinner, lost education, homes broken. They should be compensated in one way or another.

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