Memorandum submitted by Mr Oscar Daly,
I write as a psychiatrist with an interest in
the whole area of trauma to express to you my personal view regarding
how reconciliation might be sought.
I believe reconciliation is fundamental to future
peace. Whenever a war ends, whether by peace process or because
one group of combatants stop, the same dynamics originally present
persist with risk of further violence unless there is reconciliation
and a change in attitudes. During periods of violence there is
the process of emnification? in order to kill, one has to dehumanise
not only the enemy but also one's self. For true peace, which
is about recovery, healing and a reduced need for retribution,
one needs de-emnification.
To move forward one needs to exorcise Plato's
ghost (he said there is only one universal truth) and we need
to recognise that many truths are valid. The process needs to
be a non zero sum game so that each side is a winner. Clearly,
leadership will be vitally important. Superordinate goals should
be set, ie goals which are important for both sides and which
cannot be attained without co-operation.
It must be accepted that healing is a long,
slow process. It is important for individuals to tell their own
story. With a careful approach one can tell the story in a way
that is emotionally safe and constructive. It must be recognised
that, whilst it is very important for survivors to remember, remembering,
which can be healing, can also reopen wounds. Testimonies, which
should be heard in public, may be very shocking to survivors,
those bereaved, etc. because of the cruelty and brutality of the
testimonies. While there will not be the opportunity to offer
release from prison for testimony, the offer of amnesty, which
would legitimise the actions, for him/her, of the perpetrator
testifying, must be considered.
In my opinion, perhaps the approach most likely
to succeed in attaining reconciliation is probably a public health
approach rather than purely a legal or mental health approach.
Understanding the causes of violence and the associated trauma
can lead to recovery. Vicarious traumatisation, not just in the
past, but of those involved in any reconciliation forum is an
issue which will also need to be addressed. Essentially, the past
needs to be addressed at various different levels including societal
(as in the TRC in South Africa), community, family and individual
(as in a simple trauma model).
As noted above, healing and reconciliation will
be a slow process but, if planned and developed with great care,
such a process can help society in Northern Ireland successfully
deal with the past.