Memorandum submitted by Restorative Action
Following on the Troubles
For many people in Northern Irelandand
more especially for those living on the margins in disadvantaged
areasthe experience in recent years of relative peace has
its downside.It is as if the pain and distress of decades had
become frozen within and now as "normality" impinges,
the floodgates are opening to delayed shock and memories hitherto
too painful and dangerous to entertain.
Children of the Troubles, adults now with their
own families, are burdened with a double lethal legacy in their
own persons and in their role as parents. They bear the scars
of the conflict and also carry the burden of the generational
But the recent years of Peace have also enabled
people to look out, however tentatively beyond their own immediate
experience, and to glimpse unexpected possibilities in the new
scenario. However these are possibilities which can be grasped
only in the context of survival and freedom.
NOW is a supremely opportune moment for a Sustained,
Comprehensive and Integrative approach, following on the community
programmes developed through Peace I and Peace II, and the governmental
surveys and social initiatives carried out in recent years.
While "pain grief and anger" are the
monopoly of no one sector of the Northern Ireland community, certain
sectors experience greater difficulty, not only in coping with
the heritage of hurt, but in envisioning and buying into an alternative
(i) resources should be targeted at these
identifiable sectors, and within the sector at the level of the
(ii) risks may have to be taken, and a certain
duplication accepted if these more deprived and sometimes suspicious
sectors are to benefit from new initiatives. (A system of "cheaper
through combination" will not work at any depth);
(iii) finances would need to be mainstreamed,
in order to maintain continuity and a sustained commitment and
obviate the energy-drain/insecurity entailed in on-off precarious
A new approach is needed vis-a"-vis the
relative emphasis on "community" and "the individual".
Many Reconciliation Programmes to date have sought to bring communities
together in the initial instance, urging them to move on, to venture
across the divide, etc.
The professional and business sectors have less
problem with "cross community" than those locked into
deprived and marginalised areas. These latter have not only less
going for them in the new post-conflict society, but in most cases
have also lacked the resources to deal with their personal trauma.
So the greatest need now is for Personal Healinga
slow painful process which requires to be adequately resourced.
According as this inner healing is experienced, individuals are
more likely to gain the awareness and insights conducive to viewing
the "other side" with more understanding. Without this
basic shift it would seem too much to expect people to reach out
to erstwhile enemies/perpetrators.
Individual post-trauma needs are experienced
on many levels and call for a comprehensive integrative approach.
Basic to this is one-to-one Counsellinglong-term if necessary.
And for people who have experienced trauma, their needs at the
intellectual, emotional and sensory levels, should also be addressed,
always with the focus on integration.
Sensitive and creative planning will be required
as well as courageous financial commitment. The challenge is also
to favour one focus viz Personal Healing (a), while not neglecting
the social/communal aspect (b); and to avoid the pitfall of thinking
that the latter approach will eventually lead to the achievement
of the former outcome. In fact (a) has more chance of leading
to (b) than (b) has of leading to (a)
To date the emphasis has been on Community.
It is time now to restore the balance.
2 December 2004