Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Written Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Restorative Action Following on the Troubles


  For many people in Northern Ireland—and more especially for those living on the margins in disadvantaged areas—the 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 knock-on effect.

  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 future.


    (i)  resources should be targeted at these identifiable sectors, and within the sector at the level of the individual;

    (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 piece-meal funding.


  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 Healing—a 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 Counselling—long-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

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