Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Written Evidence


APPENDIX 22

Memorandum submitted by Jacqueline Monahan, Transitional Justice Institute

  First and foremost, rather than continue with the "piece meal" approach used so far in attempting toaddress the past in Northern Ireland, there should be a more constructive method used by the state, in consultation with the general public, community groups and academics with knowledge and research experience in this field. Although the people of Northern Ireland do not have a common understanding of the causes and effects of conflict, and as such may not have a collective, unified view for best addressing the past, including community groups and NGOs will bolster any labours by the state.

  The headline which introduces the NIAC is entitled Reconciliation: Ways of Dealing with Northern Ireland's past. It seems to me that the Committee, rather than jump on the international bandwagon and use the en vogue term "reconciliation" without any attempt to clarify what the Committee means by "reconciliation" (at least in terms of the work/project it proposes) may benefit from reading the research, some of which has been funded by the government, which has already been conducted in this field (Healing through Remembering Project Report, 2002; Victims Commission report, We Will Remember Them; the Eolas document; the Ardoyne Commemoration Project's book Ardoyne: the Untold Truth, for example) within Northern Ireland. There is no point in reinventing the wheel. Further talk of "reconciliation" without action towards implementation of the suggestions previously solicited from people may in fact further frustrate and discourage society.

  Promoting reconciliation would certainly be a more attainable and measurable goal than attempting to achieve reconciliation, at least as a short-term goal. Perhaps the most obvious mechanism to begin to address the issue of reconciliation is to ascertain the truth about the conflict, including "unsolved" conflict-related killings . However, it is important to recognise that despite the international bandwagon, there is no evidence that reconciliation is a by-product of truth so to name a commission as such (ie "truth and reconciliation commission") may be misleading and lead to disappointment and further disenfranchisement by many.

  The Committee may benefit from reading the research, some of which has been partially funded by the British government, which has already been conducted in this field (Healing through Remembering Project Report, 2002; Victims Commission report, We Will Remember Them; the Eolas document; the Ardoyne Commemoration Project's book Ardoyne: the Untold Truth, for example) within Northern Ireland. There is no point in reinventing the wheel. These reports, some of which are of better quality than others and each with different aims, address the varying views of the causes and effects of the conflict and suggest ways for addressing the wounds that remain. Further talk of "reconciliation" without action towards implementation of the suggestions previously solicited from people may in fact further frustrate and discourage society.

  Furthermore, if a truth commission is considered as a recommendation by the Committee, I suggest that the Committee looks beyond the South African model, which despite being the most well-known model in Northern Ireland, perhaps is not be the best model for Northern Ireland to follow. A commission may still be effective in truth-finding without having an amnesty clause, the likes of which are increasingly recognised as illegal under international law, depending of course on how they are implemented.

  The Committee should also be aware that a good number of groups (community, etc) have been disappointed by the manner in which the Committee has gone about soliciting submissions, which is not a particularly positive way in which to begin a new project.

3 December 2004





 
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