Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Written Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the Peace People Executive


The limited nature of this paper

  The Peace People have worked for reconciliation in Northern Ireland since our foundation in 1976—but with ever decreasing resources. We welcome this initiative of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee and are very glad to participate. Because of our own present lack of resources, these recommendations are short and we are only too aware of their limitations.


  It is our belief that at the present time there is a deeply felt need for some form of Reconciliation process in Northern Ireland. We are also aware that any such process must be handled delicately from start to finish if it is to be successful in achieving its goal.

  All over Northern Ireland, there are groups and individuals who have been working on the ground towards reconciliation, harmony and peace.

  Even when the political vacuum has been filled, and even while it has not been filled, the quest for reconciliation at the personal and community level should continue apace with vigour.

  It would be good, if possible, to harness the efforts of all such groups and enhance their efforts rather than undermine them.

  However while the private nature of these efforts often suits the participants, there may also be a need for a more public acknowledgement of the trauma and grief caused by over 30 years of conflict and this need should be identified and itself acknowledged. The resulting process is what is envisaged in this submission.

  David Bloomfield's advice to begin early, to persevere and deal with the hard issues, not to rush the process itself and have transparency re goals, difficulties, time, pressures and resources, should be taken on board.


    (a)  A desire by some, maybe many, to forget rather than confront past actions and their results.

    (b)  Conflict between the political agreement and personal reconciliation.

    (c)  Fear of litigation by some participants.

    (d)  Fear of gloss over, loss of rights, loss of possible compensation by some victims.

    (e)  Fear of loss of present status, good name, employment, spouse/family by some participants.

    (f)  Expense.


  (a)  Set up a Headquarters somewhere in Northern Ireland with personnel seconded from NGOs such as the Quaker Community, Amnesty International, the Red Cross, The Corrymeela Community, Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation, Salvation Army, Belfast Redemptorist Community, and several others who may have already worked for reconciliation in Northern Ireland.

  The people so seconded and willing to work would be paid an agreed wage. Pre-engagement of community halls, churches, college campuses, schools, peace houses, monasteries and other such places that could provide adequate space and services and adequate privacy whenever necessary in which to conduct the business of the reconciliation meetings.

  (b)  A two week period of training for the staff.

  (c)  Media advertising, concentrated on Northern Ireland, offering an open, all-inclusive invitation to victims to contact the Reconciliation Office or submit a victim statement. Immediate follow-up would include a first meeting of victims from whom requests and proposals would be entertained. If possible, this first meeting, however small, would take place two weeks after the end of staff training.

  (d)  Further meetings would be arranged with these and other victims in the following weeks.

  (e)  The Arts and local community groups can help in the process, eg by giving people the skills to tell their stories either verbally or in writing. They could encourage and empower people to break out of the cycle of fear and inertia and begin to dialogue and truly listen to each other. Sadly, the Arts groups are underfunded.

  (f)  The full process would eventually include:

    (1)  One week meetings on the Glencree model as outlined by Ian White.

    (2)  Ongoing meetings, some involving victims only, some with both victims and those whom they wish to speak to, confront or engage with.

    (3)  Active Observer and proposed resolution meetings for those unhappy with passive mode.

    (4)  Meetings for former paramilitaries who request psychological help.

    (5)  Inter-faith and inter-Church meetings and festivals.

    (6)  Inter-community walks, festivals and getting-to-know-you parties.

    (7)  Interaction with communities where strife is still present.

    (8)  the establishment of pan-cultural museums and libraries.

    (9)  An official remembrance day in Northern Ireland for all those who have died, been injured or bereaved during the time of the Troubles. It would be best if this idea could come from the participants at meetings rather than be suggested by authorities.

    (10)  it would be good if, at some stage, the question of language would be addressed.

    For instance, the terms Ireland, Ulster, Northern Ireland, Eire, the Six Counties can cause anger to different people as I'm sure many other terms can.

    (11)  Acceptance of others' cultures and religion or lack of religion. Again, this would be best to emanate from discussions at meetings.

    With regard to religion what is envisaged is an aggiornamento within Churches on the scale of what happened in the Roman Catholic Church during the pontificate of John the Twenty-Third. The goodwill of all Churches would be needed here. With regard to culture, it would be good if we could envisage a day when members of both communities could tolerate or even enjoy the music and culture of the other. The innate sense of good humour of all the people of Northern Ireland will be a help here.

    (12)  Integrated education. There are excellent integrated schools throughout Northern Ireland at present. The idea of educating children together in a non-confrontational environment appears to be of such paramount importance that it should be actively discussed and debated with Church leaders. The idea should be kept constantly in the public mind by advertising, speeches, participation in radio and TV programmes, letter writing etc.

    (13)  A comprehensive study of the Restorative Justice method with a view to its implementation in Northern Ireland.

    (14)  (possible) The South African model might be used on a limited basis for victims who preferred to use it. The need for a facilitator of the stature of Bishop Tutu would be obvious here.

  It is envisaged that all meetings would be owned by the participants, have background medical, social, psychological and psychiatric support and inspire confidentiality in all the participants.

  It is also envisaged that the State would filly support the process although keeping at a distance. The example of Zimbabwe proves that political power must fully endorse the process for it to be successful. At the same time, the political powers, parties and various local administrations should not take over the process or seek to gain political gain from it.

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