Memorandum submitted by the Peace People
The limited nature of this paper
The Peace People have worked for reconciliation
in Northern Ireland since our foundation in 1976but 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.
2. THE CONTINUING
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
It would be good, if possible, to harness the
efforts of all such groups and enhance their efforts rather than
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
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.
(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
(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
(6) Inter-community walks, festivals and
(7) Interaction with communities where strife
is still present.
(8) the establishment of pan-cultural museums
(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
(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
(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
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.