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20 April 2006 Edition

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AGENDA: Republican initiatives around truth, recovery and healing

PHILIP McGUIGAN

PHILIP McGUIGAN

Healing needed to build the peace

More than 3,500 people lost their lives as a result of the armed conflict between 1969 and 1998. The meetings I have with victims indicate that the wounds have been badly closed and that there is a responsibility on us all to try to bring about healing to the thousands of people still suffering.

There have been a number of republican initiatives and statements around truth, recovery and healing in the last number of years. The most notable of these was the statement issued by the IRA in July 2002 apologising for the deaths of all non-combatants and acknowledging that all sides had suffered.

In September 2003 Sinn Féin published a discussion document on the issue. In it we called for a focused debate and political engagement with all relevant parties around how we might deal with the past.

Recently, some sections of loyalism have started discussing the issue and we should welcome the fact that they are at least opening up the debate within their own constituencies.

The British state, on the other-hand, has never faced up to its responsibilities. British military and security agencies have enjoyed total imunity for their dirty war in our country. And ten years on from the Good Friday Agreement they have yet to even acknowledge that they were part of the conflict, still trying to maintain the fiction that they were caught between two warring factions.

The facts are that in the course of the conflict, the British State, through its armed forces, was directly responsible for killing 365 people. The unionist paramilitaries, which they established and used to carry out most of their killing, were responsible for the deaths of more than 1,100 during the same period.

So, British state and state sponsored violence resulted in at least 1,500 deaths.

Republicans, like the other protagonists in the conflict need to consider ways of dealing with the legacy of the past. When doing so however, we must remember that:

  1. The British State acted with impunity.
  2. Collusion was a British strategy aimed at pacifying the republican community.
  3. The British lied and continue to lie about their role in these killings.
  4. The institutions of the state covered up their activities.
  5. There was never any proper police or judicial investigation.
  6. The political establishment, north and south turned a blind eye.
  7. The media, for the most part, echoed the 'official' line.
  8. The British have never acknowledged or apologised for their actions.

Republicans have taken initiatives around truth and truth recovery but until victims achieve acknowledgement and healing the past will continue to invade the present. Should there be a truth process or a truth commission? We need to have that debate. The following principles can be distilled from our discussion document:

  1. Victims have a right both to acknowledgement of their pain and to contribute to a changing society.
  2. Full co-operation and disclosure by all relevant parties would be essential to the success of any process.
  3. There can be no hierarchy of victims.
  4. Any process should be politically neutral.
  5. Any panel/commission would need to be independent.
  6. Healing, for victims and for society should be the aim of any process.
  7. Any process should be informed by a desire to learn the lessons of the past so that mistakes will not be repeated.
  8. The focus of any truth process should not be restricted to combatant groups. Other institutions would require scrutiny. This includes the media, judiciary, state institutions, civic society etc...
  9. Humility and generosity should inform the parties seeking to reach agreement on this issue. It should not be about getting one over on one's opponents.
  10. A common aim should be to enable society to build the peace.

An Phoblacht Magazine

AN PHOBLACHT MAGAZINE:

  • The first edition of this new magazine will feature a 10 page special on the life and legacy of our leader Martin McGuinness to mark the first anniversary of his untimely passing.
  • It will include a personal reminiscence by Gerry Adams and contributions from the McGuinness family.
  • There will also be an exclusive interview with our new Uachtarán Mary Lou McDonald.

Buy An Phoblacht magazine here

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