There is a stand-out sentence in David Park's novel 'The Truth Commissioner' that reads: " “Day after day, it's as if the dam is breached and out pours a torrent of rising levels of hurt that have been stored over long winters of grief.”
Of course, in Northern Ireland there is no such Truth Commission but, rather, a continuing battle over the past that poisons the present.
Recently, there has been one of those periods of remembering, within which the dam was breached; this in the remembering of October 1993 and that week that stretched from the Shankill bomb to the Greysteel shootings and the six killings in-between - Martin Moran, Sean Fox, James Cameron, Mark Rodgers and brothers Gerard and Rory Cairns.
The dam was breached in the recalling and telling of stories from the rubble of 1993, from the ambulances and from the homes visited by the horrors of that week. There are people who will never forget and they must be heard.
I spoke on this at the launch of Professor John Brewer's latest books (The sociology of compromise after conflict and The sociology of everyday life peacebuilding).The event was at Queen's University on October 31st. Brewer's work and that of his research team is important in its listening to the experiences of those directly touched by conflicts in Northern Ireland, Sri Lanka and South Africa.
Around 200 stories were logged; research that records personal experiences and the needs of those who have been hurt. These are not political scripts or lines, and this work will make an important contribution to the continuing discussions, debates and dialogues. Often, we find that those who have been hurt the most give the most to peace-building efforts.
And why is it important that we listen to and hear and record these experiences? Because when we remember we also forget. Two days before the Shankill bomb, John Gibson was shot dead at his home on the outskirts of north Belfast. The day after the Greysteel pub attack, reserve police constable Brian Woods was shot and died days later. In our remembering, they become forgotten people; lost in the blizzard of the conflict years.
The legacy process currently being developed in Northern Ireland is far too political in its design and intention. We need a past process - not a police process or a prison process. Sending a small number of people to jail is not addressing the past. We have watched as the negotiating process has become a political play.
So, what do we need to do?
We need to hear and record the stories of those who want to tell them. Those academics, along with others who have experience in this, should help design that process. That there has been no decision yet on a pension for the injured is one example of the political play and delay.
We need to de-politicise legacy, and we need to work out how the maximum amount of information is achieved to address the many unanswered questions.
The past must not be repeated.
What will the Stormont House Agreement of 2014 deliver - the structure that includes an Historical Investigations Unit and an Independent Commission on Information Retrieval? Can the two work together?
For decades, politics has been part of the problem, and the political agreement of 2014 has become a disagreement and a battle, within which there is no healing.
How do you lift the past out of that fight? How do you stop us from shovelling our experiences on top of future generations? There is much to think about as the Northern Ireland Office considers the responses to its recent consultation and the next steps.
Brian Rowan is a journalist and an author - including ‘Unfinished Peace’
This report summarises women’s experiences of intimate partner (domestic) violence (IPV) in Northern Ireland; the implications of IPV for physical and psychological well-being; its impact on children; and how experiences of IPV are shaped by violent political conflict, religion and culture. It has been written by the Political Settlements Research Programme (PSRP), Global Justice Academy, School of Law, The University of Edinburgh.
The report also records how service providers such as General Practitioners (primary care doctors), social workers and police officers respond to IPV and how helpful victims find these responses. A particular focus of this report is on the changes that have taken place in Northern Ireland over the last few decades, including the transition from violent conflict to a peaceful political settlement.
This report is based on findings from more than 100 qualitative interviews with women victims/survivors of IPV from across Northern Ireland conducted at two junctures: first in 1992; and latterly in 2016. It provides up-to-date information on the experiencesof and responses to violence against women in intimate relationships in Northern Ireland today, and investigates key similarities and differences in experiences of and service responses to IPV between 2016 and 1992.
Enfranchising Ireland? Identity, citizenship and state
Edited by Steven G. Ellis
Published by the Royal Irish Academy
The chapter on Constructing citizenships: the Protestant search for place and loyalty in post-independence Ireland (by: Ian d'Alton) is particularly worth a read. It will give valuable insight into how the Protestant community found its place in a new Ireland.
The rights and duties associated with the concept of citizenship are a central aspect of the process of identity-building and state formation. This book explores the origin and evolution of the concepts of citizenship and identity in Ireland from a broadly historical perspective, tracing their development in terms of rights and duties, from classical times, through the medieval period and partition in Ireland, to the present difficulties surrounding Brexit and the refugee crisis.
Ireland’s population has, by the standards of states elsewhere in Europe, remained fairly stable and homogeneous, at least until recently. The present refugee crisis presents Ireland with the prospect of asylum seekers and other migrants with very different cultures, traditions and senses of identity arriving on a scale quite unknown previously, with consequent difficulties surrounding their admission and integration into Irish society.
An examination of how the basic criteria and conditions under which citizenship has been conferred here compares with those for granting citizenship in other parts of Europe suggests that evolution of citizenship concepts in Ireland has more generally accorded with familiar European patterns of development.
Depending on how future relations between the UK and the EU are agreed following Brexit, however, the island of Ireland faces the prospect of immigrants from other EU member states enjoying what are in effect the rights of citizens in the Republic of Ireland but no such rights in Northern Ireland.
Contributors: Ian d’Alton, Enda Delaney, Steven G. Ellis, Thomas Leahy, Mary Ann Lyons, Bryan McMahon, Niall Ó Dochartaigh, Catherine Steel, Ulrike M. Vieten, Nira Yuval-Davis.