Monday, July 5, 2004

No single solution for dealing with the past in Northern Ireland



Healing Through Remembering Northern Ireland
MEDIA RELEASE - Sunday 4 July 2004

The first step in any truth recovery process must be acknowledgement. Everyone who has engaged in the conflict – including Governments – should acknowledge responsibility for their actions. Only when all organisations and institutions acknowledge responsibility can Northern Ireland move towards a sustainable peace. This call is made by Professor Roy McClelland, Chairman of Healing Through Remembering, a diverse group of individuals who for three years have been investigating ways of dealing with the past.

Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster’s Sunday Sequence this morning Professor McClelland said: “We are heartened by the growing debate in this area but feel that a lot of work needs to be done and we are adamant that Acknowledgment — particularly by the governments — should be the starting point for any process of Truth recovery”. “Given the current Government initiatives to find a solution for dealing with the past it is important that the opinions of those affected by the conflict are taken into consideration”, continued Professor McClelland.

And as the current debate becomes focussed on story-telling and truth commissions, Healing Though Remembering points to the need for a number of parallel but separate methods for dealing with the past – as outlined in their report of 2002.Healing Through Remembering today said that there is no single treatment for the healing process in Northern Ireland – processes of remembering, reflecting, informing and educating must be sustained for another generation at least. Practical recommendations from Healing Through Remembering include:

* Acknowledgement
* A storytelling process
* Establishing a day of reflection
* Permanent Living Memorial Museum
* A network of commemoration and remembering projects

Professor McClelland explained the current work of the organisation: “Healing Through Remembering is now expanding its membership in order to arrange a number of events in the autumn which will address the recommendations in more detail. These will include conferences and seminars drawing on local and international experiences. The aim of these events will be to draw together the people working on each issue in order to define the most appropriate methods of implementation – including timescale, scope, and who should – or should not – be managing each process.”

Healing Through Remembering feel that these events are the best way to progress the issue of dealing with the past – through considered and informed discussion open to all. Speaking from his experience in South Africa, Brandon Hamber, consultant to the project explained: “Each country needs to create a solution that is appropriate in that place and at that time. What I find so exciting about Healing Through Remembering is that it gives the opportunity to find the resolution to all of the people involved and affected by the conflict, rather than one being imposed from above. In particular the unique aspects in this report are the holistic nature of the package of recommendations and the request for acknowledgement as a first step in the truth recovery process. In my view this approach would be breaking new international ground.”

For more information on the Healing Through Remembering project and to download the full report click here, or phone: +44 (0)28 9073 9601.