There has been a recent upsurge in news items related to the legacy of the conflict in and about Northern Ireland. While much of this has been in connection with Martin McGuiness’ presidential campaign for the Republic of Ireland there have been other issues as well.
Martin McGuiness has been asked questions about his involvement in the IRA, his actions during the conflict, and what he may or may not know about cases that are as yet unsolved.
At the McCluskey Civil Rights Summer School, the Irish News cited Victims Commissioner Brendan McAllister giving statistics attributed to the National Statistics and Research Agency that almost 1 in 3 people (500,000) in Northern Ireland were “directly affected by the conflict,” and that 1 in 10 people (170,000) “were bereaved by the conflict which claimed more than 3,700 lives.” (Irish News, 27 Sept 2011, pg. 1, 6)
On 24 September, MP Naomi Long, challenged all local parties in Northern Ireland to “actively pursue” a comprehensive process that deals with the legacy of the past, noting that “with each passing year, many of those directly affected simply feel the opportunity to know even the basic truth of what happened to their loved-ones - let alone see justice done - slipping away.”
In a feature piece aired by UTV on 15 September, Healing Through Remembering chair Dawn Purvis called attention to the reality that we cannot afford to wait until everyone is ready to sign off on an over-arching “truth and reconciliation commission” model, but that we need to address what can be done about the legacy of the past in our current political and social context as it stands now and, perhaps, let the process evolve as our context and concerns evolve.
Meanwhile, the decade of commemorations steadily approaches and how we as a society remember the events that shaped and defined us and our conflict needs to be given serious thought. The news has been full of commemorative events related to our divided history that have been held by all parts of society in Northern Ireland.
Remembering has the potential to exclude or include, to divide or unite. We, as members of a larger society, are responsible for how we remember. In order to do that healthily, the legacy of our conflict past that pervades our news coverage and everyday life must be dealt with.