Meath Peace Group Talks
No. 66 – ‘Making Peace with the Past – Options for Truth Recovery’
Monday 23 April, 2007
St. Columban’s College, Dalgan Park, Navan, Co. Meath
Kate Turner (Coordinator, Healing Through Remembering)
(Members of Truth Recovery and Acknowledgment Sub-group, Healing Through Remembering)
Dr Hazlett Lynch (West Tyrone Voice victims’ group)
Margaret Urwin (Justice for the Forgotten group)
Most Rev. Dr Richard Clarke (Bishop of Meath and Kildare)
Opening words: John Clancy (Meath Peace Group)
Responses from HTR group
Questions and comments
Closing words: Bishop Richard Clarke and Canon John Clarke
©Meath Peace Group
‘Making peace with the past – options for truth recovery’
Welcome and introduction: John Clancy (Meath Peace Group)
“Good evening. Before I hand you over to our guest chair tonight, Bishop Richard Clarke, may I first of all welcome you. This is our 66th public talk, we have been going for 14 years and I would like to thank the Columbans for the facility they have provided us over the years. Just to reflect, when we were looking at this talk, ‘Making Peace with the Past’, some thoughts came into my mind and if I may share them with you: I just wonder over the 30 years of the terrible violence and mayhem that we have had on this island whether I could have done more in relation to standing up and saying ‘no, this can’t go on.’ And I often think that if some of us had stood up 20 years ago – maybe some did but I certainly didn’t – maybe some of the people here who are victims might not be here tonight. I reflected on that and I reflect further in relation to a famous author, Bruno Bettelheim, in his book Survival where he talked about him growing up in Germany in the ‘20s and ‘30s, and how Nazism came and his people did not stand up and say ‘no’ in the beginning. And he often put down to himself and to his immediate family a blame that he felt he shared for not standing up to the violence because his view was that, if they had, maybe what happened to others would not have happened. And now I’ll hand you over to Bishop Clarke. Thank you.”
Chair: Dr. Richard Clarke (Bishop of Meath and Kildare):
“Well, first of all good evening everyone and you are very welcome. Our theme for tonight is how we try to – not make sense of the past – but how we somehow use the past in a way that will bring us forward into the future. The main plank of the first part is going to be presented to us by a group from Northern Ireland, Healing Through Remembering, and they are a group of quite different people coming from quite different backgrounds and quite different interests. We’re fairly well spread out here but I’ll try and introduce the panel in the order in which they are sitting rather than which group they belong to. Over to the left is Alan Wardle of the Healing Through Remembering group, next to him is Dr Hazlett Lynch of the West Tyrone Voice which is a way of helping those who have been the victims of terrorist violence in that part of Northern Ireland, right beside me is Margaret Urwin who is from a southern group the Justice for the Forgotten which began really in response to the bombings – we think always of the Monaghan and Dublin bombings of 1974 but of course there were bombings before that as well. On my right is Kate Turner of the Healing Through Remembering group, next are Irwin Turbitt and Pat Conway of the same group.
“We are going to divide this into two parts…. The theme of the whole evening is really how we make peace with the past to move into the future. Kate will introduce the work of Healing Through Remembering and in particular their report Making Peace with the Past. I will then ask for a response to what we have heard from Hazlett Lynch of West Tyrone Voice, and then a further response from Margaret Urwin of Justice for the Forgotten, and then we will open it to the floor.
“So, if we may begin with you Kate, thank you very much indeed.”
1. Kate Turner (Coordinator, Healing Through Remembering)
“Hello. Thank you very much for coming here tonight. We’re very glad to see you all. I’m Kate Turner, coordinator of Healing Through Remembering which is a non-governmental organisation, an independently funded organisation that consists of a membership that work together looking at issues dealing with the past. I am the coordinator because we are quite clear that the staff don’t direct the direction the organisation goes in, it is very much led by the members. And so when we have events, while I’ll come and talk, we do make try and make sure that we have some of the membership with us. As they’re going to present the report to you, I’m going to ask them now to introduce themselves …[see biographical notes at end of this report].
“This is one of a range of meetings we are holding. We are holding some public meetings and we are also holding some partnership meetings, where we are working in liaison with another organisation. So we are very glad that the Meath Peace Group has invited us to have this shared evening with them. We wanted to have an opportunity to share with people what is in this report and to hear their thoughts and questions on this issue.
Healing Through Remembering project: “Healing Through Remembering began with some ad hoc meetings back in 1999 and a report in 2000 that was looking at how do we deal with the past in order to build a better future. We discovered that people were very interested in this debate and a small group of us invited a range of individuals to form a board of people from very different backgrounds, people who have been affected by the conflict, involved in the conflict, from churches, from the community sector, academics, bringing them all together in a room. They spent some time discussing with each other how they would agree to actually work together and then implementing some work around this area. They carried out a public consultation and that led to a report in 2002. So the report is based on the public consultation and then on the views of that diverse range of people. And it identified five different areas that they felt were potential ways to deal with the past to build a better future. They are seen as a package, so no one of them is seen as the way to do it. They’re not all seen as ideas that need to be followed through but ideas that need to be examined as to possibilities, and if they are possible, how should they be carried out and by whom.
Areas of work: “So, in no particular order, they are: a collective storytelling process, a network of commemoration and remembering projects, a living memorial museum, a day of reflection and acknowledgement leading to the discussion on truth recovery. There was a 6th recommendation, and that was that this diverse range of people, who had begun by not wanting to stay in the same room, thought that not only should they continue to
work together but that they should invite more people to be part of it, and that there should be a Healing Through Remembering initiative, which should be a place, an organisation, where people from even more different backgrounds could come together to debate these five areas.
Sub-groups: “In 2003 we became a limited company and in 2004 we set up what we call sub-groups, so we have a group looking at each of those five recommendations that I mentioned. In forming these groups, we tried not just to bring together people who came from the different backgrounds I have already mentioned, but also people who felt that maybe the recommendation was or wasn’t a good idea. So for example it’s not just a collection of people who think there should be collective story-telling. There are people in the group who feel that collective story-telling will damage community story-telling. So the debates within the room can be quite robust in all sorts of different ways.
Truth recovery and acknowledgment: “This report ‘Making Peace with the Past’ – you’ve all had the executive summary, there are some full reports on the desk – comes from the Truth Recovery and Acknowledgment group. That group has a very diverse membership, they come from loyalist, republican, British Army and police backgrounds, as well as individuals from different faith backgrounds, victims groups, academics and community activists.
“They felt that there were two main issues at work that they needed to look at: one was acknowledgement and the other was truth recovery. They carried out some research and they have a discussion paper on ‘Acknowledgment and its role in preventing future violence’ which is one area they are looking at. The area of truth recovery in the original report was seen as something that should be debated after there had been a full discussion on acknowledgment.
Changing the debate and the question: “But in the time between that report and the group being founded, they felt that this issue was already something that was very much being publicly discussed. But they felt that the difficulty was that the discussion was: ‘should Northern Ireland have a South African style truth and reconciliation commission, yes or no?’ And that that’s not the right question. So they decided to find a way to change the debate from being about ‘should we have a South African type truth and reconciliation commission?’ to ‘what do we actually need to do about looking at truth and truth recovery?’ The views within the group are very diverse across the possibilities on that. They felt that what they needed to do was have a more informed debate and so they commissioned this report. They hope that it will facilitate an open, honest and inclusive debate on the issue of truth recovery, and they are now each going to present to you a section of the report.”
2. Irwin Turbitt (retired assistant chief constable with PSNI, member of Healing Through Remembering sub-group): “I am going to talk about the process by which the report came into existence. The one person who is very important with regard to that is Kieran McEvoy, Professor of Transitional Justice at Queen’s University in Belfast. He provided us with a great deal of research, knowledge and experience about various other wider issues with regard to this that, I have to say, I was not really in any way familiar with until we started this. The report that we are introducing to you – you have an executive summary – took us 18 months to produce. Over that 18 month period we met regularly in a variety of manners, sometimes like this for a couple of hours, sometimes in a hotel somewhere for a couple of days. And I think everybody learned quite a lot as they went through those series of meetings. They learned a lot about themselves and about each other as well as about truth recovery. Our aim was to try and shape a lot of the issues relating to truth recovery in a way that would enable some more structured discussion, and, as Kate has already said, we are trying desperately to get away from the ‘should we do a South Africa, yes or no?’ approach, which is something I believe we’re very good at in Northern Ireland, we’re very good at trying to make things very simple and very oppositional.
“And so we wanted to look at a whole range of issues with regard to truth recovery. We wanted to look at issues relating to victims, the right to a remedy in law and in fact, the right to truth, right to reparations and issues around amnesty.
International models: “We also wanted to look at other examples of truth recovery. Again one thing I think we are very good at in Northern Ireland is thinking that we are the only people who have this sort of problem and we spend a lot of time looking in at ourselves. So we looked at models that have been used in, for example, Chile, Guatemala, obviously South Africa, East Timor and Uganda amongst other places.
Local models: inquiries and legal cases: “And then we wanted to look at what was happening locally. There is a sort of a view that we shouldn’t do truth recovery in Northern Ireland, that’s put forward by some people. But that ignores the fact that we are doing it, the question is, is the way we are doing it the way that we are comfortable with, and are we happy for that to continue? And that is one of the options that Pat will discuss in a couple of minutes. So there are various public inquiries either ongoing or completed or nearing completion. There are issues around legal challenges to truth, the European Convention on Human Rights – a number of widely regarded cases of the European Court have been in regard to Northern Ireland issues. There are a number of policing issues: clearly the three Stevens’ inquiries, the Patten Commission into policing generally and now the Historical Inquiries Team which the current Chief Constable has set up as a way of putting a box around the outstanding murder investigations and to commit a significant amount of funding, but not an open-ended amount of funding, into the re-examination of a number of these murders. Then there was the on-the-run legislation which some people may remember, which was a very hasty attempt, in my view, to try and put through a piece of legislation that turned out not to be very well thought out and collapsed when it was subject to debate. And of course there’s a whole variety of victims’ initiatives and community initiatives.
Making Peace with the Past report: “So we were trying to look at a variety of things that are happening locally as well as a variety of the things that have happened internationally, and then work all that through our various thought processes and our collective, and not so collective, discussions, and produce a report that we were all prepared to put our names to. And for me that’s one of the most important things about the report. It’s easy to get hung up on discussing the five options and I’m sure we will do that a bit this evening. But I want to make sure that everybody takes time to look towards the back of the report, at the people who have produced the report, and then think about the value of a group of people like that being able to spend 18 months working through these difficult issues and producing a report. It’s not our intention to make the recommendations in the report as things we are prepared to lobby for, it’s about trying to demonstrate that people who would traditionally have been against each other, sometimes in a very violent way, are now in a position where they can discuss very difficult issues and come to a conclusion that we think will help move forward the debate around this. So I’ll just ask Pat now to outline the five options that we put forward in the report for discussion.”
3. Pat Conway (Director of Services, Northern Ireland Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders, and member of Healing Through Remembering group):
“Hello, I’m Pat Conway… As Irwin says, we went into this and I think emerged with these five models, and we are not seeking to lobby on behalf of any one of them. What could emerge is either nothing, a synthesis of these five models as presented, one of the five models, or something totally new. And that is what we are hoping to do in these discussions, to generate that debate and discussion and I think we are open to – if there is anything out there that could be of assistance you will have a very willing audience to respond to.
Models for truth recovery examined in the report:
(1) Drawing a line under the past: “The first option – we call it ‘drawing a line under the past’, it is also known as the ‘do nothing else’ option. It is recognising the fact that there are a range of truth recovery processes that exist currently: there’s the Historical Enquiries Team, the Police Ombudsman, inquiries such as Bloody Sunday or Cory, the inquiry into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, victims’ initiatives, legal challenges, community initiatives, release of information, policing initiatives such as the Patten Commission and the Stevens’ inquiries and the on-the-runs legislation, which was referred to, The attempt to implement legislation regarding on-the-runs failed. So you have all these current methods of dealing with the past. That’s the first option.
(2) Internal organisation investigations. “The second option is around internal organisational investigations and that would apply to security forces, intelligence services, combatant organisations, republican and loyalist organisations, and it would also involve victims. And the idea there would be that those three sectors – security forces, combatant organisations and victims – would feed into a central body and that eventually a report would be produced.
Observations and comments on 1st option: “If we could just go back to the first option, I forgot to mention the issues that arose out of that. In the report, and it’s very clearly laid out, there are discussions about: ‘Is the conflict over?’ ‘Is the past too painful for further truth recovery?’ ‘Further truth recovery is unnecessary’ – there were a lot of people who felt that. ‘Truth recovery of itself could be politically destabilising.’ ‘Truth recovery is a republican Trojan horse’. ‘Truth recovery would contribute to the further criminalisation of loyalism’. And an observation that is held by a significant number of people that ‘genuine truth recovery will never happen.’
Observations on 2nd option: “In the internal organisational option, the strengths that people took note of were: ‘It could facilitate ex-combatants to contribute to the process of post-conflict healing and reconciliation’. Another strength that was highlighted was that ‘the process within this particular model could contribute to the healing and closure for the victims of political violence who wish to access truth concerning past events.’
Obstacles and weaknesses of 2nd option: “Weaknesses, of which there are more, this will come as no surprise: there is an issue of trust and public confidence as to whether the security forces and the republican and loyalist organisations could actually be trusted, and there’s an issue of public confidence. There’s also a point that was made several times as: ‘why would organisations participate?’ Really that was around what’s in it for the organisations to tell the truth? What was the capacity of organisations to deliver truth? It was noted that there was a lack of institutional and political accountability and there was an issue about – you know victims’ needs might be beyond the State and non-State organisations that were involved in the conflict. So there are all sorts of obstacles and there were more obstacles and weaknesses than there were pros.
(3) Community-based bottom up truth recovery process. “Option 3 was around the community-based bottom-up truth recovery process. There are examples of where this happens already. There are various truth recovery attempts to try and gather all the information together at a community level. Ardoyne and new Lodge are examples. Material has been generated that charts the experiences of the conflict as felt at a community level. Shankill was another one. Essentially this could involve security forces, former combatants, victims and witnesses. And there would be a range of localised community hearings.
“I suppose most people think of that as geographical in the way that I have described it but it might be themes as well. There would be produced a range of individual localised reports that would be fed into an oversight body and then synthesised so that one report would emerge from that process.
Strengths of 3rd option: ‘There is a broad notion of community out there. If this were done, the importance of ownership and legitimacy would be recognised, certainly at a local level.’ ‘It reinforces established local networks and relationships should assist with the quality of data and information that was obtained.’ ‘It would take advantage of existing skills base and would help towards community development and healing.’ Those were the advantages that were articulated as applied to this particular model.
Obstacles: ‘Bottom-up truth recovery may facilitate institutional and security force denial.’ ‘The process may be too single-identity focussed i.e. there would be dangers that particularly powerful narratives could dominate in this particular option.’ ‘There could be capacity differences between different communities leading to uneven quality of data collected.’ That feeds into the notion that nationalist/republican communities are better developed than loyalist communities, and I know that is not an argument that is held by everybody but it is certainly has had currency in the past number of years. The last one here is that ‘victims’ needs beyond truth recovery is again an issue, the victims’ needs could be lost in the security forces and former combatants’.
(4) Truth recovery commission. “Option four I suppose is the one where most attention is focused on, particularly in the press. Kate and Irwin talked about this: the struggle that we had as a group to try and counter the media, particularly the media-inspired notion that a truth recovery model would have to look like the South African model. And that was the one which certainly the BBC and UTV in particular – any time they ran a considerate and thoughtful programme really flagged up the South African model as the one to go for and apply in Northern Ireland. And we would make phone calls to say ‘well actually no, it has to be generated from the conflict and not imported from another situation’.
“Essentially the truth recovery process as proposed here would involve individual applicants – victims, former combatants, security forces, intelligence services, witnesses. They would feed into a staffed executive that would have lawyers, researchers, investigators, psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, PR and information, all of that highly serviced body. There’s an argument about whether you should have lawyers about the place because they might just be in it to make money. There’s another argument that you actually need them. There could be some discussion around an amnesty, if amnesty were an issue.
“A Truth Commission would be established by legislation. It would be international or at least have international membership. You would have emerging themes from that – public hearings, reports, recommendations and an implementation body.
Strengths/pros of truth commission model: ‘A truth commission or a truth recovery body is a fairly potent and powerful tool that is recognised internationally.’ ‘It would signify a serious societal attempt to deal with the past’. ‘It would be a chance to set the record straight’. ‘It could be a vehicle for reconciliation’. There’s this notion that truth recovery commissions have to happen at the end of a conflict when there are clear winners and losers. The issue in the north is there isn’t a clear definition of who won and who lost. If you look at South Africa, there is, and people know or have an idea of how difficult that process was, but perhaps a truth recovery commission could act as a vehicle for reconciliation and be part of bringing people together. It doesn’t necessarily need to happen at the end of a conflict and ultimately it could contribute to a basis for a new political accommodation, and, if you look at the way that things have moved rapidly in the past few weeks, I don’t think that we should rule that possibility out.
Obstacles and weaknesses: “The difficulties have been around garnering public support and confidence, resourcing of such a model and the danger of legalism as referred to previously, the potential negative role of lawyers, but they can be positive as well. And lastly, ensuring the participation of victims, ex-combatants and relevant institutions. Again it goes back to the question: why would anybody actually participate in such a process? What’s in it for them either as individuals or as organisations?”
(5) A commission of historical clarification. “The final model is a commission of historical clarification. This basically involves the gathering together … this is the notion of an agreed account of what the conflict was all about. That’s what underpins this. So you have international or local experts in British/Irish and European history. It would be a small staff. It would involve communities, in terms of gathering that information, what their perception and their particular experience of the conflict was. There would be written and oral submissions from individuals, organisations and community groups, fed into the researching, there would be admin and technical support. This would go to an international body and two volumes of reports would be produced: one a narrative of the conflict causes and consequences and secondly a volume that actually collates individual cases. And I think that’s really around arriving at an agreed narrative, that’s the philosophy that underpins this
Strengths: ‘The need for definitive official historical account of the conflict.’ ‘Less likely to generate intense political opposition’, and ‘the capacity to generate a public debate concerning the past’.
Weaknesses: ‘Danger of a narrow process.’ ‘Insufficient focus on the needs of victims from a top-down process.’ ‘Lack of legal powers would hamper truth recovery.’ And then there’s also the issue of research fatigue where Northern Ireland is the most heavily researched conflict post Second World War – there’s thousands and thousands of books and pamphlets.
So really the 5 options are being proposed as an aid for discussion and debate as to how to deal with the issue of truth recovery in order to build a better future.
“As was said before, it’s not a definitive list of options, they could be subtracted or added to, or synthesised. Further details regarding the process, strengths, weaknesses and obstacles are all outlined in greater detail in the report which is available at the top desk. Thank you.”
4. Alan Wardle (Shankill Stress and Trauma group and member of HTR group):
“Good evening everybody, my name is Alan Wardle. I work for Shankill Stress and Trauma group which is a victims’ organisation representing an inclusive victims’ sector in north Belfast and we are involved in cross-community activity, sharing resources across both communities in north and west Belfast. And I’ve been part of this subgroup of Healing Through Remembering for approximately two years now.”
Lack of capacity within unionism/loyalism: “Before I begin my little section, I just want to touch back on community-based approaches. Within unionism or loyalism, there was an attempt to address issues of the past.- EPIC and Belfast Alternatives – but the document at the time followed a number of documents. One was from the Eolas group on the Falls Road – this came under the umbrella of Coiste which is a support agency for republican ex-prisoners. This is a very extensive report. And the report that was published in the unionist community wasn’t so extensive. The point I am trying to get to is about that level of capacity between the two communities. I think that within unionism and loyalism, at the minute especially, there is a lack of capacity to engage with these processes. The evidence for that is based on the amount of money being put into those areas to raise the capacity of community development agencies, individuals as well as organisations. So I think there is a lack of equality of capacity between the two communities and I think the communities themselves would support that in certain areas.
Political generosity: “What I want to discuss now is the debate we had around the need for political generosity in this process of looking at truth recovery. And when we were having the discussions in the sub-group about the many many factors involved in looking at the past, we realised we were looking at very practical issues. Pat has highlighted some strengths and weaknesses, and principles and values attached to this process. The international models that we looked at, as previously mentioned, we came across instances where political generosity amongst political parties in those arenas was increased because of the process of looking at the past. There was an understanding amongst political parties that this was a very important issue and that they had a key role to play in that, and through the discussions that they went through in those post-conflict arenas, they began to work more closely together because these issues are relevant to individuals and very tight-knit communities. So it’s a valuable part of those discussions. “
“And we were aware that during our discussions and debates that the role of our own political parties and governments in this process would be very very important, and very necessary as well, in pushing this process forward and allowing the process to take place. And what we hoped was that engaging in this process, which again – as I say it’s a very personal and very intimate issue for a lot of people who have lost or suffered as a result of the conflict – through engaging in that process they would generate a sense of ownership amongst individuals and also political parties, but also a stronger leadership value that could be demonstrated to the communities through addressing these very difficult issues.
Leadership: “There is obviously an immense amount of mistrust and a lack of trust between the political parties and also between the primary communities involved in the conflict in the North. What we have seen in the last few weeks and months is a shift in that. There is political generosity amongst the political parties in the north – it’s been evident over many years but it has just come to the fore in recent months with the negotiations around devolved government. With those two political parties showing this amount of leadership, it has informed the rest of our communities and the rest of our society in the possibilities for the future. So in a way, although some people may have been saying there was a lack of leadership towards the communities, I believe that the political parties have actually inadvertently shown great leadership in their generosity towards processes of government and establishing a new Assembly in Northern Ireland. So there is that amount of political generosity.
“I think that this time, with the upcoming re-establishment of the Assembly, is a perfect opportunity to interject thoughts around this process, from individuals and from organisations, to look at the past. There have been some musings recently by the Secretary of State, Peter Hain, about too much money being spent on investigations and looking at the past. And then they’re being contradicted by NIO officials who say ‘it’s a possibility, we might put something in place’. And indeed the two prime ministers in the past have said that they would welcome some exploration of the past conflict in Northern Ireland.
Diversity of group: “In producing this report and having these debates, and, as has been said, the sub-group that was involved in producing this report is extremely diverse. One of the main things that attracted me to the work is the extreme diversity sitting down around a table with mutual respect, understanding and tolerance, and producing a report that could inform a very very important part of our society’s progression. And we take this report as a sign of hope, and as a possible model for a way forward for political parties to engage in the debate as well for individuals to engage in that debate in the future. Thank you very much.”
Kate Turner: “To reiterate: ‘Making Peace with the Past’– it’s not designed to offer a definitive view on how or whether Northern Ireland should have some form of truth recovery process. It’s meant as a tool to aid and facilitate and open an honest debate on realistic options for the future. We hope that this will start to generate some real possibilities for dealing with the past, and that, whatever happens, any decision made should be done in order to build a better future for everyone. This is all subject to consultation and debate, and that’s what we are trying to promote with this report. So we’re doing, as I said, a range of public meetings and partnership meetings. We’re coming to the end of our public meetings – the last one is next Monday in Dublin in Liberty Hall at 7 o’clock – but we are continuing to do partnership ones with organisations who get in touch with us and say they want to do them. We’re doing this because we want to hear back what people think, and we’re particularly glad to see both Hazlett and Margaret here today. When we respond to questions … I will speak from Healing Through Remembering and the rest of the group will be able to speak either in terms of what the group in Healing Through Remembering thought or felt, or else as themselves as individuals holding very different views.”
Dr Richard Clarke. “Well, first of all, thank you very much indeed to our four speakers for putting together that introduction to our discussion. But before we open the discussion to the floor we are going to hear two immediate responses. The first is from Hazlett Lynch from West Tyrone Voice, and I will ask Hazlett perhaps to explain a little bit more both about himself and about the organisation. He’s involved very much in the care of those who have been the innocent victims of terrorist violence in that part of Northern Ireland. I hand you now to Hazlett for a response. Thank you.”
5. Dr Hazlett Lynch (Director, West Tyrone Voice victims’ group)
“Thank you very much, Chairman. … It’s a tremendous privilege for me to have been asked by the Meath Peace Group to come here tonight. It’s not my first time to speak at the Meath Peace Group meetings and I want to bring the warmest greetings from West Tyrone Voice to the people here. I have two of our members with us, two committee members with us and I suppose they are my personal security – they are armed, so beware, long arms and short arms so just be very very careful!
“West Tyrone Voice was founded in 1999. It was founded on the heels of the early release of terrorist killers back onto the streets of Northern Ireland coming from the Good Friday Agreement or the Belfast Agreement. The group started at that time and it provides support and help and care for people who have been severely traumatised and injured as a direct result of terrorist attacks. My two friends with us tonight: one was set up for murder and was attacked at his home. The other man was attacked, he got three serious injuries on his body. That’s only two of our members. We’re working with something like 2, 500 direct and indirect beneficiaries. While we do this welfare work on the ground, we also have a lobbying role where we try to bring the concerns of the innocent victims of terrorist violence to the attention of governments, politicians, funding bodies and indeed anybody who would give us an ear.
Making Peace with the Past report: “Reading through this report, I didn’t read it word for word, but I had a fairly good read through as much of it as I could. One thing that struck me was why is it assumed that we need a truth recovery process? I always thought that in our own country – and indeed in other democratic countries – each of them did have a truth recovery system and it’s known as the criminal justice system. Is there another agenda at work? Are we onto this old gravy-train way of thinking where we create jobs for the boys and we attract more people into an already fairly affluent reconciliation industry? I can’t see any reason for jettisoning the criminal justice system in preference to some other ‘touchy feely’ organisation that will actually discriminate against victims, and the concern has been raised several times tonight about victims maybe not getting a fair crack of the whip. I think that embedded deeply within this report is that very real possibility, and I’ll say something more about that in a moment or two.
Making peace with the present: “I think as well that, given recent developments, this report has become redundant, obsolete. You’ll be sorry to hear that Kate, but I think it has. From a victims’ perspective, the big concern today is not just about making peace with the past, it’s about making peace with the current situation, the present. And that is causing massive problems for some of our people in West Tyrone Voice.
Questions: “And making peace with the past is generally understood as a most desirable aspiration, not least for victims, but right at the outset the report raises some very important questions that it assumes are answered the same way by all stakeholders. The answers to these questions impact directly on how this may or may not be done:
1) First of all, the old chestnut, what or who is a victim?
2) What or who caused their victimhood?
3) How can the relationship between victims and terrorists be repaired – if it is even possible to be repaired?
4) Why was the definition of victim as drawn up by OFM/DFM used uncritically in the report?
That is a massive disappointment, so far as I was concerned.
5) How does the use of the internationally-recognised phrase ‘ex-combatant’ to refer to both State and non-State actors, avoid implied moral equivalence between terrorists and security force personnel?
Since the debate over the definition of victim is highlighted in the report, why was the debate over the definition of ‘terrorist’ not even mentioned in the report? Terms such as ‘perpetrator’ and ‘paramilitary’ were used instead. They’re nicer words and you certainly don’t want to offend lovely kindly nice family-men murderers.
Terrorist campaign airbrushed: “On this last point, there seems to be a concerted effort being made by the various establishment bodies in Northern Ireland to airbrush the fact that there was a terrorist campaign in the province at all, and that those who died or were murdered lost their lives by some other means than terrorism. From a recovery aspect this erects a massive barrier for the many victims who are made to feel that what was visited upon them was a figment of their over-active imaginations, or they brought it on themselves. This is a very disappointing trend throughout the sectors and it does nothing to promote healing. In any case what is it that victims are to remember? If terrorist violence was not the instrumental cause of their suffering, what was? Was it burglary? Are they victims of burglary? Are they victims of a road traffic collision? Are they victims of rape? Are they victims of a mugging or something like that? None of these. The quasi-statutory bodies and the multitudes who work in the reconciliation industry today are not prepared, for purely politically correctness reasons, to give the instrumental cause of our victimhood its proper name, terrorism.
“My brother was murdered by terrorists, not by nice men, not by gentlemen, not by, as one of the chief terrorists in the Assembly was described by a party leader, the ‘honourable member’. There is nothing honourable about the activities of organisations like the Provisional IRA, nothing, and I think that as I read through this report I felt insulted by the sentiments expressed in that report because it took no cognisance at all of where I and people like me are coming from.
“Victims are being encouraged not to remember the real cause of their pain but they are being encouraged to remember a sanitised cause, whatever that is. Medical professionals of various kinds are seeking to treat pain whose origins are being ignored. Let me give you an illustration of this. Imagine a doctor arguing with his patient who presents with a stab wound. He tells his doctor that he is walking along the street when a gang jumped him, assaulted him, drew a knife and stabbed him. But the doctor knows best, he is educated. He’s been to university. And he re-explains what caused it. He tells his patient: ‘you were injured when you passed too close to a sharp object, incurring this wound. That’s what happened to you.’ The patient remonstrates with the doctor and repeats his original story: ‘I was stabbed by a gang of youths while walking along the street.’ ‘No you weren’t’ says the doctor. He knows it all you see. ‘It happened as I explained to you. If you had not been as close to the sharp object this would not have happened to you. It was your own fault.’ You see, the doctor knows best.
“And today the professionals, the educated classes, know best. Who are we to pit our experience against their specialist knowledge? As victims we’re told we were not injured by terrorists because such do not exist today in Northern Ireland. You’ll near nobody outside the victims’ sector talking about terrorists. The government doesn’t talk about terrorists, the police certainly don’t talk about terrorists, the funding bodies don’t talk about terrorists, the civil service doesn’t talk about terrorists. They have got nicer names for them.
“We suffered because our own coping mechanisms were inadequate for the demands that were placed upon them. So today’s do-gooders say in effect: ‘you were partly to blame for what happened to you, for you supported a regime that discriminated against a section of the community’.
Victims: That’s why, men and women, baby Jack, five months old, was murdered in Strabane by the Provisional IRA on the 19th of July 1972 when they detonated a bomb, showering him with broken glass and debris crushing his pram. He was responsible for what happened to him because he was a member of a society that allegedly discriminated against another section of the community. In a sense, he deserved it and he brought it on himself, and his young mother was from Cork. Or the unborn twins who were murdered by republican terrorists in Omagh on the 15th August, 1998, or the 20-month old baby girl whose life was also stolen from her so violently on that dreadful day. According to the experts these civilians only got what was their due. Why? Because they belonged to a ‘rogue state’ that practised injustice, discrimination etc. Or the 15-year old boy who worked as a milkman’s assistant, and the 9 year old girl, both of whom who were murdered by the Provisional IRA … in the Omagh atrocity on the 31st of July, 1972…….
Police and UDR casualties: “Take the 302 civilian police officers, my youngest brother was one of them, and the many off-duty UDR soldiers who were murdered by terrorists. Of what were they guilty? Of trying to keep their country from plunging into outright civil war. These were all civilians, together with all the other civilians who died at the hands of terrorist murderers.
“Now tell me, what kind of logic is prepared to twist the facts so grossly that they end up by making the people who died the reason for their own murders? And that is precisely what this report is in danger of doing. Yes these people died as a result of an explosive device but what is concealed is that the bomb device was placed there by terrorists, it didn’t just appear there.
“There is a discernible trend today to rewrite the history of Northern Ireland, a history that denies the activity of terrorist murders in the current campaign of genocide. Not only has this report deliberately avoided all references to terrorists, so also has the report drawn up by the community victim support officer from Sperrin Lakeland Trust, in Co. Fermanagh. It was received by our office in December last.
“And the…report which was drawn up by Queen’s University Belfast and launched on the 9th March 2007, just very recently. Not one of these three reports folks, and this ties us in very very much to this report, not one of them speaks about terrorists except where respondents use this term. It appears that the authors of these reports all work to the same principle, namely the avoidance of the term ‘terrorist’ to describe organisations like the Provisional IRA, INLA, UVF, UDA etc. When asked why this was done in the QUB report, the author said she ‘wanted to be politically correct’. So that was the agenda behind that particular report. She did not want to offend anybody. I challenged this view on the ground that whilst she did not want to offend the terrorists, it mattered little if they offended their victims.
“I suppose these authors felt themselves under some obligation to deliver what their paymasters were paying for. After all, ‘he who pays the piper…’ You see victims just do not matter. Making peace with the past is clearly not about helping victims recover from the heinous crimes perpetrated against them, but it is about finding ways of enabling terrorists to live with their demonic past. It’s about finding ways of easing their consciences, extending to them a form of respectability and offering them a way of sanitising their evil deeds, deeds that they would repeat if necessary, and three leading republicans actually made that statement in the media.
What were the last 40 years all about? “Further, there is a sense in which this report is not totally redundant given the institutionalised destabilisation of Northern Ireland by appeasing the terrorists who have sought to totally destroy our country. And people are asking with some justification, what were the last 40 years all about? Why were so many good people allowed to die? If the current political arrangement had been secured during Captain Terence O’Neill’s prime ministership in the late 1960s, these lives would have been saved. How then can the many innocent victims of subsequent years be aided in making peace with the past? How can victims come to terms with what the leaders of unionism have now done to them? The issue is not merely about making peace with the past, it is now about making peace with the present, as I said earlier. The present has had a re-triggering of trauma and anger for many. But not all victims feel that. Some victims, or people at least who call themselves victims, supported parties that wanted Martin McGuinness as Deputy First Minister. Some victims feel betrayed by those they trusted and they cannot understand the complete u-turn by the DUP etc. These are profound obstacles to any healing for many victims of PIRA terrorism, and for groups like ours that are working on the ground with these angry sufferers. Again, the personally ambitious do-gooders in Northern Ireland have won the day, it appears to the detriment of those who still carry heavy burdens from the past.
Airbrushing of terrorists: “This process, while talking frequently about victims and ignoring terrorists, is about airbrushing terrorists out of the picture and providing them with a way of rationalising what they have done and making it respectable. As a result, it creates the wrong impression that what victims claim has happened to them was not done by terrorists, as the victims call them, but by actors in a protracted conflict whose concerns were as valid as anybody else’s.
Acknowledgement: “It is interesting to note that Victim Support Northern Ireland was one of the two founding bodies of Healing Through Remembering. Victim Support deals with the relatively minor effects of offences, and has nothing to contribute to the situation in which I find myself. The report, I feel, lays too much weight on the views of people who come from this background who have not experienced what terrorist victims have suffered. Until there is proper acknowledgement of what exactly was done, any moves toward reconciliation for victims are a non-starter.
Drawing a line under the past: “The report talks about ‘drawing a line under the past’. For me this is not an option, nor is it an option for those who have suffered innocently in the terrorist campaign, namely the victims. It is as easy for a mother to forget the child that she bore as it is for terrorist victims to forget what was done to them. This is also a non-starter. It is even questionable morally whether innocent people should be expected to forget the past, thus betraying the memory of their loved ones. Is it right or proper to ask victims to forego justice in the interests of the greater good?
Truth commission: “A truth commission, where every witness has to tell the truth, sounds plausible until one remembers that the chief, not the deputy, victim-maker, Martin McGuinness, who is soon to rule legally over our country jointly with Ian Paisley, refused to say anything to the Saville Inquiry, the so-called Bloody Sunday inquiry, that would implicate other Provos. Indeed he refused to break his republican oath. That was more important to McGuinness than discovering the truth. The loyalist provos are no different. It is very unlikely that terrorists may be regarded as men of integrity and truthfulness, therefore expecting truth to emerge from this quarter is naïve. Indeed the government and its agencies will not tell the truth, something that seems to evade government ministers in many countries. Many officials have signed the Official Secrets Act so are bound by its requirements. Providing victims with the truth about what happened to their loved ones is woefully inadequate and does not satisfy the needs of all victims. What they need for recovery is satisfaction and this does not provide it. On a personal note, I know enough about my brother’s murder. What I now want is for those responsible to be brought to justice. I know who did it, I know where they are. Your country, as I think I said here before, is protecting them, providing for them, allowing them free movement and will refuse, though of course our police I don’t think they have ever asked for these guys to be extradited to Northern Ireland but the Republic’s government has refused for technicalities to sign the extradition papers for known terrorists.
“Unless and until this is done, everything else is woefully inadequate. Let’s face it folks, having an organisation like PIRA carrying out an internal investigation of those who are covered by the republican oath is ludicrous. It is most demeaning of reconciliation activists to even suggest that victims ask the PIRA to investigate the murders of their loved ones. Spare us that. Give us some dignity and some respect. If that is all this report can come up with it has been at best a waste of money and at worst a profound insult to the memories of our dead family members.
No reconciliation without justice: “I was saying to somebody over dinner that I was speaking to the man who headed up the inquiry into Sarajevo in Bosnia. That organisation has to deal with human rights abuses. And that gentleman told me there can be no reconciliation without justice. None. I said earlier there can be no reconciliation without acknowledgment. This suggestion that there will be no prosecutions, be no naming of names, is repugnant to decency. Political leadership does not require such a process to transform it, this has already been done through the medium of seismic acts of massive betrayal by unionist leaders, possibly the greatest act of betrayal that this island, if not western Europe, has ever witnessed.
“How can a process that retraumatises victims help resolve past grievances? Given that the vast majority in Northern Ireland support this new move, I think that only 13,000 of those who voted on the 7th March voted for parties who were opposed to putting terrorists at the heart of government. The message that is being conveyed by our current situation is that victims are backwoodsmen who have nothing to offer Northern Ireland. We just don’t count, you see. And that is where terrorist victims are at this moment in time, left re-traumatised, re-victimised, devastated, betrayed, furious and very very angry. What has happened politically in Northern Ireland in recent days renders this report obsolete.
Community-based bottom-up truth recovery: “This I think is farcical in the extreme. How can those who have taken a republican oath ever disclose the truth of what happened? This is a wee bit like expecting King Herod to investigate the killings of the innocent children in Bethlehem long ago. That’s what we are doing, that’s what we have reduced ourselves to, if the suggestions in this report are taken on board. Recording untold stories is rather voyeuristic and ought to be avoided, but there again the reconciliation industry is full of voyeurs which probably explains why this has been suggested. Victims are not interested primarily with community development and the report gives the lie to HTR’s real agenda which has precious little to do with victims or with truth, or with justice or reconciliation.
Recommendations: “What ought to be put in place then for those who have suffered most in the tragic years of terrorist violence that has blighted not only our beautiful country but many of its people? Just four brief things:
First of all, a renewed focus on the use of the already existing criminal justice system to facilitate truth recovery.
The sincerity of ‘former’ terrorist activists is to be tested regarding their commitment to reconciliation by requiring them to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about their involvement in terrorist outrages.
The security forces are to reveal what they can with an eye to matters of national security about their involvement in illegal activities
And finally, when confession has been made in court, justice must take its course and the victims provided with all the support they need in financial, social and moral terms and for as long as it takes. Thank you very much ladies and gentlemen.”
Chair (Dr. Richard Clarke): “Thank you very much to Hazlett. And now as a second response, I am going to ask Margaret Urwin from the Justice for the Forgotten group.
6. Margaret Urwin (Justice for the Forgotten)
“Thank you. I’m delighted to be here tonight to have a chance to speak to you on behalf of Justice for the Forgotten. My name is Margaret Urwin and I’ve been with the organisation now since 1993. Justice for the Forgotten represents the victims of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of May, 1974. Now that was the day when we had the greatest loss of life in the whole of the Troubles. We had 33 people plus an unborn baby killed in those bombings. We also represent the victims of the Dublin bombings of ’72 and ’73, in which three other people were killed, and we also assist many other victims of violence in this jurisdiction.
Healing Through Remembering report: “Unlike Hazlett, I very much welcome this report. I think it is very timely that it is happening now. I think there is a window of opportunity now with the new dispensation in the North, that we can look at all of this in a calmer manner than we have been able to do in the past. I would like to just say that I noticed that some of the speakers from the Healing Through Remembering kept referring to ‘Northern Ireland’ and having a truth commission for Northern Ireland. I think that if there is to be a truth commission it should include the Irish government as well, it has to include the whole of the island because there is a community of victims south of the border as well and I think that is very often forgotten, both north and south of the border. I think that if we are to have a truth commission it would have to include the British and Irish governments as well as all paramilitary groups who have existed since 1969 up to today.
Justice for the Forgotten: “We in Justice for the Forgotten can identify with some of the observations of Healing Through Remembering. Drawing a line under the past has not been an option for the victims that we represent. They are very determined to get to the truth and they have been fighting for the truth now since 1993. Our members have been forced to resort to different strategies to compel reluctant institutions towards truth recovery. These are some of the findings or observations in your report and we can really identify with them. We have long campaigned for a public enquiry because we saw no other viable option. We have taken court cases before both domestic and international courts, that is the High Court and the Supreme Court in Dublin, and also the European Court of Human Rights, and we only had inquests into the killings of these people only in 2004 – 30 years after the bombings occurred! And we have been and are hampered by cross-border jurisdictional issues.
“I would just like to share with you the efforts we have made over the years in relation to truth recovery:
History of the campaign: “From 1974 up until the early ‘90s, there was no campaign, there was no coming together of families or survivors for at least 16 years after the bombings and the campaign was started really by a trade unionist who had witnessed the carnage on that terrible day and he single-handedly went about getting a memorial erected and he also began to have a commemorative mass said in the Pro-Cathedral on the anniversary. I suppose the catalyst for the campaign was the Yorkshire television programme of 1993 which dealt with suspects on the Garda file and their connection with the Northern Ireland security forces. The programme also dealt with the short-lived Garda investigation and suggested a cover-up. From then we began demands for a public inquiry into these bombings. The Irish government managed the fall-out from this programme by procrastination and delay. It took nearly 2 years for the Minister for Justice to issue a 4-page report refuting the claims made in the programme and indeed refuting claims that weren’t made.
European Court of Human Rights: “In January, 1996, our lawyers came on board and they are still with us today, and Justice for the Forgotten as an organisation was founded then, A case was taken to the European Court of Human Rights against the British government for its failure, or the failure of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, to initiate a murder inquiry in Northern Ireland even though the bombings were planned there, the plans were assembled there, the cars were procured there and the perpetrators escaped back there. To assist with our case we sought discovery of Garda investigation files. This resulted in a case to the High Court which was lost on a technicality, and it was appealed to the Supreme Court and rejected. Then the European Court of Human Rights rejected the complaint on the basis of the time limitation which they said was 6 months after the broadcasting of the Yorkshire television programme. And this was a very low point for the campaign.
“However, in 1998 the Good Friday Agreement was signed and the Good Friday Agreement included the important paragraph declaring that the needs of the victims of the conflict should be addressed. And this led to the establishment of victims’ commissions in both jurisdictions, in Northern Ireland under Ken Bloomfield, and here under the former Tánaiste, John Wilson. John Wilson reported in August, 1999, and made many recommendations to address the needs of victims in terms of counselling and financial assistance. He also recommended a private inquiry into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings and this was rejected by our organisation.
Hamilton-Barron inquiry: “Things moved on rapidly after that and we were invited to present our case for a public inquiry before a Joint Oireachtas Committee in November 1999. And this led to negotiations with the Taoiseach’s Department which resulted in the establishment of the Hamilton-Barron inquiry which was referred to earlier on. This was established in January 2000 and, although it was a private inquiry, it had some unique aspects to it in which we were able to make submissions to it, we were also given information on the people that had been interviewed by Judge Barron and so on. We expected it would take about 9 months. Unfortunately, it took almost 4 years to complete, only published in December 2003. This was followed by public hearings in early 2004 and they published their final report in March. And they recommended that a public inquiry into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings should take place in Britain or Northern Ireland. In other words, they passed the buck. And they also recommended, under new legislation, a commission of investigation to take place into the Garda investigation and why it was wound up so quickly. As I said, the inquests were reopened and they went to full hearings in April and May and that encompassed the 30th anniversary of the bombings.
McEntee report: “The commission of investigation that had been recommended was set up in May 2005 under Patrick McEntee, Senior Counsel. This was an entirely private inquiry and his report, as you may be aware, was published only on the 4th of this month, almost 2 years after it was set up. This inquiry was something we never sought, it was something we never asked for, but we did cooperate with it because it was the only show in town. It was very unsatisfactory, we did not know what was happening in it, and indeed the report itself has been very disappointing. We have learned very little new information from this report.
“Also, just to say that as a result of our initiative, other cross-border attacks were investigated by Barron.] …It also lookedat murders carried out by this same gang which comprised loyalist paramilitaries, members of the RUC and members of the UDR. And this gang carried out many murders north of the border in this period of ’75, ’76, including the murders of members of the Miami Showband. These culminated in the report of the Joint Oireachtas Committee of November 2006. This is a cross-party committee and they concluded that collusion between British security forces and terrorists was behind many if not all of the atrocities considered in that report. And they referred to them as ‘acts of international terrorism’.
Oireachtas report: “The Joint Oireachtas Committee reported that the spectre of collusion was raised in their first report, that is the report on the Dublin-Monaghan bombings. And they now said they had enough information to be fully satisfied not only that it occurred, but that it was widespread. They said the seriousness of this warrants direction from the Oireachtas and they recommended that there should be a full debate in both Dáil and Seanad on the issue of collusion since it is necessary, and I quote, ‘for there to be greater political impetus to highlight the fact that it occurred and the facts of its scale, and to identify measures to bring closures to the victims’. Now the Taoiseach is committed to holding these debates and we are very hopeful that they will happen before the General Election is called.
“Now no public inquiry, needless to say, was established in Britain, nor is one likely to be. If it were it would anyway come under the new Inquiries Bill which has been rejected by the Finucane family in the case of the murder of Pat Finucane. And we believe that a formal apology is needed for the incredible failures of the gardaí to maintain proper records and for the loss of files from both the Garda Commissioner and the Minister for Justice. This is one of the main findings of the McEntee report – the absolute abysmal state of the Garda records in relation to the bombings.
“There has to be a formal acceptance by the Irish government that collusion was a factor in the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, and to acknowledge that the State was wrong to deny and repudiate such allegations, which it had done over several years.
Healing Through Remembering report: “Just to move on very quickly to respond to the report, as I said I think it is an extremely important report and, on behalf of Justice for the Forgotten, I want to congratulate the people who have been involved with it and have produced such a thorough report. I have read through it fairly carefully. I need to go through it again but I think it’s a wonderful idea that you were able to come up with the several different options and to be able to look at them in such an open and non-judgmental way.
Search for the truth: “As I have just outlined to you, we have tried to get some way of finding truth, of recovering the truth, and, despite all our efforts – I mean we have had some successes, we have achieved a lot, but we still haven’t got to where we want to be. Now we are not looking for recrimination, even though nobody ever went to jail for these bombings, nobody was ever charged even for these bombings. But we are not at this stage looking for retribution. What we are looking for, and what the families have looked for since 1993, is the truth as to what happened. That’s all they’re really looking for. And I think it may well be that we have explored so many different options for truth recovery that really it seems at this stage as if there may be no other way other than to have a form of truth commission, and that that truth commission should have a very important input from all victims, all of the victims should be able to have an input into how that is established. And, as I said, it’s so important, it’s not just the paramilitaries that have to be involved, although of course they all have to be involved, but also that both governments have to be involved in it, because it’s not only the British Government that has questions to answer, it’s also the Irish Government. So, with that, I’ll say thank you very much.”
Chair: Dr Richard Clarke: “Thank you very much indeed to Margaret, as indeed to Hazlett. Now, at this stage we move the discussion open to the floor, but I wonder before we do would anyone from the Healing Through Remembering report group want to make any response to either or both indeed of the responses to them? Thank you.”
RESPONSES FROM ‘HEALING THROUGH REMEMBERING’:
Kate Turner: “Thank you very much, Hazlett, for your comments. As we’ve said the Healing Through Remembering organisation and that sub-group in particular are a very diverse range of people. And there were a lot of lively discussions in the group about all sort of issues but in the very beginning it was largely around terminology before they could even begin to agree what they were talking about. On page 3 of the report you will see how we’ve outlined … some of that discussion. So, just to clarify, in terms of the use of the word ‘ex-combatants’, this refers broadly to former loyalist and republican activists who were involved in hostilities. British Army members or members of the RUC who were also involved in hostilities are generally referred to as the ‘security forces’. And members of the various intelligence agencies are referred to as such or as the ‘security forces’. The terminology reflects no value judgments on the actions of individuals or organisations. And you can see that in the models we have stuck to those different categories as well.
Victims: “On the term ‘victims’, we did decide to go with the OFM/DFM definition and we have a small paragraph in the report that outlines that we had a discussion about that and it was felt that the group needed to decide to use that definition, and that was the working definition. But they did so recognising that it was one that was not universally accepted, and that’s acknowledged in the report.
“In terms of the report and what it’s looking at and saying that truth recovery is one of the issues to be addressed, the group looked at their own membership and identified the gaps and then tried to seek views and opinions of those that weren’t sitting around the table. So there were a number of groups invited to meet the group many of whom felt that they were not able to do so because of the diversity of our group but we did ask them to feed in through members of the staff, or members of the sub-group, their views and concerns. So some of the issues that Hazlett has raised were fed in and the issue of justice in particular. And the sub-group commissioned a legal paper which looks at the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) and analyses whether or not the legal professionals felt that there was likely to be prosecutions resulting from the HET because we were well aware that for a lot of people that was what they wanted. Unfortunately it was too late to go into this report but we have paper copies on the table there. It’s a legal paper so it’s written very legally. It basically weighs up the pros and cons and says there is some possibility but it highlights the difficulties that are very obvious like time and missing material, some of which we’ve heard from Margaret. And also that while there may be hope in some of the new advances in technology, the fact that that was not foreseen earlier on means that we are not likely to get much further in terms of prosecution. So we did look at that as one of the issues.
“I think the only thing to say is round truth recovery because truth recovery is not necessarily about saying what happened and who did it, but truth recovery is also about the story that is written. And that’s why the point that Hazlett raises about the re-writing of what happened and about how it is described… is something important that we do need to discuss, and we need to hear the range of views about that if we are going to go forward together.
Irwin Turbitt: “I just wanted to say something quite quickly, hopefully, which was to sort of express thanks to the group here for providing me with the opportunity to hear Dr Lynch because I found it very uncomfortable to listen to him, and that’s usually when you get the most insights and the most opportunity to learn. I’m disappointed that it took us to travel this far to hear him. I understand that he refused to come and speak to us when we were considering the preparation of the report and it’s a pity that that was the case but nonetheless I am glad that he found it possible to come here tonight.
Terrorism: “I don’t have a problem with the word ‘terrorist’ at all. I’m not a professional peace-maker in any sense, I don’t want anyone to think that I am. I haven’t made any money out of this at all, in fact it cost me money to be involved in this. So I don’t want anyone to think that I am in that category of people that Dr Lynch clearly doesn’t seem to be fond of. But this whole business makes us uncomfortable in lots of different ways, I mean one of the things that makes me very uncomfortable is having to recognise that, as an RUC officer, that there were terrorists in the RUC, that some members of the RUC engaged in terrorist activities. As someone who worked closely with the Ulster Defence Regiment, in fact worked with people who have been in jail for terrorist activities, I once had a supervising officer in the RUC who eventually served time in jail as a terrorist, I don’t feel comfortable recognising these people were terrorists.
“So there’s a lot of uncomfortableness around this whole issue but I think that if we are going to make progress we have got to get in a room together and we have got to discuss these things. And if all it takes is to use the word ‘terrorist’, then that’s not really a problem for me, but, equally, I think that using a particular word as a way of avoiding debates with people who you find it difficult to debate with I don’t think is helpful either.”
Pat Conway: “There’s a couple of points I would like to make. I actually agree in some respects with what Hazlett said, particularly with respect to the – he didn’t actually use the phrase, but I think what he meant was a sort of hierarchy of victims. And there was an impulse a few years ago that one shouldn’t talk about a hierarchy of victims and I personally believe that there was a hierarchy of victims. If I chose personally to engage in armed struggle, and I was making a conscious choice, a 9-month old child in a pram wasn’t making that choice, and I don’t believe that we have had that discussion in the public domain yet and I think it would be worth possibly revisiting that, and that may feed into a – if there ever was a truth commission and the issue of amnesty was on the table then I think that’s when the concept and reality will be re-introduced.
“I do think Hazlett’s contribution was marked by a huge feeling of betrayal all around him. And that’s what I picked up from that. Everybody around him seems to have sold out except for the 13,000 people who didn’t vote for the devolved Assembly being restored. And I don’t know what to do about that. If somebody feels that sense of betrayal so deeply, and has a view of history, and I wasn’t aware that he had the opportunity to make that history, to present that history, to Healing Through Remembering and I wish that he had. In terms of monopoly of hurt, I got that from Hazlett as well, and I was a bit disappointed at that, you know there isn’t a monopoly of hurt.
Why should we stop seeking truth? “I do take issue with the ‘touchy feely’ stuff. If the criminal justice system that Hazlett has so much faith in has failed to deliver truth then surely why would we stop seeking truth? Why would we stop doing that? And I don’t believe that that’s a sort of a touchy-feely aspiration. I think that’s fundamental. And if the existing processes could deliver and were delivering, we wouldn’t be sitting here now. And there’s a fact that there are people out there who are seeking, searching for truth, and they don’t feel they have it. You know Hazlett and many other people know who murdered their loved ones and they have a pretty good idea who it was, either publicly or privately. And they are probably fairly accurate, they are probably right. It was an intimate conflict, people knew who the ‘enemy’ were. Why wouldn’t you want the truth? If the truth isn’t accessible by existing mechanisms why wouldn’t you look for a mechanism, or a series of mechanisms, that is actually going to deliver that for you, if that is what you want? And there are many people who want to draw a line under the sand, and this report does recognise that there is a constituency of people out there and they don’t want to know any more, and that’s fine. I mean nobody is going to impose a solution on people.
“I think, in terms of what Margaret was saying, she made the point about it being a kind of Northern Ireland specific… and we did have a lot of discussion, early on in the document, we were very clear to talk about the conflict ‘in and about Northern Ireland’, it wasn’t just about the 6 counties if you like, it’s about what happened in England, in the States, in Europe, wherever the conflict actually touched people.
Normalisation of the conflict: “I think also there’s been a lot of discussion tonight about combatants and the British and Irish governments which Margaret introduced. We actually went further and talked about issues of acknowledgment and culpability by other organisations such as the churches, statutory organisations. I work for social services and during the height of the conflict social services ignored the fact that there was a conflict raging around it. It just wasn’t referenced. I remember, I came back from London, wrote a court report on behalf of some 14/15-year old kid up in court, from West Belfast. It was very apparent that the conflict had impinged on that kid’s life. I had written a paragraph in the court report and I was told by my boss ‘don’t put that in because the judge won’t acknowledge or recognise it, that’s happening everybody’. Now that kind of normalised the conflict and an awful lot of that stuff went on.
Industry: “And I would actually agree with Hazlett that there has been an industry, he called it a peace and reconciliation or a trauma industry and all the rest of it. When people needed services to address very traumatic events that happened in their lives quite simply those services did not exist.
“And it was only post-1994 you saw the growth in development of trauma groups, the victims’ groups mushroomed, I think there are something like 65 identifiable victims’ groups now. So I would actually agree with that, there has been a whole development of an industry there.
Acknowledgment: “And personally I would have preferred – there was a paper and it’s been referenced and I think there’s a copy of it over there, it’s about acknowledgment. And maybe you need acknowledgment before you actually address – whatever model it is you are going for, whatever synthesis or combination of models, it is out there. I think unless that acknowledgment, I suppose what I took from Hazlett’s contribution was, I mean I didn’t hear an acknowledgment that there are other organisations that had responsibilities and they were culpable to an extent, and I think that needs to be addressed. I think personally, if there was a truth commission established that you would need discussion around acknowledgment. And you certainly don’t get it from – I mean I was in London around the time when the Brazilian was killed and the head of the Met, the Commissioner, Ian Blair, came on within 24 hours of that guy being killed and said ‘we have a shoot to kill policy’. Now that was denied totally in and about the North, and yet within 24 hours of this guy being killed it’s ok to say that. And, as a consequence we are being contacted by Muslim communities in Britain who … are asking how did it work for you guys? So there are lessons to be learned. Rather than this being an introverted inward-looking exercise that was purely about dealing with the past and then that’s it. Personally I believe that there are lessons that can be transferred to other jurisdictions and for other futures.”
Alan Wardle: “Just briefly because I am very conscious that I think we really need to get your opinions and your own points on what we discussed here tonight. Just two things. Hazlett and I come from a victims’ sector but from two different points of view within that victims’ sector. I respect Hazlett’s points of view, I also acknowledge his anger about his personal pain in the past, and the pain of the people he represents. But what I would say is in coming to our discussions and drawing up these options – and that’s all they are, just options, not telling people what to do – we understood that and we respected the individual rights and the individual needs of those people who submitted information, in reports and in giving their stories and everything else. And what I would say is that if we are to move forward, and I think we need to move forward, we need to understand that individual rights are as important as our own. And we need to respect those rights and we need to understand other without denying our own pain, our own loss or our own support. So I would just like to say that.
Anger: “Hazlett made one interesting point as well which was he referred to the people that he represents as angry sufferers. Now from my own point of view in providing psychological services to traumatised individuals, anger leads to more conflict. That’s just a fact of life, it’s one of the fundamental driving forces of humanity. As I said before, I respect people’s loss and pain and grief. I have suffered as well on several occasions and I would like people to understand and respect my point of view as well. But, from a point of view of anger driving that point of view I think there are different ways forward. But I’m really keen to get the points of view of the audience, I’m sure we all are, and I would just like to mirror what the rest of my colleagues stated previously.”
QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS
Chair: “Thank you all. We probably only have 20-25 minutes left but what I would like is that people who would like to make comments to try and keep them fairly short rather than long statements, and when it comes to questions that need a response I will put it but I just want one response from a member of the team, please if we could just to try and keep it going.”
Q.1. Leslie Finlay (West Tyrone Voice): “….It was very interesting listening to what was going on there and talking about how we would forget the past. Hazlett brought up a good point there – how do you manage the future and the present? I don’t know of you people here know that there was 4 bombs left around Strabane and Sion Mills in the last week. It doesn’t reach international newspapers because somebody has an agenda to keep the lid over what is going on at the minute. Over the last year there has been 9 bombs left in the Strabane/Sion Mills area. They’re not broadcasting them, they might get a snip of two inches long in the paper. And this is what we’re up against. And we can see now the situation where we’re going back to what went on at the start of the troubles.
“Because around our area, way back at the start of the troubles, they painted letter boxes and telephone boxes green, a fairly innocuous sort of thing to do like. And we reckoned that was blooding in the young terrorists. Now they graduated from that to burning Orange halls and attacking Orange halls. They’re at that at the minute. There was an Orange hall burned last night in Belfast. Now is that blooding in to start another wave of terrorism? We’re talking about the past but we haven’t stopped it so forget about going back into the past until we get it stopped because it’s not stopped. We had a man who went into the Strabane Chronicle newspaper last week, Willie G…, one of the leading lights of the new either Continuity or Real IRA, they’re all the same to me, in Strabane. It seems there were some people put under threat in the nationalist end …. and he has written in the public street, a foot long in the Chronicle that he will personally deal, or his organisation will personally deal with somebody if there is anybody in their organisation touched. So where are we? We’re no different from where we were 20 years ago. It’s still there.
“You are talking about truth and reconciliation. I have never seen yet a terrorist who tells the truth. They got up and they lied through their teeth anytime they were caught.
Lost Lives: “Another thing that was never mentioned … was that the ‘black book’ – you all know what I am talking about when I mention the ‘black book, Lost Lives – now it was compiled by a lot of people including Fr Murray from Carrickmore so there were outputs from both sides of the community into it. And if you read the statistics in Lost Lives, the IRA, the army of the republicans, killed 7 times more of their own people than the security forces did. Now someone has took a notion that this doesn’t warrant talking about. I was in the UDR and we got them dumped along the border. They took them and they interrogated them in Donegal and then brought them back and dumped them on the border so we would have to deal with them. Now that has been going on. People said all this was coming from the one side.
Shoot to kill: “The ‘shoot to kill’ policy is another one that gets right up my nose. I carried cross rifles on my arms for years. That meant that it would hit fairly near what I was aiming at. I carried a rifle and I carried ammunition but on the ‘shoot to kill’ policy, where are the piles of bodies in West Tyrone if we had such a policy? Where are the piles of bodies? It was something to throw out there to blacken the security forces, that there was a ‘shoot to kill’ policy. But if there was a ‘shoot to kill’ policy where are they? Where did the bodies go? And I asked that question … and no one has come back to me on it. Because they don’t want to think of that subject, that the IRA was murdering their own more than the security forces were. And I think I’ll leave it at that.”
Chair: “Thank you. There’s no particular response presumably to that. Go ahead…Could people actually – for the tapes as well – give their names? It would help.”
Q. 2.Gerry Carolan (Belfast): “My name is Gerry Carolan. I had to resign from the RUC 25 years ago after being injured in 4 or 5 bombs, left in a heap. Alan alluded to political generosity. Political generosity is merely an attempt to make victims forfeit their rights to access the truth. We are getting .. apologies by men who poached our lives at night, and the lives of our loved ones. Those same men are now head hunted by both the British and Irish governments. We have to bend the knee to them now. And it’s a horrible thing to say but if you were in West Belfast and you heard the Catholic priest saying ‘no IRA funeral from this church’ and you see them coming in with Joe Cahill’s remains, the tricolour, and the guard of honour, 5 priests waiting for the arrival of this man… what did the church do about this? They stood back and let it happen. … We suffered it all for years and years. We talk about terrorists but we only talk about them in relation to the twin towers, 9/11, that was terrorism, over here it was paramilitaries who carried these things out. We are now left confused and misunderstood and forgotten about… Surrender came from sitting around a table. We call this political peace …. but at what cost to the victims? And don’t forget the victims are witnesses to the truth. What are the implications for the victims? We can have all these historical enquiries teams, inquiries, the lot. It will not bring the bodies out of the church yards. It will not bring fathers back to innocent children. I see all the memorials, the murals, the lot. There are none to the RUC, there are none to the UDR, that are not demolished. And if you want to go into this policy of ‘shoot to kill’, the last civilian who was shot was shot by a PSNI officer, in a stolen car. Today we see a terrorist appointed to the Policing Board, Martina Anderson, a convicted bomber, to our Policing Board. And, to conclude, I identify with all that Hazlett has said here tonight, you may not want to hear that, but I identify with it, from my heart and from my conscience. Thank you.”
Q. 3. James McGeever (Kingscourt): “Because of the possibility of the troubles re-occurring would Kate agree that there can be no real healing through remembering until the republican movement is persuaded that it is no longer patriotically legitimate to use their traditional means of armed struggle, terrorism, subversive conspiracy in the cause of freeing Ireland from British government control? If that were to happen it would prepare for a process of mutual sympathetic understanding, mutual forgiveness and reconciliation.”
Chair: “Do you want to make a quick response, Kate?”
Kate Turner: “As I said, I can only respond on behalf of Healing Through Remembering in terms of what they actually discussed and I think what we are here about today is about saying that we need to have a debate about what needs to be said in order to build proper peace. We are not here with any of the answers as to what that is. We are trying to raise the debate round that to ensure that we can engage in what it is that people need to hear and need to know about the past to that we can kind of learn from that to go forward. In saying that I would like to say that I understand what Leslie was saying, that there are issues around what is being said, and how things are being discussed, and this idea that we can just go forward without looking at the past and seeing what we can learn from it. But the debate needs to be about how can we look at the past, how can we see what was happening and who was involved in what in a way that builds a better future, rather than saying this is what we need to do? It needs to be quite a developed debate about that to see what it is that people need, what it is possible for people to deliver, and whether that is going to build a more stable society or whether it’s something that’s in danger of sending us back into violence.”
Pat Conway: “Just a couple of points. The process is driven by its being victim-centric, it’s for victims ultimately, that’s what this is all about. It’s not about a hidden agenda or some sort of government-sponsored process, because it’s not government-sponsored, its funded by Atlantic Philanthropies and we deliberately do not take money from government agencies or organisations precisely for that reason. Secondly, it’s not the intention, and it was never the intention, to forget. That’s not what this is about either, and I think two or three people said it was about forgetting. It’s about recording and remembering and making sure that it doesn’t happen again. That’s what it’s about.”
Q. 4. Anne Gallagher: “I just want to say that I think it’s a wonderful report that you have put together. When I look around and see every facet of the people of Ireland represented in those little boxes, I think you have done a great job. I also want to say that I had four brothers involved in the IRA who I also see as victims, and as part of a project called Seeds of Hope that has addressed people from the paramilitaries and the victims, EPIC and Alternative to Violence are two of the groups I have worked with, and Marty Snoddon, who I think is part of your organisation, once wrote a poem called ‘Who are the victims, dare I ask?’ And I really reflected on that. And as a nurse at the height of the troubles in Belfast, I saw what the bombs and the guns do. I am a total pacifist. I think that we are part of an extraordinary conflict. For healing to take place, every voice, every individual needs to be heard, for healing to take place.
“And Hazlett, I sensed your anger and frustration, and I appreciate deeply where you are coming from. And my mother used to say that it is easy to listen to the people who speak your language, it’s nice to sit in those kind of groups, but for me it was so good to listen to your pain, and that sounds like rhetoric, but until we are prepared to listen and address where you are coming from I don’t think we have any future. You have to be part of the healing process. So I am just so pleased that I am here.”
Q. 5. Paddy Martin. “… I come from Co. Louth near the border with Crossmaglen. It takes for you to have a member of your family murdered to know what it is like. Bertie Ahern, Dermot Ahern, Mary Harney, Michael McDowell, they haven’t a bull’s notion of what the impact that a murder has on the family, otherwise they wouldn’t be treating Margaret Urwin and the Justice for the Forgotten group the way they are. And they wouldn’t be talking about building a monument to the victims up at the border for 5 million pounds, and they didn’t offer 5million cents to the victims! I think the woman who summed it up more concisely than anyone was a French woman who visited Co Cork on the anniversary of her daughter’s death, about a month ago. She said, ‘the people who murdered my daughter Sophie didn’t murder my daughter, they murdered all the rest of the family as well’. Now if I could relate my story to you, a small section of it, and I would ask for this not to be reported as I have the gun at my head still…..” [section omitted as requested]
“… What I am saying is that you can’t put the clock back. Britain’s foreign policy and domestic policy is based on the maxim ‘we have no permanent friends or enemies’… Now, with the domestic upheaval there is in Britain at the moment, they have lost control of whole cities there, if Britain wanted peace in Ireland as we all do, and there’s only one way to get peace in Ireland, it’s to get Protestant and Catholic together, and this is the best thing that ever happened. But putting up a monument along the border to the victims, that disturbs me because it suggests to me that this is all the victims are going to get…..”
Q. 6. Mick McCarthy: “Thank you very much. The gentleman at the end of the table [Alan] said that anger leads to more conflict, and this gentleman here who suffered greatly said that this was the best thing that ever happened. I was a bartender in New York as a student. I had the folk memories of famine, rebellion, hurt. It turned into violence and created a lot of trouble. Once this was an island of saints and scholars. We are told, and Bishop you are a man of the cloth, you are aware of what Jesus suffered at Easter, but ‘blessed are the peace makers’. The peace makers are all here tonight. I think there’s global conflict, with environmental dislocation, the anger those people in Iraq and Islam are feeling at the moment is going to erupt all over the place. We have the potential to create a haven of hope … and make no mistake, only God can heal, in my humble opinion, because people have suffered horrifically. I went down to a church this evening, a Catholic devotion, it just happened to be people coming together for prayer and guidance and I don’t want to go into Catholic theology about Fatima or Medjugore or all these areas that are talking about quite traumatic times coming, but what is here is hope and people are making a fantastic effort, and I want to thank all the people … that organise endless number of prayer vigils, masses, people coming together, because if we can pull something together out of this, we could create something that would be a beacon of light in the world. When we go out of here, we all talk to each other, we might talk to God a bit more and see how the higher power can come into it. Thank you very much indeed.”
Dr Clarke: “Just before we draw things to a close, Hazlett wants to respond…”
Hazlett Lynch: “Thank you Richard. Just two things: First of all, it was said that I was invited to be part of this project. That’s correct, I was. Why did I refuse? I refused primarily because on the 2nd of June, 1977, the Provos murdered my youngest brother. I was expected to go and sit with and discuss things with Provos, with terrorists, in this particular Board. That I refused to do. Secondly, I did refer to a reconciliation industry. That reconciliation industry is not within the victims’ groups. It has been built up around civil servants, politicians, do-gooders, people who are not victims, people who have never been victims, and people who saw this as a tremendous career opportunity. I’ve known civil servants climb the ladder in Northern Ireland, wanting to become head of the Victims Unit. Why? It’s a sexy position, it gets you up, it’s good on your CV. So the industry is not within the victims’ sector, it’s those who have jumped on the backs of victims in order to progress their own careers. Thank you.”
Concluding words: Bishop Richard Clarke: “Just before we draw things to a close, first of all may I on behalf of all of us thank the different groups represented here, the Healing Through Remembering group obviously, West Tyrone Voice and Justice for the Forgotten. I want to make a couple of points, if I may, at this stage. One a small point about the five options suggested and then a couple of other things. But before I do I would like to thank all of those who have taken part, including those from the floor, and of course to thank the Meath Peace Group for facilitating this. And I do hope that those involved in the Healing Through Remembering have found material here that is of help to you.
“Just to add a couple of things in my concluding remarks. The first is: of the options, the one that probably caused me the greatest difficulty is the idea of the ‘commission for historical clarification’. [tape break…] I think one is in great danger of very superficial conclusions if you actually think you are going to get historical objectivity in a very short time. That’s just a comment.
Terrorism: “Moving to the second thing, and I very much agree with Irwin on this. I don’t think have to use politically correct language. Anyone who has studied modern warfare and modern politics knows that terrorism is actually a specific mode of political method..It is heartless, it is inhumane, but what it is doing is trying to do three things: first of all, at the most gut level, trying to wreak vengeance whether on the right target or not. Whether it’s a month old child doesn’t greatly matter, you have managed to wreak vengeance.
“But then two other very serious things which we have to be aware of, even in our response, and even though I am a southerner, I grew up in the Republic of Ireland, I have cousins who have been in both the UDR and the RUC so I know roughly what you are talking about in terms of that constant fear of murder. But we have to think of terrorism as doing two other things. The first is the cold bloodless – and yet it is bloody at the same time – intention to terrorise another group into surrendering their own legitimate aspirations. They will become so fearful that they will do anything in order to try and stop the hurt and stop the death, and so they might even surrender what are their own aspirations. And it doesn’t matter whatever side it comes from, that is the cold intention and so often it works. And the other thing of course, and this is what we see again and again, is to provoke over-reaction so that with the over-reaction you gain support for your cause because people have been murdered by the other side whom you deliberately tried to provoke into over-reaction. Now what we have seen in Northern Ireland is being replicated today in Iraq, precisely the same cold, inhumane logic of terrorism can be applied anywhere. And I don’t think we do anyone any favours by refusing to use the word. It is a political method that was used long before it was used in Northern Ireland and it is a political method that is still being used in other parts of the globe today. It is a political method without heart, it is cold and it is effective. And that is why it is used and it will go on being used, not just in Northern Ireland perhaps at the moment, but in other parts of the globe. So I would agree, from that point of view, with Irwin, and I would agree with you too Hazlett: let’s not use nice language because we don’t like to know what reality means.
Moving beyond the horrors of where we have been: “The last thing that I want to say is that although in many ways I hate the idea and the term ‘moving on’, so often it is just a shallow superficiality, but for everybody – and that includes those, and I was, like others, very moved by West Tyrone Voice, the fact the hurt is still there that you were able to express and legitimately express – somehow we all have to move beyond the place we are. Whether it is through retribution which is what some people want, whether it is through, if you like, just drawing a line under things which other people temperamentally are able to do sometimes remarkably, whether it is by getting truth, exposing truth, and then just by truth itself being exposed, being able to move beyond it, but for everyone, whatever we are looking for – retribution, the peace that we find ourselves, or just simply peace that comes from finding the truth – we really have no choice but to move beyond the horrors of where we have been, the horrors of pain, the horrors of witnessing, suffering the death of those around us. But somehow in our own way, and this I think is really what Healing Through Remembering is trying to do is to find a method for everyone to get beyond where they are, if I have understood what you are doing.
“My thanks for what to me was a very valuable, very stimulating evening. I thank all of you who contributed, and again, as always, the Meath Peace Group for facilitating something so useful. Thank you all very much indeed.”
1. Healing through Remembering group:
Alan Wardle is Project Development Manager for Shankill Stress and Trauma Group in Belfast. He has participated in international training delivery programmes, in both Kosovo and Croatia, delivering conflict management theories as well as mediation models.
Irwin Turbitt retired as an Assistant Chief Constable from the PSNI in 2006 having served almost 30 years in the RUC and the PSNI. HE has been involved in voluntary peace-building work for a number of years, and plans now to be more so along with academic and consulting work in the areas of leadership, innovation and governance at Warwick Business School.
Pat Conway is currently Director of Services with the Northern Ireland Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders (NIACRO). He is primarily responsible for adult services for ex-offenders, prisoners and ex-prisoners as well as policy development and communications. Pat has worked in London and Belfast as a social worker and has been involved in the Healing Through Remembering Project for the past six years.
Kate Turner has been the Project co-ordinator with Healing Through Remembering since December 2000. She has twenty years experience in the voluntary sector.
2. Justice for the Forgotten: Margaret Urwin is manager of the Justice for the Forgotten Family Support Centre in Gardiner Street, Dublin and also acts as researcher and secretary to the campaign. She has been involved in assisting the bereaved families of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings since 1993 and saw the inception of Justice for the Forgotten in January 1996. She has been full-time with the organisation since May 1999. As Manager of the Family Support Centre she assists all victims of the conflict resident in this jurisdiction who seek help in such matters as counselling, holistic therapies, applications to the Remembrance Commission for personal awards and memorials, assistance with planning and arranging commemorations. Don Mullan spoke on behalf of the Justice for the Forgotten Group at a previous Meath Peace Group talk “Victims are part of the Peace Process’ held on 24th March 1999 (talk no. 32: report available on MPG website; some copies in hall tonight). Website: dublinmonaghanbombings.org
3. West Tyrone Voice: Dr Hazlett Lynch is Director of the West Tyrone Voice victims group which was established in 1999 to provide support for the innocent victims of terrorist violence during the protracted terrorist campaign in Northern Ireland. WTV works with members and families of the security forces, the bereaved and the injured, both physically and emotionally. Hazlett and three other members of the group addressed the Meath Peace Group talk ‘Who can we trust?’ on 14th November 2005 (talk no. 58: report available on MPG website; some copies in hall tonight). Hazlett recently gained his M.Phil. in Reconciliation Studies from Trinity College, Dublin.
Guest chair: Dr. Richard Clarke, Church of Ireland Bishop of Meath and Kildare, has an academic background in modern Irish history and the relationship between literature and theology. Dr Clarke has a particular interest in both the history and the poetry of the Great War. In a book published a few years ago, And Is it true?, he related some of the poetry of the First World War to questions of God’s existence, and present-day religious faith. Dr. Clarke has addressed previous Meath Peace Group talks: nos. 43 (May 20, 2002):“Diversity of Ethos – Challenges for a “Mono-Ethnic, Mono-Cultural” Society?” and 62 (June 12, 2006): “Irish involvement in the Great War” (reports available on website)
Meath Peace Group Report 66 (2007)
Taped by Judith Hamill (Tara), Jim Kealy (Navan) and Dave Kenneally (Columbans, Dalgan Park)
Transcribed by Catherine Clancy and Julitta Clancy
Edited by Julitta Clancy
Acknowledgments: Meath Peace Group would like to thank the speakers and guest chair for coming to address this public talk and for giving so generously of their time. A special thanks to all who came to the talk (some from long distances), those who took part in the discussion afterwards and all those who have given their continued support, encouragement and participation through the years. Thanks also to those who assisted in the planning, organisation, publicity and recording of the talk, to the Columban Fathers at Dalgan Park for facilitating the majority of our public talks and to the Dept. of Foreign Affairs Reconciliation Fund for financial assistance towards the running costs of the talks and school programmes, and to the staff and students of secondary schools who have taken part in our peace studies programmes
©Meath Peace Group
Meath Peace Group Talks
No. 58 – “Who Can We Trust?”
Monday 14th November 2005
St Columban’s College, Dalgan Park, Navan
Dr Hazlett Lynch
(Members of West Tyrone Voice Victims’ Group)
Chaired by Roy Garland (Irish News columnist, and Co-chair, Guild of Uriel)
Welcome and introductions: John Clancy
Opening words: Roy Garland
Questions and comments
Closing words: Roy Garland and Julitta Clancy
Appendix: West Tyrone Voice – information
WELCOME AND INTRODUCTIONS
John Clancy (Meath Peace Group): “Good evening and thank you all for coming. Just to introduce our guest chair tonight: Roy Garland has never spared himself in working for understanding between the diverse political cultures in Northern Ireland, but also our own diverse political culture down here, working to foster understanding and to reach across over the last number of years. I was saying to Roy tonight, that all he needs to do is to tell the car to go south and it will know exactly where to go! The amount of times Marion and Roy have come south – for meetings, discussions, seminars – is just incredible. Roy is one of those people whose efforts have largely been unrecognised to date, particularly in this State. But the great thing about Roy, that lack of recognition actually does not in any way make him downhearted, because he is a man with a mission and a vision and he has been a pleasure and an inspiration over the years to know, a very special person in terms of helping to shape new directions on this island….
1916 commemorations: “A couple of weekends ago, we were with Roy and the Guild of Uriel and others in Enniskillen and Rossnowlagh [Co. Donegal] and in the course of our discussions we got to talking about 1916 (in the light of the Government’s decision to re-introduce the Easter military parade in Dublin)…. It was an amazing year in terms of the island of Ireland – apart from the Easter Rising, over 10,000 Irishmen lost their lives in the Great War in that year alone. …. And the question arose – will we be celebrating or commemorating? This is something we need to think about… The Meath Peace Group hopes to host a discussion in the Spring of 2006 on this theme – if any of you have ideas or suggestions on this, please get in touch with one of the committee.
“Now, I will hand over to Roy to chair this evening’s discussion….”
Chair: Roy Garland
“Thank you very much, John…. I feel in a sense very humbled to be chairing this meeting tonight, because I know there is a wealth of experience here and a wealth – maybe wealth is the wrong word – of hurt and pain, and some of the people I am sitting with have been through some horrific experiences which even we in Belfast don’t know much about, coming from West Tyrone and facing daily threats, worrying about your own security, your family. Sometimes the worst thing is what’s happening to your family when you are out there looking after your community …. But the family is left at home and the wife is there and they have to fend in a way that the men out there don’t have to.
“I know some of the people out there have gone through some horrific experiences. I actually met Hazlett [Lynch] and Leslie – the brother of one of tonight’s speakers – about 12, 15 years ago down the country, and Leslie was very good about problems with your knee and that sort of thing. We got to know each other and eventually Hazlett came down and it has been a really terrific experience getting to know some of these men and hearing some of their stories and they are all going to say a bit about their experiences. …
“Hazlett is going to introduce the topic of victimhood – he is the leader of the West Tyrone Voice which he will tell you about himself. ”
1. Dr. Hazlett Lynch (West Tyrone Voice)
“…. I would like to thank Julitta and the Meath Peace Group for their very kind and warm invitation to address the meeting tonight and also for the opportunity to bring some of my very close friends with me to this particular meeting.
West Tyrone Voice: “We are all members of the West Tyrone Voice Victims’ group. The West Tyrone Victims’ group is the largest victims’ group, not only in Northern Ireland, not only in the British Isles, but probably in Western Europe. We have a beneficiary base of somewhere like 2,300 as direct and indirect beneficiaries of the services that we offer and our work is located not far from the border with the Irish Republic. There have been about 231 people murdered from our group area, which covers something like 1500 square miles. So it is a fairly big area, probably most of the west of the Bann – the River Bann divides Northern Ireland diagonally. We have about 600 members in the group. We are currently down to four members of staff. We had seven at one time, but, like other organisations that are dependent totally on funding, when the powers-that-be decide that funding is no longer to be allocated then sadly people have to go and it doesn’t seem to matter too much whether the work we are trying to do is of benefit, contributing to a better Northern Ireland for people or anything like that. They just decide there is no funding, hard cheese, on your bike, that’s basically it.
Personal background: “My own brother was murdered back in 1977 by the Provisional IRA, 22 years of age. He was 9 months in the police, he was a police officer, the youngest of my brothers. I have one other younger brother and a younger sister.
Good Friday/Belfast Agreement has ‘elevated the guilty’: “West Tyrone Voice was founded in 1999, just after the Belfast Agreement – or the Good Friday Agreement, whatever name you give to it. Maybe the Good Friday Agreement is a good name for it, because if you remember back to the very first Good Friday it was the guilty who was released, and it was the innocent who died. …. That is exactly what the Agreement has done in Northern Ireland. It has elevated the guilty and it has sought to demonise, to ostracize, to marginalise and to alienate the people who suffered horrendously at the hands of the people who were promoted and who now prance around the world stage masquerading as peacemakers, and that doesn’t bring any joy to any of our hearts up here at the table.
Trust a ‘vitally important’ issue: “The whole area of trust is something that is problematic. Trust is a problematic issue in any case and certainly within the context of Northern Ireland. And we could think of Israel, we could think of South Africa, we could think of the Balkans where trust is a vitally important issue and yet not something that can be resolved. During the past 80+ years of Northern Ireland’s very colourful history, while there have been wrongs on both sides of the community, for any one section of that community to resort to a vociferous, bloody, diabolical campaign of terrorism, to right what was essentially a political wrong, beggars belief. Yet that is what we have been putting up with for the last 36 years.
IRA campaign ‘not over’: “It is not over yet and I think people would be very, very foolish if they believed that the IRA’s campaign was over. It isn’t over … Adams said on a chat show – was it this week or towards the end of last week? – that “the war is over.” The problem I have with that is I don’t believe the guy …. …and I think of a group of dog owners who are having a dinner, conference, in a hotel in Belfast when …. PIRA torched the place. Yet, what does he tell the world? He was never in the IRA. Do you believe that? We certainly don’t believe that!” [Editor’s note: Hazlett Lynch referred us to Richard English’s book Armed Struggle (Pan: London, 2004), pp.105 and 110]
“Yet he is the president [of Sinn Féin], mirroring the President of this country. It is not without significance that they use the same terminology to describe the leader of that terrorist organisation.
“They still claim that Sinn Féin is the legitimate government of Ireland and the IRA is the legitimate army of Ireland. They have never rescinded that, at least not to my knowledge, and that army has been governed, controlled, given its orders, by the army council which includes the same Mr. Adams. Michael McDowell [Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform] told us the last time we were down here that the information they had was that those guys are still in the IRA’s army council [Editor’s note: for text of Minister’s speech see report of Meath Peace Group public talk No. 57, 20 June 2005, available on the website].
“McGuinness … he is a ‘peacemaker’ as well, by the way, if you missed that bit. He is a ‘man of peace.’ He was the Minister of Education in Northern Ireland who didn’t know what the word “decommissioning” meant, which I thought was quite interesting. These guys have denied that they were involved in the IRA and yet they think that we are stupid enough to believe their lies. We don’t believe their lies. So when they say ‘the war is over’ or when they say they have decommissioned all of their armaments, all their weapons, I certainly don’t believe them. These other men with me can speak for themselves. I don’t believe them. Their campaign has taken a turn, it has changed. It has moved from barefacedly murdering people to poisoning them with drugs. But they are still killing people. They are still destroying lives. They are still exiling people. They are still holding their own communities under their control. That is still happening. The poor decent Catholic/nationalist people of Northern Ireland are still under the clutches of these guys, these terrorists who masquerade as politicians. I think that is probably the best way of putting it.”
Personal experiences: “In our group at the moment, forty people are still under death threats by the paramilitaries. These two men here live within one mile of the border, this other man lives within five miles of the border. I was brought up within, as the crow flies, five miles of the border. My primary education was close to where I lived. My secondary and technical education for five years was right on the border, Strabane/Castlederg. My further technical education was in Londonderry, right on the border, and then I escaped to Leeds for a few years and that was a relief in those days. But even there I always had to tune in to what was happening back home, because my father and mother were at home, my two brothers and sister were at home, my grandparents were at home. So you couldn’t get away from it, even when you were over in England.
Building trust and confidence: “Within our particular sector – the victims’ sector – we have been given funding by the UK Government and by the European Union with the express purpose of trying to build trust and confidence within our people. Given the fact that where we live and work, people from our community are less than 32% of the population, we are a minority group, a minority population within a majority Catholic/nationalist community.
Catholic/nationalist community and votes for Sinn Féin
“The really sad thing about the Catholic/nationalist community amongst whom we live and work is – and I know this will be challenged, I think there is somebody here who will challenge this point – that the vast majority of people from the Catholic and nationalist community have voted for Sinn Féin which, in my book, is a vote for violence, terrorism, oppressive campaigning and other forms of violence. They vote for Sinn Féin knowing right well what they are, they vote for them knowing right well what they have done over the last 80 years, 85 years. They know the horrendous pain and suffering that that terrorist party has inflicted upon my community in West Tyrone and, knowing all that, they still say ‘these are good guys, these are the people who have got the best chance of getting us a united Ireland, because we will shoot the Prods and we will bomb the Prods, and we will intimidate the Prods. We will break them so that they will have to give in to a United Ireland’.”
“And the Catholic/nationalist community in West Tyrone is saying ‘these are good guys, they are going the way we want to go’. So they put their X on the ballot paper for these murderous thugs.
Confidence-building difficulties: “In our work, we are supposed to build confidence in people. How can you build confidence in people when 40 of their fellow members of our organisation, at least 40 are still under death threat from Gerry’s boys? You tell me how I am supposed to do that. You tell me how I am supposed to get our people in a very real sense to be able to come out of their house, get into their car without checking under their car, without checking under the wheel arches, without checking under the floor of the car?
“If you can tell me how I can increase confidence in our people in that area, in that situation, then I want to know because it has beaten me for the last 6 or 7 years that I have been working at this. I don’t know how to do it and I suppose as the leader of the group in some ways, I have taken considerable risks with our people to try to build bridges, to try to promote peace, to try to promote reconciliation North and South and cross-community. I have been doing that since just after we started. And a good number of our people will now come with me to things like this and meet with people like you and we are delighted to have links with the Meath Peace Group and with the Guild of Uriel, Roy’s group – delighted to have relationships with the folks here.
Funding difficulties: “And even though we have worked hard and tried hard, at times it has cost us in the work we have been trying to do. Because our work and the thrust of our work does not fit into the neat little pigeon holes that government and the European Programme has arbitrarily decided upon ……I received a letter in the office today, saying we have been turned down for funding from the Community Relations Council. So I ask myself: is there any point in me or my group even being involved in this type of work? Because unless you fit the criteria of ‘faceless men in grey suits’ who have decided upon this somewhere, we are not going to be able to get the where-withall to do that work. Over the last number of years, we felt we couldn’t trust the system, certainly within the funding end of things, because up to then we had been fairly successful in securing funding for the work that we are doing, even though most of it would have had a training emphasis. I am now starting to think: is my trust in the funding organisations misplaced?
“What is the point of putting myself through all the turmoil of application after application and interview after interview if at the end of the day, the only work that will be funded by the funding bodies is the work that dovetails exactly into their predetermined agenda? That is a challenge we have to face, but certainly it has challenged our trust in the whole funding system.”
Disparities in funding: “Maybe I shouldn’t have been so trusting of the funding system. I’ll tell you why I say that. Our office is in Newtownstewart – about 10 miles south of Strabane, 10 miles north of Omagh, just bang in the middle of those two principal towns. We reckon there are somewhere around 18-20 republican ex-prisoners in and around the Strabane area. They have secured almost half a million pounds to run their programmes with those 18-20 prisoners or ex-prisoners, and let’s use a multiplier of 4 for the sake of fairness – they are working with about 80 people to secure half a million pound plus about another £250,000 that came after that for 80 people. We are working with 2, 300 people and we get nowhere near that. And I ask you the question, ‘why is that being done?”
“I think the Government knows that we are no threat. I suppose it is only fair that I should disclose at this point that we came here tonight with arms with us – there they are: we have got 8 arms with us [points to his arm]. So we are no threat to the Government. We are no threat to their plans and their schemes and their regimes. But do you see the fellows in Strabane – well I wish the only arms they had were like these, because they are still armed to the teeth. The main terrorist organisation operating in Strabane is not the IRA who told us that they have decommissioned all their weapons. It is the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA). They are not on ceasefire. They have never been involved in any kind of ‘peace process’ so called. They have never been involved in any kind of negotiations to try and bring about some kind of settlement within Northern Ireland, nothing like that. But they are a threat to the government and if you want to be able to pursue your policies, what you have to do is to keep the greatest threat on side with you, so you give them half a million and we get a fraction of that.”
Terminology – ‘survivors’/’victims’: “Even talking like this I suppose I am in the danger of depressing not only my own friends here but you folks as well. We are a victims’ group. The four of us are victims, we are working with victims. One of the very clever things – and it is clever, I take my hat off to the people who have thought this up – is: ‘Victim’ – ‘you don’t want to use that word because the word ‘victim’ is very disempowering. It takes the fight out of people. You are far better to call yourself a ‘survivor’ because then you could fight them and you will take on things and you will do things. You will achieve things, you will conquer, you’ll overcome.’ I don’t agree with that.
“When we were formed we didn’t have a lot of confidence but we had enough confidence and common sense to see that there is a need out there and a group of us banded together in order to form this organisation. We had very little support, nobody knew about us. Nobody knew what we were doing, what we wanted to do, so in a very real sense we were disempowered people. But I have come to this conclusion that the groups in Northern Ireland who prefer to call themselves ‘survivors’ groups are really to be pitied and I feel sorry for them because they are the groups – despite their name ‘survivors’, despite the description that they use to tell people who they are ‘well we’re survivors, we don’t like the term victim’ – they are the very people who are not prepared to stand up and tell the powers-that-be what it’s like. They just accept all the rubbish that the Government throws at them. They are groups that are really funding-driven. So they have been disempowered. They are to be pitied and they call themselves ‘survivors.’
“We call ourselves ‘victims’ and one thing that will never be able to be said about our group is that we are disempowered, because we have taken our people to the highest levels.
“We have met with Government and Cabinet ministers. We have told them what our experience has been. We have told them our needs. We have asked for their help, not gone ‘cap in hand’. We have presented them with the situation. ‘This situation in Northern Ireland has ultimately your fingerprints on it. You are responsible for looking after the people who have suffered and whose loved ones have paid the ultimate sacrifice for freedom, for decency, for law and order, for democracy in our country.’
“We have gone to them and we have told them that, we have gone to London and we have told them that. We have spoken to ministers from Dublin, we have told them that. We have taken our people to Brussels and we have told them the same things.
Are we disempowered? We call ourselves ‘victims’. We are ‘victims’ but there is more ‘true grit’ within the views of the people I work with than the people who call themselves the politically correct term ‘survivors.’
“There haven’t been too many people who have come and have said to us: ‘Look, what can we do for you?’ Oh yes, you get the Government ministers saying: ‘What are your needs? We want to know what your needs are. Tell us what you want us to do for you.’ Our experience has been, the Government has already made up its mind what it is going to do and – ‘stuff you, but we will put on this nice show’.
Cosmetic exercise: “There has got to be this cosmetic exercise gone through. Tony [Blair] is into these focus groups. He has invented focus groups and we are consultation-weary in our organisation! Consultation files are hardly opened. That is not a good policy because sometimes you get a chance to say things that have to be said to people who maybe want to hear and because you filed them in file 13, they don’t get the chance to hear it. He has asked through his ministers time and time again, “what are your needs?” We have told them what our needs are and they haven’t paid one blind bit of notice to what we have said to them. Then we ask ourselves the question: ‘how do we trust a lying prime minister? How do you do that?’
Hypocrisy: “Some of the most notorious scoundrels in Western Europe were ministers in our Executive. You should be glad that poor aul’ Bertie has more sense than that. He says: ‘Oh we don’t want these boys near us. There is no way I am having those boys in my government. I would rather be in opposition than have those gangsters in government here in the Republic.’ Fair play to the man, but he needs to ‘wake up and smell the coffee,’ because he is speaking with a ‘forked tongue.’ He is hypocritical to an unbelievable degree, because it is good enough for us. Anything will do the people up in the ‘black north’. I am sure you have heard that phrase. We’re the people from the ‘black north’. We’re not fully human beings, no we’re just people from the ‘black north’, Prods from the ‘black north’. We don’t count for anything. Anything will do them and that’s the message Bertie is putting out to us. And we wonder sometimes, how do we come to trust the Prime Minister of our nearest international neighbour?”
Northern Ireland a ‘foreign’ country: “And I am glad to be speaking at this conference, I suppose as an ‘international speaker,’ because I am in a different country. I take off my hat to your Government, that the guy from your Government who looks after Northern Ireland is known as the ‘Foreign Minister’. So at least the Government knows that Northern Ireland is a ‘foreign’ country and sends the Foreign Minister to deal with us. Long may that continue!
Building trust in context of ‘nazi’ remarks: “Just one or two other things, then I am going to ask my friends here to say a word or two. How are we to trust the second largest ethnic cultural religious group in Northern Ireland? When I say this I am not anti-Catholic, because we have a growing number of people from the Catholic community who are active members of our group and they are gems. They are really, really fine people. They have been to England with us, they have gone to other places with us. We have done things together. Good people. But I am left wondering: if a senior nationalist figure thinks of me as a ‘nazi’ – I’m speaking about your President – and if a senior churchman, Mr. Alec Reid, thinks of me, my people. as ‘nazi’, and if the main – you’ll shoot me Roy when I say this – if the main nationalist newspaper in Northern Ireland, for which Roy writes an article every Monday, describes me and my people as ‘nazis’ – that is offensive. I was speaking to a Jewish friend of mine just last Thursday in Belfast and she was appalled at that language from Reid. If these representatives of Catholic nationalism view the Protestant people as nazis, how are we ever to come to the point where we can trust them?
“If that is said once, you could say ‘right, it is a Freudian slip or something like that. Give it a fancy name’. If it happens twice, you could say ‘well it is coincidence’. When it happens three times, then you start to wonder if that is how my Catholic neighbours and friends view me, that makes it difficult for me to trust and if you good people – probably most of you are from the Catholic community – if you can give me help, and I am asking for your help, if you can give me help to be able to trust your community, I want it. I want it, because it almost seems that, contrary to what Mary McAleese alleged against our people, it almost seems that people from her community have been taught that the Prods are nazis and they have drunk that in with their mother’s milk. It seems that way. If that isn’t the case, I’d be delighted to hear that. Please assure me that it isn’t, but that is how the people from my community actually see it. … Thank you.”
Roy Garland: “Well, thank you, Hazlett. I am sure you have a lot of questions to ask, if you hold them all till the end and now I will ask Raymond to speak…”
2. Raymond Finlay (Chair of West Tyrone Voice)
“I am not used to speaking. Although I am retired now, in my job I controlled a pile of men, but that was different. In that respect, I would be talking electrical work and there was no problem there. But this is more heart talk and I do find it very hard to talk at times.
Revenge the easy option: “…. I have lost five relatives: a brother, a nephew and three cousins and many, many a friend. How did I cope with that? I am a Christian and that possibly, I do assure you, stopped me taking the easy option. The easy option would be to look for revenge. That was offered to many a victim. People don’t realise that at times. That would have been the easy option, just to go out and kill some of their Roman Catholic friends. It did happen in places, and I am sorry for that, it shouldn’t have happened. As Christians we should have waited for the Lord to take his revenge and each one of us will have to answer to the Lord on our last day.
West Tyrone Voice: “I am very, very happy to be a member of West Tyrone Voice. We formed the organisation, as Hazlett has told you, in 1998/9. We had been talking about this for some time. We all had the same idea. The first thing we thought of: there were many old people there, that weren’t being looked after. Outreach workers seemed to be the natural thing to look for as well as all the other expertise that we could give them and pay for.
Funding: “Grants, as Hazlett was telling you there, were very awkward to come by. That is one thing. We started off the first year and a half I think with about 175 members. At that stage, we had 2 field/outreach/friendship workers, call them what you will, but somebody to go and knock at the doors. We’d go and knock at the doors of homes even now and we wouldn’t be allowed in the first time till people would check us out and then maybe we would be invited back. That is the way we were working. But instead of going forward and having five or six friendship workers at this stage, we are down to one. A lot of people don’t realise it, the restraints we are working under. And the problem there, even the one person we have we can’t afford him full time, so we do get private donations from members and different people and that has helped to employ him as much as possible. Scary, but all these things over the last year is the peace. The peace seems to be only in one group’s thinking. The mentality of Sinn Fein and it certainly has been backed by the SDLP. The SDLP lost out I think because of that. They were just the ‘yes men’ to Sinn Fein over the last few years and now they have lost nationalist people.
Roman Catholics in the forces: “Hazlett mentioned the voting. Our Roman Catholic friends – I worked with Roman Catholics, a good portion of Roman Catholics all the time. The area I come from would be something like 95% nationalist area, some great friends. Whenever I became a member of the UDR [Ulster Defence Regiment], we talked it over at work and we decided this is a good thing to go for, we will all get into it and this will be peace. But then the Roman Catholic person, he was intimidated out of the forces so he couldn’t do anything, because he’d be leaving his family open to attack.
Victims/survivors: “To call us survivors, it’s very hard, I was talking to a person there earlier and it is very hard to know what to call it. We are just victims, innocent victims I would like to think, not a perpetrator that has caused his own death, whether by suicide or taking other lives and lost his life because the security forces happen to come on site. I’ll leave it for now….”
Chair (Roy Garland): “If we could move over to Gamble, if you could say a few words Gamble.
3. Gamble Moore
“I’ll speak at a lower level than my two friends here and at a personal level.
Who can I trust? “Who can I trust? I worked as a maintenance fitter in factories. I also was a part-time member of the Ulster Defence Regiment. Now as you go through life, you see about dates, what date does this conjure up or what date did that conjure up, such as President Kennedy being assassinated and what have you? But to me a date stands out in my mind is the 22 November 1973. Why? Because on that day I was sentenced to die. Who did it? Who brought the charges against me? Who was the jury? Who was the judge and who appointed the executioner? The IRA.”
“Coming from my work, there was an assassination attempt made on me. I was shot 3 times. My wife was in the car and 3 other workmates….. I was shot in the neck, the chest and the shoulder. Now who set me up? My workmates. I had socialised with them, went out for a drink with them and what have you. They set me up, and who tried to shoot me? One of my workmates. He never was caught, he cleared to Canada after it. Therefore who can I trust?”
Chair (Roy Garland): “Thank you very much Gamble. I suppose that’s one of the hardest things to take – when your own friends set you up and that sort of thing. I am going to pass you over now to Billy who has had a long and difficult experience.
4. Billy Harpur
“Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen. I take a more radical view as we are democratic in the West Tyrone Voice. We say what we like. Nobody writes what we have to say when we meet in these groups.
Personal experience: “I have 30 years experience in the security forces
I have lost two brothers and I lost my son who was twelve years in the RIR [Royal Irish Regiment]. I myself was a victim of attempted murder four times. I was shot in the thigh and they attempted to blow me up by semtex. I was travelling in a car with a driver and when I looked around he had no head and I wondered what hit me on this part of the jaw and it was his teeth and there were just a couple of strings coming out of his neck and I will never forget him sitting at the steering wheel and looking at his wedding ring and he never moved. It was outside a public house and they came out of the public house and threw beer on top of him and spat on him. There was a third person in the car and he was out on the road and he had lost part of his leg and an eye and his face was just like the back of a fireplace, so he was crawling out onto the middle of the road and I got him up into the side of the road….
“We’ll get into this a bit more. I have lost my religion over these Troubles
I think I have lost my religion, we’ll put it that way. I no longer go to church. My son goes to church, the other son I have. I have ten grandchildren. I have a daughter who was 15 before she’d lift a telephone, because of what she heard on the other end of it.
I got Christmas cards with black coffins on them and I am one of the people that is still on the death list.
Who can we trust? “And who can we trust? I have no fear. I have no fear of anybody now. I have come through that much. I listened to Hazlett speaking tonight and I thought he spoke very well. Something I always think, I mean there is no difference in anybody’s grief. There is no difference in Protestant grief, Roman Catholic grief, it is all the same. But with my experience of the police, the superior officers don’t want to know me anymore because of this so-called decommissioning and peace. Now I am an embarrassment to them because I am one of those people who fought their battles when they needed it. When that fellow had lost his head in the explosion, they were putting me back into an ambulance and there came an inspector and he says “I have no men on, I need that man to do another eight hours.” So I was taken back out of the ambulance and made do another eight hours of duty and I didn’t know where I was in doing duty or not, I am not worried about telling you. I am still on 325 mg of an anti-depressant plus other medication. At 49 I had two heart attacks and I had heart bypass done at 50. Two months later I got cancer and I survived that.
“So I am a survivor. I am looking for a better place for my 10 grandchildren and I don’t want a place where terrorists are running it. Where we live, a mile from the border, there is Real IRA, which planted ….a bomb three days before we came here. There is Continuity IRA and there is INLA [Irish National Liberation Army]. But let me explain something about those three organisations. Those 3 organisations are the people who were discontented and … they are all SF/Provisional IRA, they just go under another name, they are disillusioned. …”
Double standards: “... Bertie Ahern made the statement today that Sinn Féin would never be in government in the Republic of Ireland. So is it all right for them to be in government in Northern Ireland? Is that ok? Does it really matter? We don’t trust Tony Blair by no means. We don’t trust.Patten, we don’t trust any of the police at the minute, who were my bosses for years.
We will survive: “And we have survived and we will be survivors. We will survive. I definitely will survive anyway, because I am not lying down to anybody or I am not letting anybody put me out of my home. And I was asked by the police, as these men know here, to leave my home ten times, to move ten times, and one of the superintendents come to my wife, as the last time I wouldn’t move. He says: ‘I am only here to tell you this time, so that you don’t come back when your husband is shot and tell me that you weren’t warned, I never warned you”.
Protestant grief no different from Roman Catholic grief: “So you know I am a happy go lucky man and have survived a lot of attempted murders…. .We can trust no one, but at the same time with my radical views I would like to have friendship, which we have with everybody. Three out of every five Roman Catholics in our area voted for Sinn Féin in the last election, so I mean they have the support in our area. …. But lost ones, loved ones are just the same on both sides. [quote from a booklet] This was said in a wee book that a clergyman wrote there at the weekend. “When Fr. Reid passed his comment about the unionist community, there were words which were quite offensive to many different people and communities.” Generalisation – tar everyone in the same community in the same way. …There has been a lot of pain and grief and many people lost on both sides of the religious divide. Protestant grief is no different from Roman Catholic grief. Everybody wants to move on. But we are not prepared to move on, on Tony Blair’s or Gerry Adams or anybody else’s [agenda]. We want a fair society for what we’ve come through for 30 odd years and I thank you very much for your time.”
QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS
Chair (Roy Garland): “Thank you very much and thanks to all of you. In listening to some of the pretty horrific stories, something comes from the Quakers. I often attend a Quaker meeting and I remember one Quaker saying: ‘sometimes in response to the world and the downside of the world the only proper response is silence’ and sometimes I feel like that when you hear these terrible stories and we haven’t heard half of it. Man’s inhumanity to man, in a sense it does silence you, because what can you say? We have done such terrible things to each other. There is nothing more to say in a sense and … it’s taken a lot of courage on the part of the men who are sitting here with me. I feel very privileged to be with them. It takes a lot of courage to come out and actually express these things and it’s not easy. I am very grateful to them for what they have shared with us and I know there is a lot more. Now I want to open the meeting to questions and I think we are all friends here and I am sure the people, in a sense do feel very much with them……..
Death threats: “Maybe I should start the questions. The thing about the INLA and the Real IRA, the Continuity IRA and the IRA – are you still suffering threats to this day?
Roy: “And are those coming from the INLA?
Billy: “No I say they are coming from Provisional IRA, rebels who have left Provisional IRA and go under a different name. I mean it’s just known, it’s fact.”
Roy: “How do you live with this to this day?”
Billy: “I live with it with my attitude to life. My attitude to life has always been I’ve been under threat for so long now I always think I’ve got to guard, but you still have to come out your front door.
“And just if I could put a thing in here which I forgot. Two years after the Good Friday Agreement, they tried to murder my wife and I in the front garden. They took over a house across the street. This is two years after, this is why I am on about this IRA. Two years after the Good Friday Agreement, but how do I live with it? Maybe I’ll tell you more about it. I always think that, alright I’m living, but you always think about your wife and children. They are in a worse situation than you and you’re trying to protect them and when you’ve lost so much. Friends that I have lost I just don’t know Roy. I get strength out of somewhere to go on. Although I’ve had my…I mean I got strength. The strength that I got. I was down to the lowest I was down, till Hazlett Lynch met me and brought me around through the West Tyrone Voice. I was down to the ground with drugs. I was taking seventeen drugs a day and that is the first man that brought me back. West Tyrone Voice brought me back….”
Q.1. Fintan Mullaly (Dublin): “…. I’m not a member of this group. I’m from Pax Christi in Dublin, but basically I feel an awful lot of pain on that side of the table there and I get the same feeling from Mr. Gallagher whom I go up and meet in Omagh.
Roots of the Troubles: “We’re all sort of in the same situation. I am the descendant of two Northerners, one from Derry and one from Fermanagh…. They in their time had to come south because there were no jobs if you wanted to get over a certain level. There was a certain barrier for a Catholic … in your force, the head constable or somewhere, he couldn’t get above that. You couldn’t get to inspector. Now you had the same situation, right up to the time that John Hume started conscientious, ideal peace by peaceful means and they walked and they marched and they met in opposition. At that stage there was no real big numbers in the IRA, to the best of our knowledge, dare I say. ….But the thing was that that was like as if it was an insurrection coming for no apparent reason, but it had been like cinders, all you needed was to get a blow at it. Once fifteen people were murdered …… including a distant relation of mine. They had done nothing, they had no weapons, no nothing and yet the forces of the Crown whose names have never been given as to who they are, they’ve never stood culpable for what they did, because they had made the problem that you now have.
Gerrymandering: “But all those years back, I had one of my cousins who came home, the first civil servant to get a job in the Guild Hall in Derry.
“Up until then no Catholic was allowed see the books. It was dangerous to let Catholics inside. The same with the RUC. If at a certain level you had violence, they were in an area that they wouldn’t get their hands on it. But I think your whole basic problem started with the gerrymandering thing, which most people here know about, that the man who owned a house got a vote. If you were a tenant of the council in a house, you didn’t have a vote, but the man down the street who employed you had maybe 2 or 3 votes.
“So therefore in Derry County Council where you had 70% Catholic out of the entire council there was only one or two councillors Catholic and the rest were all Protestant, which was a complete gerrymandering system.”
Voting for Sinn Féin: “Continue right up to this day. You’re saying that people vote for Sinn Féin. Why would they vote for the weaker of the two as they saw it in order to get someone elected? They had to vote for Sinn Féin, because you don’t have a transferable vote.
Billy Harpur: “You’re talking about them voting for Sinn Féin, well it was John Hume of the SDLP party who got the biggest vote in Derry at that time. Thirty years ago, when I joined the police my two inspectors were Roman Catholics, thirty years ago and you got up about the gerrymandering. I do believe that years and years, the hierarchy from England, maybe the old unionist party did discriminate, but not just against Catholics. It was also against Protestants, ordinary working Protestants and Catholics. They were no different and the biggest vote ever got in Londonderry was by John Hume who was an SDLP man. Well once John Hume left a space, you can see where the votes are going now. They are going back to Sinn Féin.
Bloody Sunday : “I assume you referred to Bloody Sunday, the shootings, well that has never been proved yet. The outcome of that is come yet. There were two policemen shot two days before Bloody Sunday and Martin McGuinness does admit that he was commander-in-chief in the Bogside two days before Bloody Sunday. Therefore he should have been charged with the murder of those two men, if they were shot two days before Bloody Sunday, if he admits he was commander-in-chief at that time, so it is the truth that the IRA was in the Bogside on Bloody Sunday.
Fintan: “I never said they weren’t in the Bogside, I said they were targeted”
Billy: “There were arms in the Bogside.”
Roy Garland: “Can you clarify just one point on the voting thing? I think it is important to clarify. It was voting in local government, it wasn’t Stormont or Westminster and it was whoever was in the household and it was the same in unionist areas and nationalist areas?”
Billy: “There was no difference.”
Roy: “That’s right. There was no difference. In working class areas, there were fewer votes and the same system applied in England but it was abolished in 1944. But I mean it was strong and in the Catholic community most….”
Hazlett: Re gerrymandering: “…. Gerrymandering is fundamentally wrong, it cannot be justified. It cannot be rationalised. But I think we have got to place the whole gerrymandering regime in the context of the times. When Northern Ireland came into being in the early 1920s, you had a situation where approximately one third of the population didn’t want to be in Northern Ireland. You had a third of the population that was intent upon the destruction of Northern Ireland as a political entity. John Hume used this mantra for years and years and years: ‘50 years of unionist misrule in Northern Ireland’ or, as he would probably say, “in the north”. John was a teacher but he didn’t seem to realise that Donegal was the North but it is not in Northern Ireland….
Nationalist ‘non-cooperation’: John Hume’s mantra was ‘50years of unionist misrule’. What he didn’t also say was that from his own community there were 50 years of non-cooperation with the State, deliberate, planned, orchestrated, and that the Roman Catholic Church was leading that orchestration of non-cooperation with the State in Northern Ireland, and even to this day, there will be a fair section of people, probably all those who voted for Sinn Féin, who still will refuse to give any kind of meaningful cooperation to the working of Northern Ireland. The only exception to that is when they draw their giros on the government and their hundreds, multiple hundreds of pounds per week, to keep them living at a standard that I couldn’t afford. That is the only time they cooperate with the State. Outside of that there is still this entrenched attitude of non-cooperation with the State, no matter how they try to call it or to name it otherwise.”
Fintan: “… [Edward] Carson said: this is ‘a Protestant State for a Protestant people’.”
Hazlett: “Do you know the context of that? It was in response to a statement made in Dublin. They wanted a ‘a Catholic parliament for a Catholic people’.”
Fintan: “So it’s tit for tat all the time?”
Hazlett: “It was responsive.”
Fintan: “… You mentioned the point about people calling you certain names. I have heard the Reverend Ian using a certain term against the leader of our church and I wouldn’t like to repeat it. But the thing is, as long as there is that tit for tat, the hostility will always be under the surface. I used to enjoy going down to the Guildhall for the 12th July and sitting up looking at all the bands and all the rest of it, the same as your people possibly from down south here for our Easter parade, but I don’t agree with our Bertie doing what he is doing – resurrecting something for this Easter. But thanks for coming down. In case you think I am against you, I am very sympathetic.”
Hazlett: “Thank you”.
Roy: “An important point in relation to that is: if there was discrimination, does discrimination justify murder? And it is important because it was a democratic society, it wasn’t a fascist society and there were means of protesting. The civil rights movement did protest, in fact most of the demands were conceded through the civil rights movement and the agitation.
Fintan: “One point, you mentioned about Bertie [Ahern] making a decision about never taking Sinn Féin into Government. You are right in so far as they are the words. He would not dare say that he would consider it, because tomorrow morning Mary Harney would be out, right? That’s the first point.
“The thing is he also knows that if he was to say within his own party, that he was going to coalesce with Sinn Féin, his own party would lose half their votes, because they have what they call the ‘floating vote’. He only has 21% of standard votes, he has another 12 or 13% of floaters. …”
Q.2. Rev John Clarke (Navan): “I’d just like to thank the panel, thank each of you for sharing with us this evening and naturally, my heart goes out to you. .. It is very much with you indeed and to all victims of the Troubles. It strikes me as a very natural outcome of the Troubles, naturally where there is hurt, where there is a great need for healing and reconciliation afterwards.
“But do you feel that there is a lack of this sort of initiative taking place? Are there other victims’ groups, or survivors’ groups – I know you don’t like that term but you know what I mean – are there other victims groups doing what you do? How are they being funded?”
Hazlett: “…. Decisions will be made over the next number of months about the new round of funding and I know that a sister group in our sector was turned down about 3 or 4 weeks ago, by the same funder for doing similar work that we are doing. But what is happening within our broad sector is that in the wake of the allegations that have been made by senior nationalists in both church and state and in the press, that we are really nazis, there has been, I suppose, an attitude or a responsive recoiling from anybody who would be perceived to hold that view.
“And I would see some of the victims sector, the part at least that we are in, that contact across the community is going to be eased up considerably if not totally stopped. I can see that, because people from my community are fed up being insulted by clergymen, by politicians and by the press, all coming from the same part of the community. And the view seems to be if that is really what they think about us, is there any mileage to be gained in having any kind of contact with them?”
Rev. John Clarke: “I’ve got the point perfectly clearly on that. The whole thrust of your presentation was actually on that particular point. At the end of any conflict, let’s believe there is an end ….. But with relative peace and as part of the process of bringing that forward, there needs to be a healing and reconciliation and a need for whatever fancy terms you like, could you tell me is there sufficient initiative in that department? It is part of the process, this healing and reconciliation, surely to God there are other bodies, be it on the other side of the divide from you or otherwise, who require reconciliation and healing and soothing of the wounds. Surely it is part of any government, north, south, east or west as part of the process? Is anything happening in that department? Are you a lone voice, this West Tyrone Voice? ……. Are we coming at it too soon? I mean are there too many wounds to be revealed at this point in time?”
Hazlett: “I think the Government has really put us into a hothouse situation and they are trying to force reconciliation, trying to manufacture reconciliation within the community and between the communities.
Churches and reconciliation: “But I think probably the most disappointing thing that we have found – and please don’t take this personally John – the most disappointing thing that we have found in our work is that – if we accept a definition of the church as being the ‘community of reconciliation’ – there hasn’t been one clergyman or minister who came into our office to find out ‘who are you, what do you do, what can I do to help?’
“There hasn’t been one. The people [ministers] who have been in our office have been invited by us, but nobody came in from any of the churches, not one single one has ever come and said ‘Look, can we help you, can we support you? Can we do anything for your members who are also our members?’ Not one single person. That is disappointing and the church is supposed to be… one of the definitions within the literature, would describe the church as ‘the community of reconciliation.’ It has failed. One of your colleagues …. a Church of Ireland minister was the reconciliation officer for …..Down and Connor, or Down and something….. And I remember asking him at a conference that we were at, back in April I think it was: ‘do you know of any church that not only preaches about forgiveness but practises it?’
Reconciliation an ‘elitist enterprise’: “And he drew back and he thought and I said… ‘the fact that you have to think about this has given me the answer. I mean this is the church, the Christian church. And then he did say ‘there is only one church that I know that practises what it preaches and that is the Mennonite church in America.’ That was the only example that he could give! Now we are supposed to be looking up to the church and to the church leaders on the local level as well as on the macro level. We haven’t been given anything that would make us want to contact the churches to see can they even work in partnership with us, because the whole reconciliation thing certainly in Northern Ireland is very much an elitist enterprise. It is ministers and clergy from different churches, going off on their wee retreats and having their tea and their coffee and their buns and having nice wee chats coming back again. It is an elitist enterprise. The people in the grass roots are never asked or encouraged to get involved in that kind of thing, but maybe, more to the point, they are not interested in getting involved in that kind of thing, because the people that they would be going to drink their tea and coffee with and eat their buns and their biscuits are probably the very people who have been working with someone, who have been eyeing them up and saying ‘I wonder what I could get you’ and these would be the people who are now involved in the ‘reconciliation industry’ that has been created in Northern Ireland.”
John Clarke: “…: I would not take things personally…. Even remarks like ‘nazis’ washes off me. It has no bearing on me whatsoever. So I don’t get hung up on it. But in fairness you make a statement on the church and we are ….all members of the church I think even in terms of hierarchy, whether it is clergy who go off and have cups of tea and coffee with one another or whoever.
“I mean the church is a great mass and body of people and from a fairness point of view, their responsibility is to preach reconciliation, love and peace and I think …to that aspect of the church they are doing that, I mean we have had our church leaders dominating this in some way, but what is happening is that the great mass of people is not following. And then some groups we meet like your group and clergy cannot be expected to keep knocking on your door …It’s up to them to co-ordinate groups to go in and help you out….
Gamble: “…. a girl came to me at work one day and her mother just had her tenth baby and she said to me: ‘you Protestants, you get everything. You have everything made. You get all the benefits …”. I said ‘hold on a minute.” She lived quite near. I said ‘you live in the same type of house as I am living in and your father works in the same place as I work, the same housing, the same wages. There are five of us and there are ten of you so who is going to spend more money – to spend on a family of five or ten?’. But she couldn’t see that. She maintained that we had everything made. We were getting the same wages as her. We were living in the same housing as her. Everything else was the same. … I said ‘the only thing you can do is to have a word with your father about that, it has nothing to with me’.
Q.3. Arthur O’Connor (Trim): “I have sympathy for the gentlemen here, they call themselves victims – they were victims, they are now victims in Northern Ireland. But with respect there are victims on both sides. But there is no good in raking over the past, what’s done is done. It’s water under the bridge now, it’s history …I don’t like to pre-empt, call it what you will. But in the current situation now there seems to be, there are not as many shots going off. We’ll see what comes out of it. It’s been 35 years …. I think it’s time to bury the hatchet. That’s all I’d like to say.”
Raymond: “How can we trust the system? The system from the Good Friday Agreement hasn’t been fair. I think that is a big problem. It is not being worked fair.
“They’re trying to buy off the government in the Republic and in Britain. They’re trying to buy off the bully boys. It will never work. They have to show that they are sorry for what has happened. Then, we will move forward. But the intimidation of Protestant people against the Roman Catholic people in the North through discrimination of jobs took place in the South here as well. My people are all from the South. So we are going back on it again. So we keep hearing this thing. I will say that if the majority of Roman Catholic people or Hindu or whatever, and there was a minority of people any other place over the world, the majority always rule, whether it was fairly or not. We would think not, but that is the way things are. We didn’t take to arms. That would have been the easy thing. A lot of people don’t realise that. I find it very hard for us to keep our young people and for my father to keep our family. …….I come from a family of 12. None of us got a State handout in our life. My father came north and he was a farm labourer and reared us and put some of us through university…. We worked hard night and day. I went to night school for 5 years to get where I was. I wasn’t asking somebody else to do it for me. That’s what we’re up against. But there again I did cycle to Strabane with two Roman Catholics and three Protestants. Three Protestants and two Roman Catholics. That’s where we come from so talk about trust. We have to have it for each other. It is not one side.
“We are being dictated to, living in the North here, the unionist side, that we have to agree. The Irish government and the British government, they’re trying to push us into a situation. They won’t wait to see things happen in a fair way and they are not being fair.”
Arthur: “What do you think of the current police? Are they an improvement on the RUC or are they doing any good?”
Roy: “Can you hold on a minute? There are three other people wanting in. Julitta?”
Q. 4. Julitta Clancy: “First of all thank you for coming down and sharing. I know that when we were up with you a month ago, we spent a lot of time talking and listening and learning more and it was very, very important for us. Again we came away not knowing what to do. What’s the answer?
“First question – somebody mentioned the word ‘embarrassment’ – is it the case that former members of the security forces and the defence forces in Northern Ireland are more an embarrassment to government, to the unionist people as well? Do you think you are being left behind not just as victims, but in that it is kind of assumed that so much wrong was on your side and that is the perception among the Catholic community.
“Second question: do you think you could ever have a meeting like this or even in private, with a mainly Catholic, Roman Catholic group in your area? Do you see that day coming? Or that it can happen, that your stories can be heard by them and that they would be willing to listen or is that a long, long way off?”
Billy: “I’ll take the one about the security forces, the one that affects me. The security forces don’t want to know me. I am an embarrassment, as you say, to them, because they want to hide me out of the road. I am just a sore now. They want to let on that we never happened, that there wasn’t people who suffered all of this and hide it so that they can go ahead with their peace initiative … the police authority, the hierarchy in the police and the government are destroying this and trying to keep people from getting pensions for injury and duty pensions.
“They are sent to England to be assessed. They are not looking after the members at all. As long as you don’t get annoyed, you’re quite all right. Keep out of the road, say nothing…. This new police force now: I never was on the PSNI [Police Service of Northern Ireland]. I was an RUC man …. what has happened to the police force at the minute; it is just like a car. If you take the engine out of the car, it doesn’t go. When Patten came in, all the senior policemen and all the policemen’s experience, all grabbed their money and left. And now they have an inexperienced police force in there and they can’t cope. And all you have to look at is the criminality with drugs. Now the Special Branch comes in for a lot of stick, a lot a lot of stick through the years, but they would have been aware…..without any bother. People who knew who was around the corner and didn’t do it. So the police force at the present time has a lot of growing up to do in our country and drugs will be rife, criminality will be rife and the most important thing that I think.….was the disbandment of the RIR, the throwing of about 9,000 men …. on the street. …. Some will get into criminality and drug running. … I think there should have been a better way of handling this.”
Roy: “Hazlett, just briefly, because we have a few people waiting with questions, could we have a meeting like this in West Tyrone?”
Hazlett: “I had hoped over the last number of months that that could have been organised. But with statements coming from senior nationalists, I can’t see it. ….and I don’t think the membership would want to go down that road. That is sad, that is very disappointing, but again that wasn’t the situation of our meeting. We were hoping to go in a slightly different direction to that, but because of the turn of events and then with the letter today, that we will not be funded for reconciliation work by the Community Relations Council, that even throws it into greater jeopardy and without resources I can’t see how that will be possible at least over the next few years.
Roy: “Thank you. We are running short of time, Marion next”.
Q. 5. Marion Garland (Belfast): “I just wanted to say I too felt totally shocked by those statements from Fr Reid and I just couldn’t believe I was hearing right. I understand that. I just feel it would be an awful shame to let that put you off meeting with people of kindred spirits and people from the nationalist community. I would also say I have the concept that problems are to do with the church and I have to say that ministers and all the rest have a difficult job and they are human like the rest of us and so some do the job better than others. But I would like to mention the story of the Good Samaritan. I have been surprised many times in my life who the Good Samaritan has been to me and I think that is just great to feel that God can surprise us and I think too to just to try and keep our minds open. You might be surprised you know.
Victims Commissioner: “But the other thing, what I am really getting at is you know the way there has been a new Victims Commissioner appointed. I am just wondering would you find that of any help? What sort of help would she be?”
Telling the stories:” Also, just before I sit down, I just feel you must tell your stories, I think that’s part of your healing. You’re never going to be rid of these demons, let’s face it, but it has got to help others and it has got to be helpful to meet other groups and please, please do that. Thank you. …”
Hazlett: “The name of the new Victims Commissioner who was appointed I think at the end of September is Mrs Bertha MacDougal. We don’t know who she is. Now within the victims sector, I phoned all the groups. Nobody knows her…. A Victims commissioner I think is a good idea because we have needed somebody who would champion our cause and bring our concerns at the highest level of government in the hope that somebody up there will listen. I think the disappointing thing about it – and there has been a bit of controversy over this – has been the fact that that appointment has been done as – to quote from Mark Durkan – ‘a secret deal or a side deal, or a sub deal.’ There was no openness about it, there was no transparency about it, there was no consultation about it. It was the Northern Ireland Office, as it has been doing for the last six or seven years, telling the victims ‘we know best, we’re government and we will tell you who you are going to have and what they are going to do’.
“Now that’s the negative side of it. But we are prepared. I’m on public record through the BBC. We welcome the appointment of the commissioner. We are prepared to give her a fair wind. We want to see what she knows about the sectors. We don’t know anything except that she is a police widow. I think that is one thing that was said. She’s involved with a couple of groups we’ve never heard of, never saw them in any government literature….. But even with that we are still prepared to give her a fair wind. She is coming to meet with us in December. She asked to come to meet with us. The letter of invitation that I have for her, was written and signed by me, the envelope was addressed and stamped asking for the lady. It was sitting on the desk. Then her secretary rang and asked could she come to see us, so we thought now that’s good, that’s good. That was very, very interesting. We will have to see.
Definition of victim: “One of the down things of it was, in her first BBC interview she was asked what she understood a victim to be and she said that there are documents published by the government available to us and that is what she will be working to. Now that has been massively disappointing, because the definition of Bloomfield’s ‘victim’ is a catch-all definition. That means everything, that means nothing and the OFMDFM , that is the Office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister, their attempt at a definition is also a catch-all… And within our sector, that is the pro-British victim sector, we will not and do not accept that IRA men are victims the same way as we are. We will never accept that.”
Roy: “Time has gone very quickly, and what I am going to do is take four more questions one at a time. ….”
Q.6. Fr Pat McManus (Columban missionary). Re healing: “I belong to this establishment, the Columban Fathers. I have been a priest for 40 years and one of the most saddest things in my ministry was listening to the individual person in the privacy of a room talking about their wounds and their hurt and I in response trying to say something to make them feel better. And according to their testimony over the years, I have succeeded in doing that if only by listening sympathetically. I would feel terribly sorry for the people wounded in Northern Ireland as you have been if you look to Tony Blair or Bertie Ahern or any organisation to heal your wounds, because there is a healing that you need and you will only get it from God and from Christ and from prayer and God does not hand over to Tony Blair or Bertie Ahern or any organisation what he himself can do. So I would ask you to consider that we are all individuals and when it comes to pain and wounds, we need the healing that comes through prayer and Christ. Look there for that healing and don’t look for the healing that only God can give, from Bertie Ahern or Tony Blair. … My grandfather came from Northern Ireland and I have a deep interest there. I feel sad and frustrated when I hear everyone from every side exposing their wounds and looking for justification … because I can see there is no solution to that. Christ’s solution was forgiveness. We don’t get it by sorting out this is for you and that is for you. We have to rise above it by forgiveness and we need God for that. Now as regards the things which Bertie Ahern and Tony Blair can do, we must demand those and get them but don’t dispense with what Jesus Christ has told us we need from Him.”
Roy: “Thank you.”
Pat: “Can I say one further thing? I deeply regret the use of the word ‘nazi’ by Mary McAleese and Fr. Reid. If they were only aware of the numbers of people from Northern Ireland who gave their lives fighting nazism, and the sacrifice their families back home made, they would be more sensitive. But do remember the number of people from down South who fought nazism. … It was an unfortunate use of the word. Reverend Clarke is right, you can make too much of it. Fr Reid never said unionists were nazis. He said if you do such a thing, you are putting yourself in the same category but he didn’t believe that himself and he didn’t actually say that or believe that you are nazis. Mary McAleese has hurt you but she has also hurt other people. She gave a talk on child abuse by Roman Catholic priests – which was her right – but she went on in her talk to coin a new phrase and she said these priests are ‘social terrorists’. Coining that, it hurt us all. When we think of the pain and sacrifice, well I have endured in becoming a priest and in my ministry, I found that very hurtful and inexcusable from a person in her position and her education. … ”
Q. 7. “I’ll put it to you very clearly what I want to say. I sympathise with you, with the terrible atrocities that have affected your families. I honestly do. What I want to say is this: that partition – and going back to 1916, 1916 to me was a failure in many, many respects. It was a complete disaster for the whole island of Ireland and I can honestly say that. Looking over my history over the last years and years I have taken an interest. Now, the partitioning of this island and it was done really and truly we would say along sectarian grounds. Splitting Ulster … you’ll have the Catholics there and the Protestants there. To me that was horrendous, partitioning this island. Growing up in Ireland from 1955 onwards ….. the fact is Protestants left this State and went North. And partition disenfranchised thousands and thousands of Catholics the other side. We really had two states operating in a horrible fashion. To me that is the greatest tragedy for my generation.
“I feel the unionists in Northern Ireland are every bit as much Irish citizens as I am. And I would like them to feel like that. I cannot understand why they don’t feel as close to my side of the argument as they would to Britain or to Scotland or wherever. So why don’t they feel this closeness to us? I have always felt I was inferior in some ways ….even today when I hear unionist politicians speak they forget about us people down here. We do feel very much part of their pain. Sorry about this, I’m going on about this but I wish you would make the Good Friday Agreement work. I pray you do. I honestly do. That thing about the foreign minister and the border, distrust. You distrust the English Governments. I mean they have sold you out left, right and centre over the years. The IRA have done some terrible things and they cannot be justified. Of course they can’t. …”
Q. 8. Sean Collins (Drogheda): “Firstly may I say I admire you all for having the courage to come down, to feel comfortable enough about coming down here, telling your story. My experience in Northern Ireland is more centred around Belfast and the people I meet up there, particularly in the unionist community, who are living under the same threat. They are living under it from unionists. They are not living under it from the IRA. I sat at a table three weeks ago with three gentlemen having dinner and none of them were paramilitaries but I discovered the only person sitting at the table that wasn’t carrying a gun was me. They all had protective firearms because of their past, of the work they had done, and until we get all the guns out of Northern Ireland, as far as I’m concerned, for whatever reason people are carrying them for, we are not going to have any peace at all.
Dialogue with Catholics: “But what I would appeal to you is, I would appeal to you – to go back to Julitta’s question in relation to addressing Catholics in your own area, if you can do that at all, I really feel that is what you have to do. It is when you get talking to the ordinary people, you find the real fear that is out there. I often tell a story about when I was working with ….some people from both sides of the divide about three years ago…. I said to them ‘you’ve lived through the Troubles. Why should I try to tell you what troubles are all about? You should be able to tell me far more than I’ll ever know or experience’. But at the end of that day, which proved a productive day, some women from Ballymurphy in Belfast said: ‘if you are up in Belfast, would you drop up and have a cup of tea? Do you ever come up there and see us?’ And I said ‘I do and I’ll do that’. And then two women from the Village area of Donegal Road said to me, ‘we’d love to meet you in Belfast some day for a cup of coffee’. And I said ‘Yeah, that’d be great, wouldn’t it?’. Now I couldn’t possibly come to the house – they weren’t afraid of me going to the house because the IRA would see me. They were afraid that the loyalists would see me and they are people from your community who are living in fear, the same threats that you are living with, and I always feel until such time as you go out and talk to people…..
Politics: “Forget about the politicians. I heard someone say ‘Bertie Ahern is not going into government with Sinn Féin’. Someone over here said that is because Mary Harney would run him. Mary Harney’s party was set up 20 years ago to demolish Bertie Ahern’s party and they have been in government with them for the last 11 or so years! So Bertie Ahern will be in government with Sinn Fein in two or three years time. Mark my words, that is the way it goes. That is the way to play politics down here and it is the way politics is played all over the world and ordinary people in the street that just don’t even count. But … I am not asking a question. I am just making an appeal to you, if you can at all, talk to those people.”
Q. 9. John Marren (Scurlogstown): “The lady behind just said what I was going to say. I thought there was a wee bit too much negativity coming. I know that area that you are from, Hazlett. I know that there are elderly active groups working between Castlederg and Ballybofeigh. That is across the border, across the divide, and I feel that you talking tonight, you were sort of isolating yourselves and maybe that is why you are not getting the money and I feel you just should be open a bit more and a wee bit less negative about it. That would be better. And … about Fr Reid. You can harp on a wee bit too much about individual things like that. He was actually pushed very strong that night when I saw the whole thing on the television. Now what he said was totally wrong. But you must remember what Fr. Reid has done. He has played a big part in silencing the guns and all the people you hear of everyday on the radio, being shot by the IRA or the UDA or any of these. He took a big part in silencing that and he has done a lot for this island and for the peace I think. And I think it is a better place in the North at the moment for bringing up kids, than it was ten or fifteen years ago, thanks to Fr. Reid.”
Hazlett: “The man down here who raised the whole issue about partition. I tend to agree with you. I don’t want to fight with you. I want to agree with you. What I cannot understand is why did the people in the South of Ireland at that time want to break off from the rest of the British Isles? Northern Ireland wanted to stay part of the United Kingdom. People in the Republic wanted to move away from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
Billy: “My grandparents were from Donegal. And during 1916 they were taken round the house by the IRA at the time and there were attempts to ethnically cleanse them from the Donegal border but they stayed. But there is a funny thing too at the end of the day. They used to come at night with hoods with them and walk them round the house and threaten them with guns and all. But they always recognised the voice, it was the butcher that come to them the next day to sell them their meat! And my grandfather told that story several times. He … used to come in the next day to sell them beef. But they stayed in the Republic … they lived there till they were over eighty and wouldn’t move out. They lived a good life there. Only my mother moved north…. It might seem…. that we are always against the Roman Catholics. Hazlett said earlier in the night that we have a good lot of Roman Catholics in our group. I told you at the start I have very little religion and I belong to the group.”
Q. 10. “When you look at the history of Ireland, Presbyterians have always been the radicals that were going to lead from the front. …”
Billy: “We only have to go down to the Boyne, haven’t we, to see that”.
Questioner: “I’m sorry about the sectarianism and the people that brought this about. It breaks my heart.”
Roy Garland: “…. It just remains for me to thank everyone who is here and particularly to
thank all of our guests here – Billy and Raymond and Hazlett and Gamble – for coming here
and sharing so much with us. I think we’d like to show our appreciation.”
APPENDIX: West Tyrone Voice (WTV) – information
Extracts from the group’s information leaflet:
“West Tyrone Voice (WTV) was established in 1999 to meet the profound needs of the victims of terrorist violence in the West Tyrone region of Northern Ireland. These largely ‘forgotten’ people had no one to help them, voice their concerns, or support them in their darkest hours. The region where these victims live is bounded on the western side by the border with the Irish Republic, from where many of the terrorist attacks were launched and to where the terrorists returned after their task was completed. The region is mainly rural and agricultural, and covers an area of approximately 1800 square miles. In this area, people still live in fear. The group was formed after the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement was signed, and found its motivation in the outworking of the terms of that agreement.
Membership: “The main purpose of this grassroots group is to deal with the genuine concerns that many victims have, and to voice those concerns at the highest levels in society. WTV now has 530 members, with an additional 180 non-members with whom we work; this bulks up to some 2150 people with whom we have meaningful contact. Numerically, Co. Tyrone is the third worst affected area of N. Ireland – Belfast is the worst, and South Armagh is next. Per head of population, West Tyrone lost 26 people out of every 10000, South Armagh lost 37, and Belfast lost 48. WTV is non-party political, nor is it linked to any religious grouping. Members are drawn from both sides of the community. The group comprises families of security force personnel, where the breadwinners are no longer with them because they were murdered by terrorists, or are no longer capable of supporting the family because of injury sustained either on or off duty. This grouping would account for about 70% of our membership. On top of this are the many families who, as civilians, were caught up in terrorist attacks as a means of ethnic cleansing, the most notable of which was the bombing in Omagh town centre in August 1998, where 29 people lost their lives, and 270 sustained varying degrees of injury. Of the more severely injured, many of them will not be able to work again. In our area alone, terrorists murdered 128 people. Add to this a further 100 who were from the area but were murdered elsewhere in N. Ireland. The number of people injured physically amounts to 384, while those injured psychologically, emotionally and mentally would come to some 13000, based on the figures used by Sir Kenneth Bloomfield in his victims’ report. These atrocities have created more than 100 widows, 300 orphans, 236 parents who have had a child murdered, and many extended families who have been affected by the campaign of terror in our area. As our work continues, we are becoming aware of more and more people who have been diagnosed as suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), as a direct result of terrorist violence against them and/or their colleagues and friends. “
Meath Peace Group report, February 2006 Taped by Judith Hamill (audio) and Jim Kealy (video). Transcribed by Judith Hamill. Edited by Julitta Clancy
©Meath Peace Group
Acknowledgments: Meath Peace Group would like to thank the speakers and guest chair for coming to address this public talk and for giving so generously of their time. A special thanks to all who came to the talk (some from long distances), those who took part in the discussion afterwards and all those who have given their continued support, encouragement and participation through the years. Thanks also to those who assisted in the planning, organisation, publicity and recording of the talk, to the Columban Fathers at Dalgan Park for facilitating the majority of our public talks and to the Dept. of Foreign Affairs Reconciliation Fund for financial assistance towards the running costs of the talks and school programmes, and to the staff and students of secondary schools who have taken part in our peace studies programmes
The Meath Peace Group is a voluntary group founded in 1993 with the aims of promoting peace and the fostering of understanding and mutual respect through dialogue.