Dear Dr Haass, Thirdly…

This is the third part of a Trilogy of posts based on a submission to The Panel of Parties, more generally named ‘The Haass Talks’. The blog post has the added advantage of being able to link documents and expand on a point here or there by way of detailed explanation that wasn’t possible with a hasty and brief submission written almost upon the submission deadline. Was the submission made with an expectation that it would have any influence? No. It was made because there are things that needed said.




Thirdly, matters stemming from the past.

With no coherent sense of purpose in moving forward, our politicians seem to regard the past as safer ground: albeit without an agreed notion of how to define ‘the past’.

The CAIN project based out of the University of Ulster provides useful resource in documentation and fact checking on the past number of decades in Northern Ireland. Of all the most recent thoughts on the past ARKIV seems to be the most reasonable proposal to address ‘history’, if that is what ‘the past’ is about. It is not clear whether there is an agreed definition of what is meant by ‘the past’, how long do we take the past back; 40, 400, or more years?   ditto, Matters Arising (stemming). Historical examination with as much unconditional information as might be available to a panel of historians, such as ARKIV, seems practical. This does not demand a single view; simply that facts, information and knowledge, even from a number of different perspectives, might enable better understanding.

We have all listened to Republicans talk about a ‘truth’ process. At the Bloody Sunday Inquiry there was the chance to uncover the truth by all, for all. Instead, Martin McGuinness declared the ‘IRA Code of Honour’ prevented him telling all.  The limited immunity in the search for’ the Disappeared’ has provided not more than half truth and lingering and forlorn hope for many families. Since the Panel of the Parties opened, the Smithwick Report has been published and some light shone on one event.

In any of all of these examples ‘the truth’, ‘the whole truth’, remains a matter of conjecture. Each circumstance severely strains belief in the value of information that may be offered without any means of verification. Few believe the sincerity of republicans seeking ‘truth’ for anything other than political advantage: a limited range of truth; ‘truth’ demanded, though so rarely offered. On that basis, no ‘deal’ could be trusted presently.

Mostly, within the Unionist population there is a desire to move on. Culturally, it is important to strive constantly towards ‘better’, a process of improvement and taking responsibility for individual actions in making a positive difference for future generations.

Is there individual hurt and pain from the past. Yes. That is only compounded by the lack of political leadership on the fundamentals of government. What was it all for? It wasn’t for bunch of politicians to sit on the hill at Stormont and sling playground jibes at each other, and to bully and exclude the people they don’t like; to demonise and estrange a culture from wider civic engagement.

Change? How? With elections only ever shuffling the deck, and never likely to change the pack, the prospect of political change is limited, and with it the attitudinal shift on which matters of parades/protest, flags etc/understanding might be constructively addressed. With major elections in 2014 and 2015 that will concrete political power into the next decade a wrong decision or poor judgement in talks, to a fickle electorate, might be damaging to party fortunes.

So what of the final outcome from The Panel of Parties? Just another Groundhog Day in Northern Ireland.

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