Review 3 - Addressing The Past

EPISODE SUMMARY Dealing with the past A discussion on how to deal with the past was held as part of a concluding reflection on the Holywell Trust’s series of Forward Together podcasts. The panel was author Julieann Campbell, the commentator Denis Bradley (who was co-chair of the Consultative Group on the Past and former deputy chair of the Northern Ireland Policing Board) and Maureen Hetherington of the Junction, plus Paul Gosling who conducted the interviews for the 35 podcasts. This review focuses on the dealing with the past question raised during the podcast series.

FULL EPISODE NOTES

Dealing with the past

A discussion on how to deal with the past was held as part of a concluding reflection on the Holywell Trust’s series of Forward Together podcasts.  The panel was author Julieann Campbell, the commentator Denis Bradley (who was co-chair of the Consultative Group on the Past and former deputy chair of the Northern Ireland Policing Board) and Maureen Hetherington of the Junction, plus Paul Gosling who conducted the interviews for the 35 podcasts.

This podcast also includes a contribution from audience member Declan McGonagle, a former director of the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin.

We began by listening to highlights from the recordings.  Senator Frances Black emphasised that our communities are united in pain from the violence of the past and that the trauma is passing through the generations.

Mark Durkan, a former deputy first minister of Northern Ireland, argued that we can’t simply draw a line under the past, but we mustn’t endlessly pore over the past, nor glibly pass over the past. And we must recognise that some of the issues that are central to our understanding of the past – including distrust, accountability, evasion – affect attitudes and perceptions that continue today. The Eames-Bradley report had made clear that there could not be a ‘one size fits all’ approach to legacy issues.

Victims campaigner Alan McBride said he favoured Eames-Bradley as the best blueprint for dealing with legacy issues, but that the Stormont House Agreement was perhaps now our last chance of having an agreed approach to addressing the legacy of the past.

Former justice minister Claire Sugden expressed concern that our society has not resolved how to deal with past trauma. Conal McFeely, a community sector activist, argued that we have not learnt from the past and instead are repeating the mistakes of the past. Lord Robin Eames warned of the danger of re-writing history.

In the panel discussion, Julieann Campbell spoke of her work in telling the stories of women’s personal experiences during the Troubles. But she said that while story telling is important and that these stories need to be told, they also need to go somewhere and influence the future direction and policy.

Denis Bradley said that he stands over Eames-Bradley as a good report, but a lost opportunity. Its value was that it was a holistic report. One aspect that is now typically forgotten is that it recommended the allocation of £100m to go into trauma services

Maureen Hetherington spoke of her work on ‘testimony’. The community sector, she said, has held people together, but there is a massive need for more counsellors and more availability of counselling sessions for people dealing with trauma.

Declan McGonagle warned that the narrative of the past has become a re-fighting of the Troubles by other means. The consideration of what has happened needs to be framed not as dealing with the past, but as dealing with the future.

Denis Bradley responded that this will only be possible if the two governments – of the UK and Ireland – see the process as being about the future.

Julieann Campbell said that she believes politicians are sweeping everything under the carpet: “It’s a big carpet.” I added that my feeling is that Northern Ireland’s politicians focus on what they want to do, not on what they have to do.

This latest Forward Together podcast is available here. The podcasts are also available on iTunes and Spotify.
 
A further panel discussion will be included in another podcast to follow next week.
 
 Holywell Trust receives support for the Forward Together Podcast through the Media Grant Scheme and Core Funding Programme of Community Relations Council and Good Relations Core Funding Programme of Derry City and Strabane District Council.
 

This podcast is funded through the Community Relations Council for Northern Ireland's Media Award Fund and the Reconciliation Fund of the Department for Foreign Affairs. Holywell Trust receives core support from Community Relations Council for Northern Ireland. CRC Disclaimer - This project has received support from the Northern Ireland Community Relations Council which aims to promote a pluralist society characterised by equity, respect for diversity, and recognition of interdependence. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the Community Relations Council. (c) Holywell Trust 2019