It was in this month a year ago that the Sinn Fein national chair Declan Kearney began sprinkling the seeds of a reconciliation initiative.
The setting was the Waterfront Hall and his party’s first ever Ard Fheis to be staged in Belfast.
Kearney urged republicans to step outside their comfort zones, “to take new and thoughtful initiatives in the interests of reconciliation”.
“We need to use new language and consider new compromises to reconcile our society’s divisions,” he said.
Then, six months later, he penned an article for the republican newspaper An Phoblacht introducing the word ‘sorry’ as a challenge to heal the hurts of conflict.
It sparked a debate – both internally and externally – about what was meant; the question, sorry for what?
That article, more than the speech a year ago, is what began the behind-the-scenes conversations with people from the Protestant, unionist, loyalist community;
People such as Rev Lesley Carroll, Rev Harold Good, the former IMC Commissioner Lord Alderdice, loyalists Jackie McDonald, John Bunting and John Howcroft, victims’ campaigner Alan McBride and others.
Those conversations, in terms of building new relationships and friendships, are, of course, important, but what progress is being made on reconciliation, on building a new future, and on answering the questions of the past?
One source – a republican – talked about “playing handball against a haystack”, another, this time in the Protestant community, describing political unionism’s response, talked about the flowers that are put in the bin as a statement of rejection.
So, there is still too much suspicion and cynicism attached to this initiative; a questioning of what the ‘Provos’ are up to.
Inside the republican community there is also a questioning of why Kearney and Martin McGuinness are saying what they are saying about Bloody Friday, Claudy and the Shankill bomb with no obvious or apparent reciprocation.
Credibility is being stretched in an initiative in which it seems political unionism’s only interest is questioning the actions and orders of McGuinness, Gerry Adams and the IRA.
Republicans also argue that narrow questioning of the past is found within chunks of the media; that, primarily, the focus is on what the IRA and republicans did wrong and the wider frame is ignored.
A future cannot be built on the sinking sands of the past, and unless there is some comprehensive answering of that past, then the future will always be unstable.
So, it is not just about Adams, McGuinness and the IRA; the questions to them and their answers.
It is about questions for everybody, all sides – republican, loyalist, political, governments, security, intelligence, media, churches and others.
It is about all questions or no questions. This is the choice, and the decision to be made.
If we want to quiz Adams, McGuinness and the IRA, then we must expect the return questions and be prepared to give the answers.
At a recent summer school in Cork and in the presence of Alan McBride, Declan Kearney said there was no excuse for the human loss and suffering caused by the Shankill bomb.
Amanda Fullerton was also part of that panel discussion. Her father Eddie, a Sinn Fein councillor, was shot dead by loyalists during a supposed truce in 1991.
That period of the early 1990s saw a surge in loyalist killings; by re-armed organisations using weapons smuggled and supplied by Ulster Resistance.
Yet there is nothing like the same political and media focus on those events; those killings within which the Fullerton story is a part.
In his party conference speech last weekend, UUP leader Mike Nesbitt said: “Whatever needed fixed in this country in 1968 or 1969, no one needed to die.”
Almost four thousand people lost their lives, many more were injured, and what happened, happened.
Part of this building towards a new future, has to be an examination of not just what, but why; an examination of that statement Mr Nesbitt made at the weekend.
If we go there, into that type of process, then it will be every question, for every side, at the same time, with the same rules.
The continuing Price/Adams saga on London bombs and the ‘disappeared’ shows the need for a structured process on the past; a process for every question and not just some of them.
The reconciliation talks are happening and continuing, but they need direction and focus.
This cannot become more talking in circles – talking that goes nowhere.