Soon decisions will have to be made on the Legacy consultations.
We shouldn’t burden families who lost loved ones with the responsibility of having to design or determine a legacy process.
Nothing that can be done or will be done will ever fully meet their expectations, whether in terms of justice, truth or information.
In a place where politics has been a part of the poison and a part of the problem, the shaping of a legacy process has been far too political.
A consultation on proposals, including a new Historical Investigation Unit (HIU) and Independent Commission on Information Retrieval (ICIR), ends on Friday.
Then, next steps will be decided at a time when a Conservative Government and Prime Minister Theresa May are hostages to the DUP’s votes at Westminster.
Outside of the proposals of the Stormont House Agreement, there is a conversation on a possible Statute of Limitations with a specific focus on soldiers who served here.
Such a narrow approach won’t work.
If there is to be a Statute of Limitations then it should be across the board and it should be linked to two key objectives – removing the threat of jail to achieve maximum information and answers for families and, above this, ensuring no repeat of the war years.
The conflict cannot be half over. A peace process cannot release prisoners only for a past process to send people to jail – no matter how small the number.
The former director of public prosecutions Barra McGrory says the process demands thinking from outside the box: “I worry that putting the emphasis on criminal investigation will hamper the quest for answers on behalf of the victims,” he told Sara Moore in an interview for UTV’s View From Stormont.
Answers, information, explanation, acknowledgement, accountability, learning – these should be the focus of any process. Reparations not retribution was how loyalist Winston Irvine described it in his contribution to the View From Stormont programme.
We have had years of scapegoating and narrow blame. Sending a few people to jail – whether republican, loyalist or security forces – is not addressing the past and should be no part of it.
This doesn’t mean we dump the package that is on the table and start all over again.
Sinn Fein MLA and Victims’ Spokesperson Linda Dillon is right that any such move would be “absolutely cruel”.
Information-retrieval, an Oral History Archive that should allow for the widest possible story-telling and experience-sharing and a reconciliation element are essential, and these things are already on the table.
The process adjustment that is needed is to allow for investigations, findings and reports that stop short of the sanction of jail.
We cannot bring back the dead and in the waiting for the past, critical living memory is being lost.
We will never hear Martin McGuinness, Brian Keenan, Gusty Spence, David Ervine or Ian Paisley give their accounts not just of what happened, but why.
The latter is what still frightens some – that going behind and beneath the headlines of the killing to examine causation.
Something happened here to trigger the conflict. We did not grow crops of bad people, but war is a filthy practice and many became involved as others cheered them on. This is the poison still in the system.
The past is still our present and will be our future unless we think outside that political box.
The veteran journalists Deric Henderson and Ivan Little, who edited the recently published ‘Reporting The Troubles’ included this dedication: “In respectful memory of the men, women and children who died during the Troubles.”
All of us challenging ourselves to respect all of the dead would be a significant start to that challenge of addressing our pasts.
Let’s save the next generations from the horror of the conflict years.