‘And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow’

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The weekend confirmation by Martin McGuinness that serious Protestants from various sections of the community are already involved in the ‘uncomfortable conversations’ on ‘reconciliation’ has empowered many people to go public.

If any Unionist wants to read a well presented logical argument for being part of those ‘uncomfortable conversations’ then read the words of Rev Lesley Carroll, a Presbyterian Minister from North Belfast.

She makes the case cooly and cogently challenging the philosophy informing the thinking of republicans like Declan Kearney. She writes:

“When it comes to this question about reconciliation and about whether or not Sinn Fein and their cohorts can be trusted I think there is a misconception about the meaning of reconciliation, or perhaps it might be better to say that there are different understandings of how reconciliation works out. So maybe there needs to be some unpacking of that notion done.

Alex Kane’s determination that he would be uncomfortable at the table suggests that everyone else is comfortable. That is, quite simply, not the case. In fact for me the very reason to be at the table is my discomfort.

So reconciliation is not for me something that happens before the talking starts but something that is held out as a prize which may only be a possibility, but a prize which is examined in the process of conversation which is seeking reconciliation.

Reconciliation is a journey, taken in bits and pieces. It is never a matter of one side in the process having got it all right before they started and entering a process in which others will be enticed over to the other side.

For it to be real reconciliation has to be a process to which people sign up in the knowledge that they have hard things to say – but also that there will be hard things to hear. So reconciliation is not an easy way out of the difficulties we are in as we reach a sticking point on the big issues, the smaller ones having been tediously but resolutely cleared away.

We will be in trouble politically if we do not address the big issues – the war and why it happened; the mayhem that we lived through and who did what that they shouldn’t have done; the dehumanising of each other; the torture, murder and corruption that was embarked on within communities never mind between them.

To those broad sweep issues, and there are of course many more, we have to say things like – Finucane; collusion; Stevens; settlement and majority decision. We have to be prepared for the time when we hold our hands up, each and all of us, and say that we have done things we should not have done and we have left undone things we should have done.

All of that happens at the table, not before we ever get there. So we need to be sure what is meant here by reconciliation. What I mean by it is that I want to tell others why it is they need to be reconciled to me – what they have done to break a relationship, what they have done to me, to my loved ones, to the community into which I was born, to my life and hopes and dreams.

But more than this. I have to sit and hear why I need to be reconciled to others – what my community did to them, why they felt they had to do what they did, how they justify it to themselves and cast me in a certain light to do it. Then, I suspect, that we will together have to face what has happened in our name that we never intended.

We will have to face the collapse of relationships that led to all kinds of immorality which was easily justified as part of the cause either of the war or as resistance to the terrorist threat. War is dirty and it makes a society dirty too. There is no innocence but equally there have been outrageous acts of inhumanity which some have carried out and which others have been struck dumb by.

We aren’t all equally bad. But no one of us is entirely clean either. The process of reconciliation will need all of that to be aired one way or another. It may not all be resolved but then that’s also part of the process. Each will have to be prepared to listen and to modify and to take on board. And we will have to attempt to construct a way out of it.

We will have to deal with what we can and decide what to do about the things we can’t deal with – record our history of those things and park them for a future generation or whatever. But a way out will have to be found and from time to time we will have to turn away from one another in the hope that a way will be found for us to turn back.

If that’s not what Sinn Fein mean then we will only know when we try it out and it may be that another opportunity to try it out won’t come our way again for a very long time. So I believe that Unionists need to deal with this by standing up and being counted, by speaking out and telling, by being big enough to listen and to argue and debate.

I believe this doesn’t mean giving it all away. I also believe that non-engagement is giving it away. So far Sinn Fein have got themselves up onto the high moral ground. So far they have only a few lightweights around them. And I don’t use lightweights pejoratively because the conversation is far from light-weight.

I mean that there need to be people with a political mandate there and if the unionist people haven’t mandated their leadership to get out and tell how it has been for the unionist community then I am not sure what they have been mandated to do.

I am convinced that Republicans have opened a door but if no one goes in they will have the high moral ground to themselves and that would be a pointless victory for them and an own goal for unionism. But somehow unionist leaders still need to be liberated to get involved and I am not sure how that is going to happen. Maybe it is the case that all Sinn Fein are interested in is their political goal but if there’s no real, relational resistance what are they to believe? What are they to believe about unionists and the Union?”

In writing the above Rev Lesley Carroll is challenging the Unionist community and it is for this reason that we are rightly focussing on what she is saying.

There is something unique about this current debate ‘uncomfortable conversations.’ It has started on the ground and is gathering momentum on the ground. This whole discussion ought to eventually fan out into major areas of debate on issues like education and help for lost communities, communities being left behind educationally.

Unionism alone should not be challenged. What of the unchristian behaviour of “ourselves alone” catholic grammar schools which for reasons of history are defiantly clinging to an elitist selective process.

Do those promoters of selectivity care at all about the fate of so many young Protestants, particularly boys, for whom physical barriers are erected to stop their gaining access to well financed and resourced schools right on their doorsteps?

How many of these so called catholic/christian leaders are throwing their doors open to the untapped talent of the children of their Protestant neighbours?

This is why voices like that of Rev Carroll are so critical because people like her, are of the people, and fearlessly think the unthinkable and ask the unpalatable questions with the right intentions.


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I am a regular contributor to discussion programmes on TV and radio both at home and abroad. An experienced political editor and author specialising in Politics, Security and 20th Century Art.


  1. Gerard Foster on

    I believe that we need to be having these conversations, even push them to see where people are coming from and that they are genuine. 
    But I still can not get away from thinking that the Provisional Movement are not genuine, but are pushing from a political angle. One of the reasons I think like this when it comes to reconciliation, it is not only between Protestants/Unionism/Loyalism and Catholic/Nationalism/Republicanism, but also within our communities. I see no attempt at all from the Provisional Movement to reconcile within the Nationalist community. The hurt and pain that was caused within is not being dealt with at all, by any group. 
    As a former INLA prisoner, I know that we in Teach na Failte, have asked to meet Coiste over the last number of years, around the issue of the treatment of INLA prisoners by PIRA prisoners and there has been no response at all. 
    Also I know of no efforts by the Provisional Movement to open debate with families from Nationalist areas who lost loved ones because of PIRA actions. This is the main reason I believe the Provisional’s are playing it politically rather than honestly.
    But this is not a one way street.Recently I attended an event held in Belfast which was run by people from a UVF background, nobody from a UDA background was invited, I actually pointed this out to a leading Loyalist openly at the event, and he said that it was true. Republicans and people from other backgrounds were invited, but not other Loyalists. 
    To my thinking this shows that there are plenty of parts missing in this reconciliation debate, what even if we do achieve reconciliation between the 2 sections of the community, what are we doing about “our own people”? 
    Reconciliation with the past events will have to include people from “our own community”. When I see the Provisional’s attempting to deal with the hurt and pain from within, then I will say to the likes of Alex Kane “Give them a try, they look genuine to me”. 
    As I said I am from an INLA background, within Teach na Failte we have been trying to deal with our own issues of the past, it is really difficult, even hurting, but we are trying to sort ourselves out before we go to other people on the reconciliation issue. I have worked with people from the Unionist background for years now, but that is around other issues, I have even worked with people from the Unionist community who have lost loved ones because of Republican actions, but this was not reconciliation work.   
    I know other people who have been doing reconciliation work for years now. This is not new at all. If the Provisional’s think this is new, then they need to talk to the people who are already at it. They know about this work, yet have still to take part in it, why have they not if they are genuine? 
    Is it because they are playing the political card and not the genuine one? 

    • Hi Gerry – Hope you’re well. You raise a lot of questions in this post, and you come to a number of conclusions – leaning very much towards the view that the Kearney initiative is a political play/ploy rather than a genuine enterprise designed to heal. How would any of us know at this early stage? The conversation is only beginning, and we don’t yet know its structure or shape. If it is a game – and I don’t believe it is – then it will be found out. I said on radio on Monday that those from the Protestant/unionist/loyalist community involved in these talks are not fools; they are not going to be tricked by some fancy word play. I agree with you that there is much to be discussed within communities, inside organisations and across the communities. I reported on many of the INLA feuds, and on the loyalist feuds that post-date ceasefire and political agreements. Here we witnessed the pressing of self-destruct buttons. The IRA have huge questions to answer within the republican community; take just one issue, “the disappeared”. I was the journalist the IRA dictated a statement to in 1999; saying a number of the graves had been identified, and yet 13 years later some families are still waiting. So, we can all agree there is much to be discussed and debated and decided. All of that needs a  process, and it needs someone with no emotional attachment to the events of the past decades here to find out what is possible; what information is available from the many different sides, and what structure can be used to process and share that information. In the meantime, and afterwards, people should still continue with their story-telling and experience sharing. I don’t think anyone is trying to create a super process that stamps on or tramples over that important work that both you and Alistair Little have described. This doesn’t have to be one or the other, it can be both.


  2. Alistair Little on

    Alistair Little


    I listened to Declan Kearney on the Stephen Nolan show this
    morning and became more convinced than I had been of the games that are being
    played around this whole debate about saying sorry, it was painful to listen to
    and also sad.

    There is little doubt in my mind that there is a political
    agenda behind Declan’s need to push this debate forward. The attempt to goad
    Unionist politicians into the debate by constantly asking them what have you to
    fear is nothing more than an attempt to appear to be leading the way (more

    Despite what others have said about this being a new initiative
    there is nothing new about it. These conversations and the hard work have been
    ongoing for years and with each passing year the number of people on the ground
    getting involved has increased.

     It is also interesting to
    read and hear the shallow acknowledgments by some that it is ok to have
    concerns and doubts and in the same breath talk about those who will always be
    skeptical or cynical. I supported and still do support the peace process with
    all it’s flaws but I have friends who don’t for very understandable reasons;
    these friends have been accused of not wanting peace because they disagree with
    what is going on inside Stormont and I can see some of that thinking taking
    root regarding this debate.

    I posted on this site two days ago and following Eamonn’s
    reposting of Rev Lesley carroll’s post I am reposting my own words and maybe
    despite my skepticism I will get an explanation as to what ‘authentic’ reconciliation
    is meant in the context of this debate.


    ‘Authentic’ reconciliation, what do those who use this language
    mean? If it is suggesting that what has passed, as reconciliation work to date
    has not been authentic then give examples. 
It sounds wonderful but what will
    be different from what has taken place to date?
What has not been authentic
    about what has taken place and what have the millions been spent on?

    Who has been engaged in the inauthentic reconciliation work to
    date and why and by whom has it been funded?

    On the one hand we have calls for political leadership,
    especially from the Unionists regarding reconciliation and claims that there
    will be no reconciliation or moving forward if they do not engage. While it has
    been my privilege to have experienced and worked along side a number of
    republicans in their attempt to create meaningful and challenging encounters
    with PUL community; they or their leaders, are by no means leading the way on
    the issue of reconciliation, and a few welcomed statements doesn’t change that.
     On the other hand there are those who are saying that unless it is
    desired, inspired and owned by grassroots it will not work.
The reality is that
    the reconciliation work began before and has been ongoing since the ‘Good
    Friday’ agreement.  It has been inspired and driven by those who represent
    the grassroots, and has been way beyond anything politicians could even imagine
    or have had the courage to step up to, until recently. Now they are playing
    catch-up. Although listening to the media one could be forgiven for thinking
    that going to sports events and singing off the same hymn sheet has shown the
    leadership that everyone else needs to follow.

    Anne Cadwallader said “Until we as a society have faced up
    to what we all tolerated, there can be no reconciliation…”  What
    does this mean?

    Anne also said “Many who were key players in the conflict
    have extricated themselves appearing squeaky clean when we all know their hands
    were amongst the most dirty.”  Who are you talking about Anne?
     Do we (society) all know the ‘players’ whose hands are amongst the
    dirtiest, and how are their hands dirty?

    Emaonn, when are the media going to stop being afraid to press
    home the failure of the political parties to take the debate on reconciliation
    seriously? I have often sat and listened to interviews being carried out on
    these very issues and time and again the media let the politicians off the
    hook. It’s hard not to believe that journalists have been instructed by their
    editors not to take it too far. It reminds me of two journalists that told me
    if journalists were to tell their stories it would rock the peace process, or

    A bit like these secret/private meetings Barney refers to,who
    gets invited and who doesn’t or the avoidance that takes place on this blog to
    actually be a little bit more specific or answer those who are willing to
    challenge and voice a different opinion. It is good to be aware that the
    ‘wisdom’ doesn’t always lie with the crowd, group or party-line. 

    Alan McBride asks “what was pure hatred and what was
    politically motivated?” As if they are unrelated or that one didn’t often
    grow from the other.  What about the publicly funded organisations that
    openly talk about being inclusive and have their secret meetings to discuss how
    they can prevent former prisoners applying for advertised posts because ‘we
    don’t want any of them employed by (…..).  

    What about those who were involved in the paramilitaries or
    those who engaged in rioting and then withdrew and disengaged from those
    relationships and activities? There are many such people who would have others
    believe that they weren’t that involved, it was only recreational, or I was
    only a paramilitary for a short time and then got out. What about those who
    were influenced by their involvement and joined-up as a result and grew to hate
    or kill?  What is well known is that many young men followed what they saw
    others around them doing and became deeply involved in the conflict.

    What about the school teachers who wore UVF badges under their
    collar and flashed it to young boys they were responsible for educating?

    What about the church elders who responded to Loughinisland by
    saying “well if they get a bit of their own medicine they can’t

    What about the business men and women who came to paramilitaries
    looking them to ‘deal’ with those who were causing them problems and offering
    to make a contribution if something could be done?

    What about the Unionist Politicians that said they were limited
    in what they were prepared to do for you because they were unwilling to talk to
    the “Fenian bastards”?

    What about the police officers who in response to being told
    that they would be safer now that there was on IRA ceasefire said “fuck
    the ceasefire we will loose money, our over time will be cut”

    What about those engaged in peace-building who hide information
    from others in order to hinder their attempt to get resources to support people
    in need? What about those peace-building organisations who back-stab and
    denigrate their fellow peace-workers in order to secure funding.  There
    are organisations who keep their members dependent and disempower them by
    speaking for them, and only allowing their members to speak openly when they
    can control everything those members say or those who double-count their users
    to keep the money rolling in.
What about the police officers attending
    workshops and being told when they get there that they can’t tell their full
    story because some people present might get angry?

    I and many others have experienced a viciousness and darkness
    within the peace-building world that many would say only exited and lived
    within the world of the paramilitaries.

    What about those involved in peace-building simply because it is
    expedient or those who still believe in the use of violence if it is necessary;
    they say all the right things but there has been no transformation of the
    heart, no desire to engage with the other beyond the job. Or as I already
    indicated those who are happy to roll out the ex-prisoner to give a wee talk
    here and there, looks and sounds great for funding but don’t want them to be a
    part of the organisation. 

    What about those ‘peace-builders’ that attend their cross
    community events and no sooner leave the event head back to their ‘own camp’
    and totally rubbish what took place, yet they add the experience to a glowing
    report of their valuable, meaningful encounter.

    What about those who carry out evaluations and bury any
    questionable or disturbing findings to make sure they produce just the right
    kind of evaluation they know is expected of them and thus ensure future work.
     There is a difference between something not going according to plan or
    learning from mistakes; and we all make them, how could we not, peace-building
    by its very nature requires a high degree of risk. I’m talking about a
    fabricated reflection, a limited (if any) analysis of what really took place
    and the outcome being set before the evaluation began.

    What of those evaluators with integrity who do expose what they
    find in their evaluation only to have it buried by the management so it doesn’t
    see the light of day. 

    If all these types of issues are what is meant by a lack of
    ‘authentic’ reconciliation – then please say that, be more specific, and then
    an authentic discussion of the issue can take place.
There are many more
    examples of the ‘Dark Side’ of peace-building that I am told on a regular

    Barney Rowan is right, as are others when they talk about the
    conflict being about more than Loyalist and Republican combatants and
    prisoners, but again, it is time to be more specific.

    We need to challenge and move beyond the sound-bite culture that
    is being forced down our throats in order to create sensational headlines,
    debates and shallow analysis that generates more heat than light, that
    reinforces prejudice and stereotypes and strokes the ego of the media world in
    general. One thing we sorely lack is a quality TV or radio programme that
    allows for in-depth dialogue and analysis that is not about simply trying to
    catch people out or play people of against each other for entertainment

    I am all too aware of my own lack of courage, my own prejudice
    that constantly raises its ugly head, of the darkness that lives within. Of the
    need for deeper understanding and honesty, and how often I fall short of the
    promise I made to myself in prison; to always try to be true to myself, to
    think for myself and to never again allow others to do my thinking for me or to
    tell me what to believe. However, I do know that I could not have changed
    without the help of others, and I still need the help of others to be in
    relationship with those I am most familiar with, and those I would not
    naturally choose to be in relationship with. I need those I would have called
    the enemy and even hatred if I am ever going to truly understand my experience
    of the conflict and what really took place here; that is not easy, in fact it
    is exhausting, but it is also liberating and valuable. 

    There are those who talk of dealing with the past and ‘Truth’
    recovery or information process but there are many who are less interested in talking
    about the things I refer to above like when I refer to the teachers or church
    elders or the Unionist politicians. I here it often from the TV and radio
    presenters “your going away into the past times have changed but when it
    comes to paramilitariesformer prisoners it is often a different attitude. If
    we are going to ‘deal with the past’ whatever that means then it will have to
    go to places that few will be comfortable with and many might want to stop
    along the way.

    So I wonder where this call for ‘authentic’ reconciliation will
    take usme, I wonder if those engaged will want to sweep it all under the rug,
    maybe too many people have too much to lose, reputations, jobs, friends, egos
    being dented, maybe we won’t like what we find and we will want to bury it or
    rewrite it.
It is difficult to engage in conversation about ‘authentic’
    reconciliation as Declan Kearney called for, and now Harold Good and others
    seem to have picked up and run with without much of an attempt to explain what
    they mean. I know one thing for sure, when I did challenge some of the comments
    being made it wasn’t well received at the time in fact it was avoided as I
    notice other challenging comments were, like Jackie McDonald’s to Alex Kane
    regarding where all the ‘bad people’ come from and where all the blame should
    be placed.

    If we can’t have an ‘authentic’ discussion on this forum, by
    going into detail and depth, being more specific, responding to and exploring
    the challenges and questions raised, then what hope do we have of understanding
    and really experiencing ‘authentic’ reconciliation.
Unless of course we buy
    into the strange notion of contributing to a blog and then saying that this is
    not the place to discuss these deeper matters we need to hold those
    conversations in private. I don’t buy that excuse, feels a bit too much like
    control, and although it’s claimed some conversations, questions are too
    sensitive to be so open. I understand that often needs to be the case in
    sensitive and delicate negotiations but this is supposed to about engaging more
    people and ‘New Conversation’ that break us out of the ‘Old Ways’ not following
    other peoples’ agenda where everything needs to be choreographed for maximum

    Alistair Little. 

  3. Never heard of Rev Lesley Carroll before the weekend, but having read her thoughts above, I would suggest her beliefs on reconciliation should be framed and on the desk of all of our politicians as a guide.
    As for Alistair Little’s contribution, my kindest thought would be – waste of effort. Suggest you do 100 lines of Rev Carroll’s tome.

    • Alistair Little on

      I agree with you Sherdy, there is a lot of value in what Rev Lesley Carroll has said.
      However, your contribution simply highlights one of the problems I refer to which is that you fail to be specific. I am not really interested in you being kind with your thoughts, there is very little if anything to learn from that. It would be more valuable if you just said what you thought and included some analysis of the issues. It would also be helpful if you could show a little courage and stand over what you have to say by using your full name. I don’t usually respond to people who don’t use their full name and I thought that was how this site operated, but I wanted to agree with your comment regarding Rev Carroll.

  4. Gerard Foster on

    So Sherdy, The Rev. Carroll has it totally correct on reconciliation? I would go one further then and say then maybe we should have her beliefs framed in placed in all our homes………. 
    Alistair Little’s contribution is a waste of effort? I hope you can explain what you mean by that, which part of what he wrote do you think he has got wrong, or from what I see from your post, he has it all wrong? 
    To heap praise on one poster and then totally dismiss another, without explanation leaves me wondering what was the reason for your post. Surely Alistair Little’s post deserves a more thoughtful response than your effort…………………

  5. Gerard Foster on

    Hi Barney,
                  The main thrust on my point was why I do not believe that the Provisional Movement are genuine, but political. 
    You heard me say in Stormont last week, while I was talking about the work I am involved in with people who have lost loved ones, that it is work that goes on at different levels. So I do not disagree with you when you say “it doesn’t have to be one or the other, it can be both”, except I believe there are more than both. 
    Yes, one of those levels is political, at that level it is about making politics work. But at that level it does not have to be genuine, politics they say is about making deals between party’s, to find the middle ground.
    At the human level, and dealing with people who have lost loved ones, there is no middle ground. You can only be genuine in your efforts. I believe because the Provisional’s are dealing with this issue at a political level they are looking for the “middle ground”.
    You ask “how would we know at this early stage” if they are genuine or not. For me it is simply my life experience of them, and not just being in prison with them. To me, there is always a political agenda, they are always looking for political millage out of any moves they make.
    You also said that “The conversation is only beginning”. Maybe it is for them, but for others it has been going on for 10 or more years now, and at many different levels. 
    The people from the Protestant/Unionist/Loyalist community, who are meeting with them, are “not fools” as you stated. But you do not have to be a fool to be fooled……. My only warning to them is to look for the hidden agenda, all my experience of them tells me there is one.
    Of course there is work to be done within our own communities. I am not trying to say that the INLA have not bridges to build in our community, I said we are finding it difficult and even hurtful, to do this work. I am not trying to say I have all the answers to the past hurt we have caused, I don’t. 
    What I did say was that the Provisional Movement do not seem to be doing it within the Nationalist community,  though I stand openly to be corrected,and seem to think that reconciliation is only with the Unionist community. Until that work is done, or at least attempted to be done, why should the Unionist community believe they are genuine? 
    I see no bridges being built between Republican groups, yes there is working relationships, there is work going on around a number of issues, but I do not see any work being done about the issue of people in Nationalist areas who lost loved ones or suffered because of Republican actions.
    Maybe it is easier to reconcile with “the enemy” after all, and our “own people” will continue to live with a different kind of hurt, that there is no reconciliation for them? 

    • Gerry, let’s not lower the bar in the healing process. Let’s not just have reconciliation with “the enemy”, and let’s reach higher and do the best that can be done. That’s the challenge. And let’s also remember that those who you think are playing politics, have been hurt as well.


  6. johnhowcroft on

    There is a lot of talk about the hidden-agendas
    certain people come to the table with, that can get conveniently stuffed under
    that table and hidden from view, that colour conversations, and mask true
    intentions.  And whilst I understand and
    acknowledge the suspicions, mistrust and fear that exists out there in the real
    world, and also the experiences that have shaped those particular responses, this
    in itself is reason enough to continue the conversation, as it best evidences
    the need.

    As people, we invariably make
    sense of new experiences that we are offered, through accessing the catalogue
    of previous experience we have collated, and these provide the baseline for
    developing an interpretation, understanding or analysis. Yet if these previous
    experiences, as our unique frame of reference are damaged, as they often are, any
    measurement becomes invalid. If the lens we apply to these conversations are
    clouded with these emotions, then it is precisely those things that we will see
    and magnify through that lens. Is it possible to come with a clean lens? Probably
    not, but at least be aware of the particular lens we are gazing through, the
    imperfect view that it often gives us, and at least try on other lens to see
    what their viewpoint is or determine what obstructs it and us.

    Lets also acknowledge, that it is
    not just those ‘other’ people that come to that table with an agenda attached,
    the truth is we all do. To focus on the agenda of the other person, somehow
    implies that we are clean and come with no baggage, objective, viewpoint or set
    of external pressures applied, within some sort of diluted version of who we actually
    are. That is not how the real world works.

    • Alistair Little on

      John, it is always good to read your comments and I agree with you that we all come to these things with our own experiences and views, which are tainted to some degree.
      I know only too well how difficult it is to move beyond our own prejudices, our pain and our fears. I know how important it is to be willing to take risks in order to deepen our own finite understanding, not only of of our conflict, but of each other and I know we need each other.
      None of these realities have ever prevented me from engaging with republicans or from moving way beyond my known world to the unfamiliar, no matter how frighting that may have been, and I am sure I will continue to do so.
      However, when people talk about ‘new conversations’, ‘authentic’ reconciliation and saying sorry, (language carefully chosen) and then when asked to explain what they mean, they either tell you not to get caught up in specific words, or they can’t even be bothered to answer those questions. I also know that there were people thinking about who they could invite to conversations, and then changed their minds because they didn’t like what they heard.
      There were others who talked about the importance of everything needing to be choreographed – which is plain to see.
      It is also interested for me to hear those that say if political Unionism doesn’t engage then reconciliation will go nowhere. I can only say that it wasn’t political Unionism that achieved the ceasefires, and it certainly hasn’t been political Unionism that has lead the way in the difficult and valuable work that has been taken place in working class PUL communities. Had we waited on political Unionism to engage in reconciliation work on the ground then few if any of the significant relationships between republicans and loyalists would have developed and we would be in a much darker place.
      I have to tell you John, there are not many PUL that I am in touch with that are convinced to date that this is the beginning of a genuine process, I really do hope they and I can be convinced.


      • johnhowcroft on

        i know, and have witnessed first hand, your contribution to ‘authentic processes’ that are focussed on ‘reconcilliation’ and ‘dealing with the past’, often at a very human level, and the nature of the work means it often has to remain under the radar and without fanfares attached.
        I recognise the integrity and honesty you bring to that, and the ability to tackle  difficult questions and responses in a measured way, with cognisance to the emotions and suspicions etc that provide an undercurrent to those conversations.

        you are right at wanting to explore the meaning behind words like ‘authentic reconcilliation’, its a valid and important question that is seeking substance to faciliate understanding, and it should be answered, but we have to also recognise that this may be just the first seeds of a debate, and whatever the answers are will be shaped by many voices, by testing our own understandings and contributing to others, and whilst i know too well the contribution of Loyalists/ Loyalism to many of our key milestones within the peace-process, ‘Political Unionism’ needs to be a voice within that, as does all stakeholders.

        If we think back to the tender beginnings of the peace-process, to my recollection, there was not many convinced of the genuineness of many contributors to that process, and indeed many may remain to be convinced as you suggest.

        I welcome that yourself , and the many others you acknowledge, are open to be convinced, but it’s only by conversation, and by deed and acquicence, that being convinced happens. On this journey, none of us yet know the destination, and even if we did, it comes without directions attached. All you can really do is take your ticket.


  7. Gerard Foster on

    Hi Barney,
                  I take on board the point about those”playing politics” were hurt as well. Politicians were killed, injured and imprisoned during the conflict. Their families suffered also, I am very aware of that.
    I believe any political party who tries to start debate around any issue do so because they see millage in it for them, that’s what party’s do. If they see nothing in it for them they wont do it, why would they?
    So even if it was any other party who started this debate around “sorry” or reconciliation, I would ask people not to trust them as they as they have thought it out and see something in it for themselves. Even if it is just to catch other political party’s on the wrong foot.
    Yes, sometimes party’s can be forced into something they would rather not go near, but that is unusual.
    The Provisional Movement started this in March, I would be just as critical of any party who would start this debate. As I said before, I believe party politics are about give and take, the middle ground. I do not believe there is middle ground when it comes to people who have lost loved ones. All political party’s will have an agenda on this issue. 
    People need to try and find a way in dealing with out history, there is a political aspect to it and political party’s have that role to play, but when it comes to the victims/survivors aspect, it has to be done without any political agendas. 
    Politicians who suffered or lost loved ones have a massive role to play on this issue, but not as politicians with a political agenda, but as people who are trying to deal with their loss/hurt.