The real question and the big question at today’s Stormont event came when all the talking had been done.
It was asked from within the audience: “When will our records be expunged?”
There was no answer; not at this event and, I imagine, not for some time yet.
But it was a reminder that for all the issues this process has confronted, there is work still to be done; and maybe the hardest work yet.
This awareness-raising Stormont event focused on outstanding matters for political ex-prisoners – loyalist and republican; on travel, insurance and the question of employment.
We heard a recommendation from a review panel chaired by Queen’s University Professor Pete Shirlow for a change to fair employment legislation.
To summarise the intention of the proposal is to make irrelevant pre-1998 conflict-related convictions when it comes to jobs, understanding, of course, there may be “limited circumstances” in which this is not possible.
Professor Shirlow described “a messy policy landscape” and argued that ability and merit should not be overridden by a conflict-related conviction.
So, it is now over to politicians to decide.
Commenting on the announcement, a former IRA jail leader Seanna Walsh said: “It will be the first in many steps that we believe are required to take us from where we are now to equality of citizenship.”
He knows that in that political ex-prisoner world there are bigger questions yet to be answered, including: When will the records be expunged?
“We’re in a post-conflict situation by agreement between various governments and the IRA,” former republican prisoner Michael Culbert told me.
“The jails weren’t emptied as a result of the Good Friday Agreement,” the director of the project Coiste na nlarchimi continued.
“The jails were emptied of political prisoners.
“That’s the distinction.
“The British Government were able to do that and [for some reason]they are not able to say that those records will be expunged.
“That’s what we want,” he said.
And there are many others who share his thinking:
“If we are to address the complete legacy of the conflict and allow everyone to move on then it is a must that political convictions must be expunged,” Paul Gallagher of the INLA-linked project Teach na Failte told eamonnmallie.com.
“If this does not happen then the resulting factor will be that ex-prisoners will remain ex-prisoners until they go to their graves,” he added.
And this is a demand that stretches out further than the republican community.
“It’s not just about expunging records,” the senior UDA figure Jackie McDonald explained.
“Records could be expunged one day and then the HET (Historical Enquiries Team) or a ‘supergrass’ could come up with evidence.
“The HET would have to finish what they’re doing and the ‘supergrass’ system scrapped as well,” he said.
McDonald said he understood that “victims groups and people who have suffered throughout the conflict would feel differently”.
One of those people, Alan McBride of the Wave Trauma Centre, lost his wife and father-in-law in an IRA bomb explosion on the Shankill Road in 1993.
He believes the demands being made by loyalists and republicans amount to an amnesty, and that they should be part of a much wider discussion.
“Personally speaking I think all of that stuff is best handled when we have a proper process to deal with the past,” he said.
What we are dealing with here is part of the unfinished business of the peace process –an issue and demand that will touch on the rawest of all nerves and wounds.
And yet it is a question that has to be addressed – and, more than that has to be answered.
“It goes back to who’s guilty,” Jackie McDonald said – meaning those who went to jail cannot be left to carry all the blame for a decades-long conflict.
“Who are the puppets and who pulled the strings?” he asked.
Almost seven years ago, Seanna Walsh read the historic statement in which the IRA formally declared its armed campaign over, and, yet today, he speaks of “a sense of injustice and simmering anger” within his community.
“The people [security forces]who would have been locked into combat with republicans over the years have been awarded all sorts of compensation – they have been provided with all sorts of resources,” he said.
This he described as one sided.
And on the vexed question of records, and deleting them, he said people in his community needed to be able to say: “Well that’s it. It’s over. It’s gone and it’s a thing of the past.”
Michael Culbert added: “The former combatants in the British State side are lauded. We are being condemned.”
And he means not just the ex-prisoners, but their families also.
I put it to him that there will be those who will always define the IRA armed campaign in terms of terrorism and murder, to which he responded:
“A basic argument to those people is, your government came to an agreement with the IRA…it released the IRA personnel from the prisons.”
What he means is the Good Friday Agreement acknowledged the political context of the conflict.
But there is a question posed by Alan McBride – what was “politically motivated” and what was “pure hatred”?
And he is right, this demand about records is not going to be discussed and settled in isolation, but needs to be part of that wider exploration of the past.
It will require political will, and it is a huge challenge.
“With the early release of prisoners society has moved a long way to meet the demands of those previously involved in terrorist acts during the Troubles,” the DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson said.
“This has been a very hurtful process for the victims,” he continued.
And that opens out another question about how we define victimhood.
There were speaking contributions at this Stormont event from loyalists Frankie Gallagher and John Howcroft, which described the contribution the ex-prisoner community has made to peace.
Gallagher spoke of “the mortar that keeps the bricks together in the worst situations”.
And there was something else said by Gerry Foster who works with that INLA-linked project Teach na Failte; that dealing with the past is not only about what happens at a political level, but also at a human level.
All of us need to understand that when we speak about ex-prisoners, we are talking about people – about human beings.
It is far too easy to blame the conflict on them – the many thousands who were sent to jail.
What about those who didn’t go to prison – and not just in the republican and loyalist communities; but the many hidden players?
If these wars are really over – then the questions asked today need answers.
And we need to ask ourselves, for how long do we want to hold people as prisoners of the past, and are we as jailers doing so to absolve ourselves of any responsibility or guilt or blame?
I have just read Barney’s post. I will reply in a day or two after I take it all in.
Tough I would like to say that I was one of the speakers today at the event. I spoke about the work I am doing with those who lost loved ones because of the conflict. I mentioned that I was working with a project called “Journey Through Conflict” which is the project that brought me into this type of work.
I totally forgot to mention, probably because of nerves, that this project is the work that Alistair Little and Wilhelm Verwoerd have developed over the last 12 years or so.
There isn’t and there may never be an agreed or acceptable mechanism to deal with the past. Surely two things we have to work towards are securing peace and no more victims. Maybe instead of looking at the past we should look forward to those two important goals and work our way backwards to see the most appropriate way to achieve them. Whilst appreciating everyone else’s point of view and their reasons for having them,we are like a scattered jigsaw and we will never be complete until we agree some sort compromise or mechanism,a vehicle that we can all travel on,baggage free. I think today at Stormont Loyalist and Republican ex-prisoners showed great maturity and sensitivity as the delivered their respective presentations,and I’m sure many in the audience were quite surprised at what was being said,if only there had could be more parts of the jigsaw there to appreciate their efforts.
Jackie – we might be able to agree the mechanism, but the story of what happened and why will always be disputed. Any process should allow for all stories to be told and heard – for the many different ‘truths’ to be included. Yesterday’s Stormont event was important because it allowed the political ex-prisoner community a stage to tell part of their story. These events confirm the wars are over,they are an important part of peace building and what is said needs to be heard by a wider audience. You need more journalists in the room.
If the truth is ever told will it be told by all who need to tell it or will it ever be believed by anyone other than those who choose to believe to Barney? As I have said before the whole truth would probably destroy the Peace Process,because it was a dirty war and no-one who was involved in it can say their hands are clean. It’s a bit like living in the shadow of a volcano,you wonder what it would be like if it erupted but you don’t really want to find out. I agree we need more people in the room when hard questions are being asked,and I think yesterday in Stormont demonstrated who is prepared to give the most answers.
Jackie – you’ll know I’ve been arguing that we should stop calling it ‘truth’ – and work instead to build an information/explanation process, which will first require the huge question of amnesty to be answered. No side will come to the table if there is the slightest prospect of arrests and prosecutions. And I say again what you are saying above – the war was not just about republicans and loyalists and those who went to jail, a point also made by Anne in her first post on eamonnmallie.com
Listening to the debate re Girdwood and a shared future emphasises once again how necessary it is to find a mechanism to deal with the past holistically. Until we as a society have faced up to what we all tolerated, there can be no reconciliation or moving forward. As Barney says, 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. As for prisoners, take the example of one who was doing well at college, studying to be a social worker and funding himself by taxi-ing, until a police officer spotted him, challenged his licence and he went back to labourering again. How did that help anyone? But Alan McBride is correct too, a blanket amnesty without a truth process would be simply wrong, unfair to victims and break all international human rights standards. Those who say we will never agree on a truth mechanism need to remember how we said the same about a new policing service. The PSNI is far from perfect but it’s better than the RUC. We need to revisit Eames/Bradley and not allow the furore over the acknowledgement payment to reduce us all to gibbering wrecks incapable of moving on.
One wonders Anne when those in authority are going to take seriously this debate on reconciliation now seriously underway at grassroots level?
Eamonn – if you mean those in governments and some of our political parties, they will only take it seriously when they are made take it seriously. You know there is some talking going on in the background, and if there is to be a process, then it will grow out of those grassroots you describe. It will be interesting to hear what Declan Kearney and Martin McGuinness have to say on this at the Ard Fheis this weekend and then watch to see what follows on from there. But to answer the question you pose on twitter, those who are hiding the most fear this process the most – and buried information and involvement reaches out much further than the loyalist and republican communities. It’s not too hard to join up Jackie McDonald’s dots to see where he is suggesting all of this could lead.
Great to see the work going on in Norn Iron discussing these important issues. It is a fact that reintegration is a vital component of conflict resolution and principally the responsibility of the state and central government, as it is the state alone that has the necessary economic resources to deal with the issues. It would be good to see some serious political commitment to this end. It is also a fact that reintegration from the point of view of victims sometimes looks like rewarding the ‘men of violence’. But if the victims have been provided their own mechanisms for those who need them, they will have seen the peace dividend and generally understand the big picture.
It is interesting how positive experiences of some peace processes sometimes reflect poorly on others, when they are seen as a template to apply elsewhere. A lot of caution is required here. The Truth Commission worked in South Africa. It is evident that it will not work in Northern Ireland. I agree with Barney about scrapping the word ‘truth’ there. What it is about is actually reconciliation – reconciliation takes place in some areas right now, as we know but a big shadow hangs over other areas. I think one answer that should at least be considered is accepting that this generation should record their thoughts, views and sentiments and future generations might deal with the study of the matters with a lot less emotion. We Finns, as many other nations, also had a bloody civil war in the early 20th century. In our case the 2nd world war and a common enemy brought the nation together, but still the legacy and specific incidents has only properly been studied and discussed starting in the 21st century.
On Decommissioning, another positive experience in my view, John Darby has actually suggested that the N.Ireland legacy is likely to make decommissioning a more significant obstacle to progress in other peace processes. That is a slightly negative view in my opinion and if, say, a universal United Nations DDR (Disarmament, Demobilisation, Reintegration) process could be adopted as a norm for all peacemaking, then the firm acceptance of structured dealing with the weapons and equally importantly, reintegration, at some stage would give reassurance to the wider political process and build trust.
One of the big advantages of an independent forum like this one being provided on eamonnmallie.com is that people, like Aaro Suonio with international experience gets an opportunity to air an intelligent and historically informed position on reconciliation. Aaro was a witness to decommissioning in Northern Ireland. He is not talking idly having shared the changing circumstances as a resident here with his family. Thanks Aaro for your input.
The event in Stormont on Wednesday was around the issue on political ex-prisoners and the issue of these ex-prisoners still having to to put their “convictions” on job forms. Also the release of the independent review overseen by Pete Shirlow.
The part of the event I was asked to deal with was the work I am doing with the people who lost loved ones during the conflict. This work has brought me into the non-political arena, dealing with people without the politics.
Some of the points that Barney made about political ex-prisoners records being expunged are important. The prisoners want these records done away with, though I believe that is up to the people in London and not here, as part of their reintegration into the community. Though I believe it is also a political point that Republicans want, they see getting the records expunged as a way to get the British government to admit The Struggle was a legitimate struggle.
If the political ex-prisoner community want reintegration as a right, and I do believe we are entitled to it, I believe we also have to offer any help we can to those who lost loved ones, a bit of give and take if you like. I also believe it will help in doing away with the idea of “rewarding the men of violence” if we are seen to be trying to deal with the victim/survivor sector in a manner that is not justifying our actions, but in trying to help people who have lost loved ones. I really think we can not do this sort of work at a political level, as I believe it would sound like we would be saying their loved ones somehow deserved to die.
Integration can work at a number of different levels. One of them is at the political level, it could be argued how well this is actually working, but politically it will happen, though the Girkwood issue could be seen as either positive or negative, depending on your outlook.
But will it happen on the ground? Does the Girkwood issue show we as a community are not ready to integrate?
I agree with the remark about the state alone having the resources to finance the reconciliation work, but a part, maybe even a lot, of the work that needs to be done is with those who have lost loved ones, how do we as a society help make their everyday lives that little bit easier to live, and if a part of that work is for us ex-prisoners/combatants to engage with these people, then we in the ex-prisoner community should be ready to stand up to the mark at a level the victim/survivor community wants to engage with us at.
In responses to this post the contributions below have again stretched out beyond unresolved issues in relation to political ex-prisoners into the wider frame and questions of the past. In Friday’s opening sessions at the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis both Martin McGuinness and Declan Kearney have spoken about private dialogue with a significant group of people from the Protestant/unionist community on the question of reconciliation. That developing dialogue is a response to Kearney’s recent articles/interviews – which have been the focus of much comment and debate on this website, including contributions from the Sinn Fein National Chair. At the Ard Fheis, Mr Kearney said:
“A range of Protestant and unionist people have been engaged privately with myself and other party colleagues to explore our respective concepts, principles and language. They have come from within Protestant Churches, loyalism, business, community and civic life…I particularly urge political unionism to help us develop that dialogue.”
Former Methodist President Harold Good, a witness to IRA decommissioning, has confirmed his involvement in the dialogue, and on Saturday I will be reporting on others involved in the talks, including a number of contributors to this website. Watch this space.
I want to start by acknowledging all of the hard often emotionally draining work that has and continues to be carried out by former political prisoners both Loyalist and Republican. I have worked with many of them and while there has and will always be different memories of how things were and different analysis of how things are and different ways of working, there is no doubt, that many former prisoners have and continue to give much of themselves on our journey towards a better society where difference is not something to be feared but something that holds the potential to change and enrich our lives.
I have a deep respect for what they do. I am also aware that there are many people who have suffered greatly by those same prisoners and combatants and believe that such people should not be involved in peace-building at all. However, it is clear that the work of former prisoners has strengthened the peace process and created relationships that were unthinkable in the past and those relationships have saved lives.
It is also true that there is still much that needs to be done and in many ways and in many places around NI there is still along way to go before any sense of trust and respect will grow, former prisoners along with many others have a vital role to play in that work and there is still much learning to be gained and shared.
‘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?
Barney 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 Barney? 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 worse.
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 complain”?
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-builbing 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 basis.
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 purposes.
I am all to 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 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, 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 effect.
Hi Alistair – and welcome back. You’ve many questions for many people, and I will try to answer those you’ve addressed to me. Just for clarification, you attribute a set of words to me that are not mine, but written by Anne Cadwallader. You want me to be more specific when I write the conflict was not just about republicans and loyalists. As you know, I describe what happened here as a war and the security forces, Special Branch and Security Service MI5 were part of it. There are questions about agents – including at the very top of the UVF – what they involved themselves in and what they were paid for. Who decided handling policies, who set them, who managed them, and who monitored the managers? There are questions about agents inside the IRA, including ‘Stakeknife’ – one agent involved in the culling of other suspected informers, interrogating them and preparing and presenting them for execution. You have heard me use the words “the puppets and the strings became a tangled mess”. This is what I am thinking about – aspects of the often described ‘dirty war’.What happened in the 1980s when the British Government’s main military target was “the destruction of PIRA, rather than resolving the conflict”? What rules went out the window as these war games were played and developed? What was the political and social context in which the conflict occurred? Let’s think about not just what happened, but why it happened. How are the collusion questions people want the British and Irish Governments to answer best addressed? How do people get to ask their questions of politicians, security forces/intelligence services, churches, media and others? I know that individuals and groups have been involved in authentic reconciliation work for years, and that those people took the most difficult steps long before the politicians. But I also believe there is a need for a structured process that now attempts to answer questions at an organisational/governments/political level. Politicians will run a mile from that if they are allowed to, as will many others who would have those who went to jail – republican and loyalist – blamed for everything. It would be a scandal if they got their way. A comment forum such as eamonnmallie.com can raise the issues. No one is suggesting it can be the place where the biggest and hardest questions are answered. There is a past industry out there much of which goes round in circles. That can’t go on for ever.
While there is much discussion and diversity over the “HOW”, what I find hugely encouraging is the almost universal desire and agreement on the need for a ‘process’ (there’s that word again, but is there another ?) by which we can address the unresolved issues of the past and – more importantly – build a future based on ‘authentic’ reconciliation. I am quite certain that if and when we are able to accept the sincerity of each others intentions, the “HOW” will follow. Reading through these comments, and knowing many of the contributors, I know that coming from very different directions and out of their own very personal journeys they are well placed to help us in our search for that elusive “HOW”. Though some independent, objective facilitation would not go amiss ! This is what I found helpful in my friend Aaro Suonio’s piece (like your jig saw pieces Jackie !).
But as Barney reminds us, whatever the make or shape of any process, it will only work if it is desired, inspired and owned by the ‘grassroots’, rather than yet another solution which has been thought up and handed down from on high. As they have so clearly shown in the past, former prisoners will have an essential and distinctive contribution to bring to this conversation, so well illustrated in these comment pages. If they can trust the sincerity of each other’s intentions, why not the rest of us ? For without this trust as a starting point we will never get beyond the questions which keep repeating themselves to the extent that we become weary and dis-engaged – leaving it to others. So let the conversation continue, but with it something more than fine words !