You need the truth to find reconciliation – A personal experience by Conall McDevitt

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We are not all to blame for the troubles. That is the first message I want to send those like Sinn Fein Chairperson, Declan Kearney who are suggesting that we all, somehow, have to share responsibility for what happened. What we do all share is responsibility for promoting reconciliation and building a new Ireland.

The second message I would like to send all those who have been talking about reconciliation is that real reconciliation and truth are two sides of the same coin. You cannot get one without the other. Former IRA and Sinn Fein leaders seem to suggest that this is not so. That is a disingenuous approach which will do nothing to transform our island or heal the divisions of the past.

I make this point because like many people in this part of Ireland, my life experience and family history have been shaped by the failure, over the past century, to build a reconciled island at peace with itself. I have also been part of Spain’s transition, another country which has struggled to find reconciliation following the Franco era.

I was born in Dublin six months after Bloody Sunday. I say this because my early years were lived against the backdrop of the early years of the troubles and a constant sense of conflict, seen through the lenses of a family which was, and largely remains, republican and socialist. We never supported the provisional IRA campaign in the North but we never trusted the British government either.  That mistrust extended often to successive Irish governments’ approach to Northern Ireland.

When the recession of the early 1980s bit hard, my family was not unaffected. With my father’s business lost, we decided to start afresh in Spain and arrived there on Good Friday 1982.

Felipe Gonzalez

 

Felipe Gonzalez was elected Prime Minister of Spain on 28th October 1982. I remember well my dad pointing out the PSOE (Partido Socialista y Obrero Espanol) billboards that summer. The slogans were ‘socialismo es libertad’ – ‘socialism is freedom’ and ‘por el cambio’ – ‘for change’.  At last he would live under a socialist government; something which he would talk about incessantly and infectiously. It worked. I was hooked. That election turned me into a ten year old social democrat, something I remain today 30 years on.

The sense of hope was palpable. The new beginning was everywhere. Looking back at some of the media coverage from that time, the whole of Europe was celebrating the change and the new Spain. The architects of the transition which had given Spain a new constitution and democracy could rest in the knowledge of a job well done.

It takes a ten year old about a year to become fully fluent in another language. I know because I learnt this the hard way. For months I could only follow the maths class. But by September 83 things made sense and friendships began to form.

The father of one of my friends knew all too well the perilous cost of principled activism in Franco’s Spain. He had spent time in jail in the 60’s for ‘political activity’ and was a supporter of the Spanish Communist party which I am told recruited 200,000 people in the year after it was legalised in 1979. He was also angry. It took me several years to get to the bottom of his angst. His dad was disappeared during the civil war in Malaga. One of an estimated 4000 to have been killed and whose bodies were never returned. He welcomed the transition of course. He loved the opportunities Francisco and I would have in the new Spain but hated the price his family was paying. They were just one of hundreds of thousands of families being told to forget by the new state.

La ley de la amnestia 1977 (Amenesty Law) was described by a Basque nationalist deputy during the parliamentary debate as an amnesty ‘from everybody to everybody, a forgetting from everybody to everybody’. As Madeline Davis reminds us in her paper ‘Breaking the Pacto del Olvido’ the law was passed by an overwhelming majority in the Spanish Parliament and was seen as a means of pardoning, forgetting and reconciling in the new Spain.  It secured the release of all political prisoners and prevented the prosecution of Francoist repressors.

Throughout the eighties Francisco’s dad was a voice in the wilderness. But as the nineties dawned the family began to ask questions. Slowly the new generation which had been given such opportunity during the transition were looking for the truth about their loved ones. The collective amnesia was wearing off for some although the political establishment was still not ready to revisit the compromises made in 1977. Felipe Gonzalez built schools, hospitals and a welfare system. His government kick started an economy and put Spain at the heart of Europe. It was a great decade for the many and for the young.

The disgusting dirty war being perpetrated against Basque separatists was still a secret dirty war and the ‘Pacto del olvido’ held tight.

SDLP’s Conall McDevitt MLA

 

I returned to Ireland in 1990 and, as Vice-President of the European Community Organisation of Socialist Youth (ECOSY), I first met John Hume at a PSOE election rally in Barcelona alongside Felipe Gonzalez.  Hume received a rapturous reception. His message of peace, truth and reconciliation, delivered to Catalans in perfect French resonated with the new Spain and Barcelona basking in the afterglow of a very successful Olympic games the previous year.

Little did we know that within five years we here in Ireland would be facing our own transition and the possibility of a new beginning. In Spain, Francisco became a doctor, the first ever graduate in his family and testament to the opportunities afforded to our generation.

In the early noughties the families of the disappeared found their voice. It happened somewhat accidentally after a journalist, Emilio Silva, from Madrid, whose granddad had been disappeared organised the excavation of a mass grave at Priaranza del Bierzo in Leon. It captured the imagination and secured the support of some on the left in politics. Within a year ARMH (la Asociacion para la Recuperacion de la Memoria Historica) was established and so began a process which would ultimately challenge the Pacto del Olvido and some of the central compromises at the heart of the Spanish transition.

What happened in Spain is not that Spaniards forgot the past but that a political decision was made to build a narrative which sought to suppress or de-emphasises memories which could be seen as destabilising or threatening of consensus.  They promoted the idea of reconciliation but the meaning of reconciliation was seriously skewed by the residual power of the right wing.

Bluntly, the price of peaceful handover of power would be silence about the past.

Whether you think about the idea of forgetting and some in Ireland think a lot of the idea, the fact is the Spanish experience has been challenged on two levels which are worth reflecting on from our position here in this northern region of Europe.

Following a referral by the ARNH the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances found in Aug 2002 that the Spanish political and judicial authorities lacked an interest in the cases of 30,000 disappeared believed to lie in mass graves around Spain. This ‘perpetuates discrimination against that part of the population who were considered defeated as a result of the civil war and constitutes non-compliance with its obligation to investigate and to guarantee a right to the truth’.

General Franco

 

Second, it spurred a group of progressive Spanish judges to challenge the very basis of the pacto. They argued that Spain had obligations under international law and under international human rights law and were  obliged to adhere to theses obligations.

I’ll leave it to the scholars to debate the extent to which the Spanish experience marks a new trend in so called memory politics but as an SDLP MLA, an Andalucian and an Irishman whose life has been touched by the survivors of Francoist, IRA, Loyalist and State murder I am firmly of the view that forgetting is not an answer.

The majority of those whom the IRA killed were Catholic yet they are practically forgotten in our peace process. Like Francisco’s family they are being told to get with the new beginning, to cherish the opportunities peace will create for us all. They are asked to accept a consensus that denies them the right to truth.

The case of Anne Travers crystallises this in many people’s consciousness. Her quiet dignity as she campaigned against the appointment of Mary McArdle as a special adviser, when it was known that Ms McArdle was involved in the murder of Anne’s sister Mary, has been inspirational to many who believe that victims of our troubled past should not have further trauma revisited on them and their families.

She also represents that forgotten majority of Catholic victims of the IRA who, as much as any affected group in the North, are demanding and deserve the truth as a major step towards reconciliation.

‘I get down on my knees and do what must be done

and kiss Achilles hand, the killer of my son.’

Michael Longley’s poem ‘Ceasefire’ quoted the Iliad and sought to capture the complexity of peace.

Many argue that we have peace but reconciliation is of course a further state, one which Spain is still struggling to find and which we must work urgently to achieve knowing that truth and reconciliation and inextricably are linked and mutually dependant.

 


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About Author

Conall McDevitt is the SDLP MLA for South Belfast. He is the SDLP's Party's Health spokesperson, sitting on the Health committee, and he is also a member of the Policing Board. Born in Dublin he spent his formative years in Malaga, Spain. He was Director of Communications for the SDLP in Northern Ireland from 1996 to 1999 a time that included the negotiations running up to the Good Friday Agreement, subsequent referendum and Assembly elections. He served as a Special Adviser in the first Power Sharing Executive in the North of Ireland, advising the Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development. He is a former Managing Director of Weber Shandwick and also a former Chairperson of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations.

11 Comments

  1. Hi Conall – I think you’re absolutely right – “forgetting is not an answer”. The next question, I suppose, is how do we achieve the answers from all sides. I get no sense that there is the political will to try to create the process that will be needed, and I think the governments are looking for excuses not to do this rather than for the reasons to do it. This is why I argue, not for an International Commission as a starting point, but for international facilitators to research what is possible in terms of co-operation from all sides, within what type of model/structure that co-operation will be given, what are the terms and conditions, and if there is an amnesty what answers and information will be given in return. The process that delivers the maximum amount of information is what is needed – forgetting or “drawing a line” are not and should not be options.

    • Thanks Brain. I dont know what structure or process would be capable of delivering true reconcilaition. I do know that unless there is a shift in the British Government and republican movement’s attitude towards the past any process will fail. Both seem unwilling to fully admit and take full responsibilities for their actions. Just look at the Pat Finucane case from the British perspective or Martin McGuinness’ evidence to the Bloody Sunday Inquiry by way of example on the republican side. No truth process will be creidble if built on an amnesty. Conall

      • Conall – I don’t think we can discuss amnesty in isolation. If there is to be an amnesty we need to know what will be offered in return in terms of answers, information, explanation and what is often described as ‘truth’. This is why I argue that before we put in place a process/structure we need to know who will participate and under what rules – and not just the State and the IRA, but the many other sides. That process should not just be about what happened, but why, and why it should never happen again. We need international facilitators to explore all of this, because if it is left to us, all of us, we will be asking the same questions in thirty years time and people will still be waiting for answers. International facilitators can determine how serious all sides are about a process.

  2. Hi Conall, a well presented and reasoned article which I agree with i.e. not forgetting.

    I’d actually go as far as to state it is almost impossible to forget especially in such a small, ‘incestuous’ island population as we are.

    My views on amnesty and the ‘mortar’ to bind an evolving process are well documented on this website but 1 factor I believe that adds to the lack of political will is the differing survivor perceptions (and I count myself in the survivor category).

    There are victims of Republican, Loyalist and State but they are diversely different in what they seek: some do wish to forget; some remember but are happy to draw a line in the sand and move on; some seek justice; some seek revenge while others still, seek truth. Such lack of cohesion and in some cases a complete lack of dignity ensures there will never be political will.

    I am unsure what facilitators are there. My own experience makes me look to Bosnia and some of it’s models. The thought of an International Body based on international humanitarian law which provides survivors an opportunity to voice the horrors of what they witnessed or suffered while having plug in’s on amnesty for participants seeking to explain truth is but 1 idea.

  3. Hi Conall, a well presented and reasoned article which I agree with i.e. not forgetting.

    I’d actually go as far as to state it is almost impossible to forget
    especially in such a small, ‘incestuous’ island population as we are.

    My views on amnesty and the ‘mortar’ to bind an evolving process are
    well documented on this website but 1 factor I believe that adds to the
    lack of political will is the differing survivor perceptions (and I
    count myself in the survivor category).

    There are victims of Republican, Loyalist and State but they are
    diversely different in what they seek: some do wish to forget; some
    remember but are happy to draw a line in the sand and move on; some seek
    justice; some seek revenge while others still, seek truth. Such lack of
    cohesion and in some cases a complete lack of dignity ensures there
    will never be political will.

    I am unsure what facilitators are there. My own experience makes me
    look to Bosnia and some of it’s models. The thought of an International
    Body based on international humanitarian law which provides survivors an
    opportunity to voice the horrors of what they witnessed or suffered
    while having plug in’s on amnesty for participants seeking to explain
    truth is but 1 idea.

  4. Conall clearly states that “We are not all to blame for the troubles” – If this is true then it prompts questions as to who is to blame? How should they be labeled? And more importantly, what is their role in dealing with the past? Although, the author provides an interesting commentary as to views on ‘legacy’ issues surrounding the conflict, the article fails to grasp the complexities of the debate on a number of levels.
    Firstly, the article lacks a degree of rigor and substance and fails to offer an alternative to the current on-going public debates pertaining to the legacy of the Troubles. Secondly, and most importantly the author fails to engage with the nature, causes and consequences of our conflict. Thirdly, the author presents an extremely narrow and ultimately selective view of the protagonists associated with the conflict. Fourthly, the selective reference solely to the Travers family loss creates a distorted lens and unquestionably presents a partial assessment of role of a single protagonist group in the conflict. The choice of any particular atrocity – among arguably thousands of cases of lost lives and serious injury – is a distraction to answering the key questions of what caused and sustained the conflict and who is to blame for the conflict. Only when the conflict narrative is broadly understood can we collectively hope to make sense of individual stories and assist the healing process. Individual cases is simply the wrong starting point if truth is the desired outcome. More significantly the piece fails to either recognise or grasp the importance of the Sinn Fein reconciliation initiative in designing a process to address the question of what circumstances created the conflict and the role of organisations in that conflict – which ultimately will create the conditions for truth an healing.
    Beyond focusing upon the authors petty criticism of Republicans and charting his family travels it is hard to gauge what he is actually trying to contribute to the ‘legacy’ and memory debate. For me his assessment would have been more credible had he not been so selective in focusing on the role of one combatant group and petty politicking.
    The article singularly fails to grasp the extent of state criminality in the north of Ireland, yet, is readily discussed within the commentary on Spain. His argument would have been strengthened had he focussed on state criminality in our own context as a good starting point for what happened overthe last 40 years or more. In all reality, if the author genuinely wanted to contribute to the debate of dealing with the past, his starting point ought to have been to assess the nature and extent of the conflict in the north of Ireland. Perhaps commencing with a thorough investigation of the role of the state would have been more appropriate. No one should forget – as families bereaved by the state have not forgotten – that from 1969 to 1974 the UK state was responsible for 188 state killings.
    And then perhaps he ought to investigate the ‘emergency’ situation that prevailed for many years and how the UK state used this situation to make far ranging intrusions, along with erosions of human rights and confidence in the rule of law. In all reality these intervention sustained and perpetuated the duration of the conflict. For example he ought to have investigated why jury trials were abolished, why there was limitation on the right of access to counsel, why seven day detention orders were introduced, why the standards of evidence were lowered, why extensive search and seizure provisions were introduced and why there was selective censorship proscription of certain organisations? But rather than engage with these political realities that created and sustained the conditions for many to engage in conflict he is much more comfortable retreating to the comfort of his own family and personal experience and critiquing the republican approach. In other words he fails to contextualise his own arguments or analysis. Not to discuss the dynamics and causes of the Northern conflict over the last 40 years or indeed 100 years is in itself disingenuous. In all honesty the author should take a moment to reflect on the idea ‘that we cannot begin the reconciliation process or establish the truth about the past without an honest assessment of what the conflict was actually about’.

    • John appreciate your critique but the article is not about the North it is about what happened in Spain and what lessons wemight learn from there.
      A question on your comment. How doe you think the people founded the SDLP and our respresentatives throughout the troubles to blame? For that matter how are the many, many people who came out to vote for the SDLP and rejected state and repubican throughout the troubles to blame?

  5. footballcliches on

    Very little of what Connall says is controversial and he ties in his experience of living in post-Franco era Spain and the ‘grand bargain’ the state’s main political stakeholders made with one another on an amnesty for previous Franco era actions so that instead of civil society in Spain tearing itself apart due to bitter recriminations from its (then) recent past it would instead concentrate on the future with a post Agreement North and the observation that society here is not reconciled with one another and the actions of our political representatives including the men of arms they may have supported, whether state forces or paramilitaries.
    To be fair, whilst Connall’s piece was at times well reasoned and somewhat rambling in relation to his own personal history growing up in Andalusia and his early activism, I felt somewhat deflated by it in the main. Why? Well, I don’t know what Connall was trying to say. Is he trying to have a go at Declan Kearney’s initiative at kick starting reconciliation where we all have a talk and create a mechanism where we all get to hear our truth? Is he merely giving his opinion that we require truth and reconciliation if this place is to progress and become a ‘normal society’ (whatever that means)? If I were cynical, I could even ask was it petty political point scoring by noting in the main the violence of the IRA, for example the loss of Anne Travers’ sister, Mary, and her campaign against the appointment of Mary McArdle as a special adviser owing to her involvement in the murder, whilst not mentioning much in the way of state and loyalist paramilitary violence against nationalists in general. Some may level an accusation of ‘whataboutery’ against me or someone pointing this out, which is fair, however, I would note that I am merely highlighting that he focused on IRA violence and made passing references to other violent actors. Unfortunately, my rather cynical question will be something that many in the North will ask and Connall is big enough to answer for himself on that score.
    From the outset I must declare, I am not a member of any political party and come election time my vote is up for grabs to any nationalist who I feel is in tune with what I want and is also, in my opinion, a good representative of their community. Moving on, Connall notes in his opening stanza that:
    ‘We are not all to blame for the troubles. That is the first message I want to send those like Sinn Fein Chairperson, Declan Kearney who are suggesting that we all, somehow, have to share responsibility for what happened.’
    I think Connall may actually be misreading what Declan Kearney has been saying, whether this is deliberate or not who knows, but talk of all of ‘us’ having some kind of responsibility for the troubles and needing to reconcile with one another is, I believe, rather stretching the intention of Kearney’s words. By ‘us’, I believe Kearney means society in general needs to reconcile itself with our collective past, each community as opposed to absolutely everyone in the North going outside and having a group hug.
    He further goes on to note in the next stanza that:
    ‘Former IRA and Sinn Fein leaders seem to suggest that this is not so. That is a disingenuous approach which will do nothing to transform our island or heal the divisions of the past.’
    Unfortunately, the link brings us merely to Eamonn Mallie’s homepage rather than develop this point. However, I find this assertion of Connall’s slightly at odds with what has been said by Declan Kearney on numerous occasions in this series and also slightly disingenuous on his part. Whilst I do not know where these discussions will take us, especially in light of the fact that there is no general amnesty in effect as there was in Spain, nor are all parties taking part in the discussions, it has been noted that every topic is on the table in these discussions, so you would imagine there would be talk of how to discuss the truth behind each actors deeds whether it is the rationale or the operational aspects of an act. To be fair, who would be willing to have reconciliation without the truth? As Connall noted, they are two sides of the same coin after all.
    The problem I have is that while I am somewhat skeptical of the whole reconciliation process, not because I think it is not a noble cause but due to the nature of the creation of the North by way of a sectarian headcount I believe that it (the North) is actually irreconcilable in its current guise, and I am also pretty certain that the issue of reconciliation will be heavily politicised by various parties (or perhaps stakeholders is a better word for parties?) into a blame game.
    I sincerely hope that I am wrong on this and for what it is worth I wish the likes of Brian Rowan et al who are driving and/or facilitating these conversations all the very best of luck; they are acting as honest brokers and should be commended. My worry is that as there were no clear winners from the Troubles, an era Ian Paisley Jnr on Tuesday described as ‘the dirtiest war ever this side of Kosovo’ (I thought it wasn’t a war?), it means that a victor is unable to press the terms of any peace (amongst civic society in the social sense) without agreement from all, something that is in short supply unless all are confronted without much of a choice.
    I found particularly interesting UDA leader Jackie McDonald’s thoughts and misgivings on the reconciliation process in general:
    ‘There are a lot of skeletons in the cupboard. It’s about who are the guilty parties. It’s not just the IRA, or the UDA or the other paramilitary groups. There are a lot of skeletons in the cupboards. There are a lot of things that have been done wrong. And if everybody was to hold their hands up and admit it [the fear is] that the IRA would probably come out of it smelling like roses more than anybody else.’
    I find this proposition hard to believe in all fairness, Bloody Friday, Kingsmill and La Mon clearly are testament that there is some truth in what Ian Paisley Jnr said on Tuesday, but it does strike me that this initiative will be one without mainstream political unionism effectively joining in and one which many unionist commentators tetchily dismiss out of hand, thus meaning we will not have a mechanism to find out the truth come the end of all of this.

    • Football (lovely nomme de guerre) and John,

      How far back do we need to go to find blame that will rationalize murder?

      Irish Republicans state 800 years of ‘English’ rule and I look at history and see the Norman conquest of these Isles (Britain & Ireland) yet none of us where murdering the French?

      Irish Republicans state protestant plantation by the ‘English’ and ‘Scots’ 500 years ago yet what about those of us pre plantation, of this Island pre the Norman invasion, who accepted the reformed faith and where still killed?

      Irish Republicans state that armed struggle was necessary to break the Unionist yoke of tyranny and oppression yet that armed struggle killed more Nationalists?

      Unionism 1921 – 72 lives in denial of what it did socially-economically to the minority community.

      Unionism fails to comprehend its paramilitary actions of 1965-71 pre the birth of PIRA.

      and yet….. I am presently 45 years old born before all these things, and grew up in West (Unionist) Belfast where as a boy I hoped to be an architect yet I ended up in HM Army.

      Who created the conditions to make me think that I had no choice but to fight?

      Who was selecting pubs or commercial premises for bomb or shooting attacks in my area? Who was placing random car bombs in our housing estates? All these things kiiled more innocent people of my community than their supposed ‘British’ military or loyalist paramilitary target? I could go on ……

      None of us can change the past. No amount of debate, victim mentality, chagrin or narrow perceptive thinking will amend, one jot, what has happened.

      This process can, at times, be a tad like religion. “God” is the horizon we all aim for from our differing, collective past. “God” is the tree that we ‘branches’ all long for. As long as we keep focused on the future, learning from our past, we will all (eventually) get there. It may be 2 steps forward & 1 back, it may be frustration, denial, intransigence and a multitude of other emotions but they are only ’emotions’. What I Know for certain is that I’d rather debate our shared future with a former enemy than rationalize with a bureaucrat the reason of past war.

      Rather than ‘never’ let’s ‘do’

      • Hi Glenn B,

        Thanks for taking the time to respond to me, also, glad you liked the name.

        I do not wish to come across as some what short with you over the length of my post (apologies in advance), however, I would ask that you please look at what I said above once again as I don’t believe you have actually read or understood what I was getting at. I would love there to be a reconciliation process, though I am critical of it for a number of reasons, see what I said on the matter initially:

        ‘The problem I have is that while I am somewhat skeptical of the whole reconciliation process, not because I think it is not a noble cause but due to the nature of the creation of the North by way of a sectarian headcount I believe that it (the North) is actually irreconcilable in its current guise, and I am also pretty certain that the issue of reconciliation will be heavily politicised by various parties (or perhaps stakeholders is a better word for parties?) into a blame game.I sincerely hope that I am wrong on this and for what it is worth I wish the likes of Brian Rowan et al who are driving and/or facilitating these conversations all the very best of luck; they are acting as honest brokers and should be commended.’

        So, I am expressing my concern that some will play politics with the whole matter or dismiss any moves to create a mechanism for reconciliation out of hand.

        ‘How far back do we need to go to find blame that will rationalize murder?’

        Rationalize murder? Is that what you think I am doing? Where did I do this because I have went over my post and cannot see where I did this, unless of course you are aiming this at John, then you really should reply to him instead of lumping me in with others.

        ‘none of us where murdering the French?’ That may be because they are not running the show around here now nor have they been for some while. The Normans/Plantagenet line in England lost its lands in France a long time ago and we are left to deal with their descendants which eventually became a constitutional monarchy.

        ‘Irish Republicans state protestant plantation by the ‘English’ and ‘Scots’ 500 years ago yet what about those of us pre plantation, of this Island pre the Norman invasion, who accepted the reformed faith and where still killed?’ – Are they about right now with some bones to pick because I have not heard from this group of late.

        ‘Who created the conditions to make me think that I had no choice but to fight?’ – And you didn’t have a hand in making your own decision? You had a choice, and you chose to do what you did (and seeing as I don’t know you from Adam, I will assume you decided to ‘fight’ nationalists, right?)

        ‘None of us can change the past. No amount of debate, victim mentality, chagrin or narrow perceptive thinking will amend, one jot, what has happened.’ – agreed.

        ‘What I Know for certain is that I’d rather debate our shared future with a former enemy than rationalize with a bureaucrat the reason of past war.
        Rather than ‘never’ let’s ‘do”

        I will ask, where did I say we should not be talking? Actually, after having come to the end of typing my reply, I am near certain you have misread my initial response or simply don’t understand what I was getting at. I think that you think I don’t want reconciliation up in the North, when in fact I don’t think we can have it due to how this state was created by way of a sectarian headcount. Do you actually think I would prefer there to be bombings and shootings? If so, let me know where I said this because I am at a loss as to why you would aim such a response as you did at me. In fact, I’m amazed.

        As I have said before and I will say again, I wish Brian, Jackie, Declan et al all the very best of luck with their endeavours as it is a very noble cause, however, I am somewhat sceptical (for all the reasons I mentioned in my initial response) that we will get somewhere concrete on the whole matter, a lot of which will be due to matters outside of their control. Though if I am proven wrong I will be the first to hold my hands up and admit it.

        On a final note, my apologies to Eamonn for posting under an alias, however, I had brought my initial response to the attention of Barney on twitter and on this and other matters I comment on via twitter or my site, I would prefer to remain anonymous.

        Thanks,

        FC

        • The difficulty in writing, at times, is that it fails to capture sentiment or authenticity. I believe both our posts have been misunderstood by each other.

          I didn’t join to fight Nationalists, no. At the time I joined to take the fight to PIRA because during my child hood I saw horrendous violence inflicted on my community by Irish Republican activists, and I burned with a zest to hit back at what I then perceived as the sole aggressor & cause.

          Almost 30 years on, I know and think differently.

          I hold your same sceptical outlook. Indeed I don’t believe that within the political establishment of Ireland or Britain there is the will power to engage in meaningful reconciliation, and certainly not truth.

          We create today our tomorrow and while none of us should forget the past, we should not be held prisoner by it.

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