Those who ask why we need to deal with the past, and who in trite, unthinking words suggest we all just move on, should have a listen to and a read of the events of this past week.
The present is being pulled under the swamp that is the past; into that quagmire that is the unanswered questions relating to decades of conflict, and not just one side’s questions but all sides.
Yesterday there was a speech by the Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt that then led to a bad-tempered radio exchange between himself and the Sinn Fein national chair Declan Kearney.
On radio, Nesbitt accused republicans of dripping in hypocrisy, and Kearney responded by dismissing Nesbitt with a charge of political opportunism.
The previous day in his speech, Nesbitt said: “Republicans were so determined to destroy the physical truth that they once blew up Northern Ireland’s Forensic Laboratory.”
I can remember the night sound of that explosion – how it was heard miles from the scene of the blast in a period of war far removed from today’s developing peace.
Nesbitt reads between the lines of that IRA bombing in 1992 describing it as “symbolic of republicans’ attitude to the truth”.
They “hated truth so much, they blew it up,” he said in his speech on Thursday.
Here we have a focus on one incident on a conflict calendar in which every day is an anniversary, and no day was untouched by what happened here.
Kearney’s point is that any excavation of the past has to think wider than what happened, but, importantly, ask, why?
So, republicans want to discuss the political policies, system and structure in place as violence occurred – what are termed the causes of conflict.
“We’ve hurt one another enough,” Declan Kearney said in that Radio Ulster interview with Joel Taggart.
The Sinn Fein leader also identified the challenge to “acknowledge the pain caused by all” – and said:
“I don’t believe that’s impossible.”
It should not be, but the public debate looks like political tit-for tat.
Some weeks ago it was Kearney and Peter Robinson, now Kearney and Nesbitt, and what we have is delay, dithering and deadlock and no way out of the swamp.
We are all being held under, brought down.
Inside the frame of the past week, the words national security raised their head again.
The project Relatives for Justice reads national security as meaning a fear of the spotlight that will be placed on military intelligence and its agents and on the play that is called the ‘dirty war’.
Inquests were suspended and, before publication of the Finucane Review report next month, already it has been dismissed by the family.
Pat Finucane’s brother Seamus made his feelings known in a tweet describing “whitewash” and a context being set for a “major dupe”.
Geraldine Finucane, widow of the Belfast solicitor murdered by loyalists in 1989, accused the government of trying to ensure that “the truth never sees the light of day”.
The inquest cases and the Finucane case are also dates on a calendar in which every day is remembered – Enniskillen, Shankill, Greysteel, Loughgall, Ballygawley, Gibraltar, Ballymurphy, Kingsmill and Loughinisland on a list that never ends.
So, there is no such thing as moving on, not until there is some answering, explanation, information and better understanding of the what and why on those calendar days of conflict.
As yesterday’s inquest story broke, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State Vernon Coaker tweeted: “Underlines again the need for comprehensive process to deal with the past. Gov/SoS must act on Assembly’s year old request to convene talks.”
I replied to him that “political talks about talks won’t work” – and we heard the confirmation of this in that Kearney-Nesbitt exchange on radio.
There should be a radio ceasefire – an end to these broadcast battles that are destroying rather than building confidence.
Talks with political parties should be conducted not by the Secretary of State but by international facilitators.
They also need to talk to governments – British and Irish – to representatives of loyalist organisations, the IRA/republican leadership, security/intelligence services, churches, media and others and begin to build the bricks of a process.
Before any Commission is established we need to know levels of cooperation from all sides and every side, and if amnesty is to be considered what information will be given in return.
Someone needs to pull us out of the swamp – before we bury ourselves deeper in the past.