“Dealing with the Past” is ignoring our present

On the eve of British Prime Minister David Cameron’s discussions with the family of murdered human rights lawyer Pat Finucane it is worth looking at the current landscape for victims of the conflict.

On Saturday night RFJ Chairperson Clara Reilly was honored with the Sean McBride Human Rights Award in Philadephia. Full recognition was given to the importance of her and RFJ’s work highlighting injustice and supporting healing.

Meanwhile back home we have prevarication and piecemeal approaches to what is now termed “Dealing with the Past”. Last week’s statement by Owen Patterson that there will not be a truth commission in Ireland was both disappointing and indicative of the perpetual lack of imagination of this particular Secretary of  State.

The term “Dealing with the Past” is hiding the responsibility of key actors for our present. The very term makes it appear less urgent, as though those pursuing the issue are trying to undermine the future.

Currently – right now – generations of our population live with the effects of conflict related trauma – these needs do not reside in the past at all. They live with Post Traumatic Stress Dosorder; they live with broken relationships, broken bodies and broken hearts. And this is not only affecting the older generation that some hope are dying off with time. These issues affect the children and grandchildren who live today with the consequences of our conflict.

In parallel and totally connected – currently – right now – judges and courts are trying to address outstanding injustices – meet current legal obligations to victims of our conflict and are faced with consistent official obstruction and obfuscation. Not least amongst these injustices are the issues pertaining to the demand for an independent and international inquiry, a decision on which which will be delivered to the Finucane family tomorrow.

It is surely time that proper negotiations on these issues began. Not behind closed doors, but openly and with honesty and inclusion of those most in need.

And let us not call it “Dealing with Past”. Let us have a bit of difficult honesty in facing up to how much of our present is lived and shaped by our collective need for accountability, acknowledgement and healing. And how we desperately need to support those hurt by our conflict in every sense – in order to build a solid truthful future.