Belfast Telegraph

'Opening wounds will hurt, not heal'
Loyalists reject plan for a 'truth process'

By Michael McHugh
08 March 2005

A South Africa-style truth and reconciliation commission for Northern Ireland would risk re-igniting violent conflict instead of helping society move beyond the Troubles, a paper produced by loyalists has warned.

A policy document compiled by a number of loyalist ex-prisoners' groups has questioned the value of a truth process at a time when rival communities are arguably more polarised than ever and follows the Secretary of State's decision to defer a truth and reconciliation process.

Sinn Fein has slammed the Government's position as "contradictory and divisive" but a pamphlet entitled, 'Truth Recovery: A Contribution From Within Loyalism' has warned that violence could be fuelled through old wounds.

The Loyalist Prisoners' Welfare Association, the EPIC centre for ex-prisoners and community groups across Northern Ireland have contributed to the consultation, which urged caution in light of heightened communal tensions.

"The initial optimism and good will generated by the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement has all but evaporated in loyalist areas," the paper said.

"In this kind of unstable, unsettled political context, a 'truth process' that attempts to open up old wounds runs a real risk of re-igniting violent conflict instead of helping society to move beyond the Troubles.

"Many wounds are still too raw for a truth process to have a realistic chance of succeeding. Under such circumstances, any truth process runs the risk of indoctrinating a more militant younger generation with hatred and providing justification for continuing conflict."

Sinn Fein has been pressing for a reconciliation process and North Antrim Assemblyman Philip McGuigan has lambasted Paul Murphy's decision to defer action.

"On the one hand Paul Murphy is recognising the need to deal with the difficulties faced by victims of the conflict while at the same time rejecting the need to create a independent process and framework to allow people to fully deal with the past and the issues of healing and truth," he said.

Mr Murphy said that "in the light of recent events" it was not the time to launch a consultation in advance of a political settlement.

He announced that a Victims' and Survivors' Commissioner was to be appointed as an alternative measure.

The loyalists' paper accused republicans of hijacking the process to blame the British state and its surrogates for everything.

It added that a lack of political remorse on the part of loyalists could be interpreted as rubbing salt in victims' wounds rather than promoting healing.

"Any truth process that would require individual ex-prisoners or ex-combatants to give public testimony about specific past actions will most likely contribute to the continuing demonisation of these loyalist activists," the dossier said.

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