Seeking a debate on truth and reconciliation
Seeking a debate on truth and reconciliation

Sinn Féin yesterday unveiled a new discussion document aimed at encouraging debate on how society could address past events during the conflict.

Party President Gerry Adams also announced the appointment of north Antrim councillor Philip McGuigan as the party's contact on Victims Issues.

The `Truth' document identifies countries which have at one time set up commissions to deal with the past including South Africa, Haiti, Ecuador, Chile, and Germany.

However, it argues there is ``inconclusive evidence'' that the truth commissions such as those set up in South Africa or Guatemala have achieved what they set out.

The document also suggests that in addressing the conflict, there should be a number of general principles and values underpinning that process.

Sinn Féin identifies these as:

  • the need for any process to be ``victim centred'', acknowledging the pain of those who have lost loved ones and their right to contribute to changes in society
  • full cooperation and disclosure by everyone involved in the conflict in any truth process
  • there should be no attempt to place greater emphasis or a greater sense of worth on some victims over others
  • political neutrality in any process
  • any panel or commission established should be independent and recruited internationally.

    Sinn Féin accept that there are genuine fears and doubts around the whole issue of truth and truth recovery processes. Mr Adams said.

However it is clear that many victims and survivors of the conflict believe that some formal collective examination of the past is necessary for them to find closure. This document will be distributed to the two governments, other political parties, campaigning groups, NGOs and the community and voluntary sector.

When we signed the Good Friday Agreement five years ago, we all agreed that it `is essential to acknowledge and address the suffering of the victims of violence as a necessary element of reconciliation'. Since then there have been sporadic, if vague, calls for some sort of truth process.

We are mindful of the many difficulties a truth recovery process will hold for all sections of our society as we attempt to move from conflict. Yet it is an issue that needs to be addressed and we offer this discussion document as a genuine contribution to that.

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