Truth, reconciliation, peace

It was interesting to read today that a member of the IRA unit which carried out the 1972 bombing in the village of Claudy has apologised to a relative of a victim of the attack.

The Claudy bombing has been the subject of a s police review for over a year since it was alleged that the now deceased Catholic priest Fr James Chesney was a suspect in the bombing investigation.

There were claims that the Catholic church and the British government conspired to prevent embarrassing details of Chesney's alleged involvement in the IRA.

It is a strange story. But it was these reports which apparently encouraged the former IRA Volunteer, now living in the US, to seek a meeting with the relative of the victim.

If the meeting were to go ahead, it would be just the second known meeting between a former IRA member and a victim. And it is something which should be lauded.

Truth and reconciliation are two parts of a single process, as South Africa's former combatants will testify.

It is no coincidence that, as details of the Claudy attack has emerged, the prospect of dialogue and potential reconciliation between victim and combatant has arisen.

On a larger scale, in Derry itself, the Bloody Sunday Inquiry is reaching its final stages. Many will also feel that the time for closure on these painful memories must follow.

Now is a good time to at least consider an act of reconciliation between victims and combatants over the events of Bloody Sunday.

If balance is required for this process, the other tragedies for County Derry -- Claudy, Greysteel and others -- could be included in a single act of forgiveness.

But outside Derry, the British government is still suppressing the truth. Almost ten years after the IRA declared its ceasefire, it could herald the reconciliation of the people in the North of Ireland. But it must begin by allowing the public inquiries into state collusion, called for by Judge Cory, to go ahead.

For only when the truth of the past has been written, can we all begin to write a new chapter.

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© 2003 Irish Republican News