independent

Monday 21 April 2014

Willie Kealy: North's wounds won't heal until we move on

Willie Kealy says it's time to draw a line under the issue and acknowledge that relations between the two nations have normalised

CONTROVERSIAL SUGGESTION: Northern Ireland Attorney-General John Larkin called for an end to prosecutions over the Troubles

THAT idea from the Northern Ireland Attorney-General wasn't such a bad one, you know. Basically he was saying, can we not put it all behind us and get on with living?

We had 30 years of terrorism and occupation. And it has been 15 years since the Good Friday Agreement. There is at least one whole generation with no memory of the so-called "Troubles".

Enough already.

It was predictable that the great and the good in the North, in Dublin and in London would knee-jerk react to say, No. After all, this is not something they came up with themselves after months or years of talks about talks about talks and bullshit about parity of esteem and restorative justice and truth and reconciliation.

Can you imagine Gerry Adams taking part in a truth-and-reconciliation session? You would get very little truth, based on his performance to date, and damn-all reconciliation.

But you cannot have an amnesty for terrible crimes, they say. What the hell do you think the Good Friday Agreement was? Everybody who was in jail for horrific crimes serving lengthy sentences was let out. Anyone caught after that got no more than two years – a token sentence in view of their appalling crimes.

It's not as if there are lots of murderers out there against whom the PSNI has watertight cases, and we need to keep an open book just in case they come back into the jurisdiction. This is not like chasing Nazi war criminals hiding out in South America. There might be a handful of ex-Provos, but that's it. And would it be a tragedy if they did not serve their token two years? Certainly not in comparison with the permanent drag of the past on the present and into the future.

Yes, it would mean we would have to forget about a successful prosecution of those responsible for the Enniskillen massacre. But given the success the police have had in that area to date, I already have.

And, of course, we all accepted under the Good Friday Agreement that IRA weapons handed up could not be forensically tested, and bodies of the disappeared found as a result of IRA information could not be autopsied, so it's not like the

Northern version of CSI has a backlog of stuff ready to unleash on those who have escaped justice.

Of course, it would also mean that the British army soldiers involved in the Bloody Sunday massacre would not be brought before the courts. But what's fair for one side seems fair for the other. And so far, it seems the terrorists have more than their share of fairness.

When the state visit by President Higgins – (was his description of the NI Attorney-General's idea as 'false amnesia' a political statement?) – was announced last week, former President Mary Robinson welcomed it as another part of the healing process; I despaired. When does the healing process end? For some, like the family of Jean McConville or the bereaved of the Bogside, the answer is that it doesn't until they themselves pass away. That is understandable.

But for the nation, for the two nations, there surely has to come a time when we draw a line under the issue and recognise that the normality of relations has already happened.

To do otherwise is not healing anything, it is just picking at the scab – something that ensures the wound can never get a chance to heal.

Sunday Independent

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