CONFRONTING the past and acknowledging the wrongs on all sides of the conflict is the best way of helping victims still living with loss, a conference in Dundalk heard last week.
The Aftermath project's official launch, at the Fairways Hotel on Saturday, heard from speakers including local man, Jimmy Sharkey, whose uncle Seamus Ludlow, was killed by Loyalists in North Louth in 1976. The conference, chaired by Dr. Laurence McKeown, also saw a short film that featured 92-year-old Dundalk woman Bridie O'Byrne, whose brother, Jack Rooney, was killed, along with Hugh Watters, in the Crowe Street bombing of 1975.
Other speakers included Alan Bracknell, whose father, Trevor, died in a gun attack that was carried out by the same Loyalist gang that had bombed Kay's Tavern in Crowe Street. Mr. Bracknell, who lives in South Armagh and works for the Pat Finucane Centre, spoke about losing his dad when he was just seven years old and how it has affected his family's life.
Alan McBride, a Northern Ireland Human Rights commissioner, also told his story to the conference and related how his wife, Sharon, and father-in-law Desmond, were killed in an IRA bombing of a fish shop on the Shankill Road in 1993. After now TD Gerry Adams was one of the pall-bearers at the funeral of one of the bombers who died in the attack, Mr. McBride followed Mr. Adams around the world, continually highlighting the Shankill case.
He famously interrupted the Sinn Fein leader while he was on a speaking tour of America. Mr. McBride said: 'I was angry, I wanted to do something', but after hearing acknowledgement from Republicans that the Shankill bombing was wrong, Mr McBride focused his attentions on peacebuilding and has recently returned from Palestine. He said confronting the past, by all sides involved in the conflict, could help those left behind to move on.
Justice for the Forgotten's Margaret Urwin outlined her multi-year battle for the truth about the Dublin and Monaghan, and Dundalk, bombings. Ms. Urwin said there had been a ' long silence' from politicans and the media for more than 15 years after the bombings and, despite a high-profile campaign, she doesn't think 'this current government understands the need for reconciliation'.
Mr. Sharkey said he had been involved in his uncle's case for a ' long, long time' and he believed the 'State didn't care what happened to Seamus'. He said without the help of the Pat Finucane Centre and Ms. Urwin's group, the family 'would've got nowhere'. He said the family had recently written to Taoiseach Enda Kenny about the case.
He said it was 'great' to hear from Alan McBride, 'someone from the other side', and it was important that the truth about what happened in all cases was revealed.