Addressing the Legacy of Northern Ireland’s Past

The UK government has issued a paper to Parliament – Addressing the Legacy of Northern Ireland’s Past.

Having visited the beautiful city of Belfast earlier in the year and toured the fabulous, award-winning Titanic Museum, it’s still hard to forget the city is renowned for a different reason.

Taking a tour of Belfast, incredibly it is still completely segregated – a fact that we on the mainland, certainly I, did not entirely appreciate. There are still over 20 miles of peace walls segregating whole communities which are still locked to this day at 9.00pm.

We are encouraged to write messages for peace on one wall.

With schools and communities separated by religious beliefs, my overriding sense is that change has to start with children. Mixed schools where children play together and are educated about the past without blame are a positive way forward.

I spent a lot of time in South Africa before and after apartheid. My overriding sense of reform then was to start with funding an education system for all children and that it would take many years before those children’s children had been educated and apartheid became history.

I am pleased to see in the government’s proposals that they are addressing this through the suggestion of a cross border university in the North West – although my view is that education needs to start at primary school level.

The government’s proposals cover a comprehensive legacy package providing information for families, promoting reconciliation and helping NI communities to look forward, not back. To achieve this, the intention is to move away from criminal justice outcomes which are failing everyone

The government is engaging with NI parties, victims and survivors to ensure all their interests are central to discussions.

It’s a difficult brief without a doubt which will include the thorny issue of a statute of limitation for criminal prosecutions and an end to judicial processes to include inquests.

The proposals are however a solid platform to create a dialogue of reconciliation for the future.

Hilary Meredith

Photos to accompany this blog are posted on @HMhelpforforces (Twitter) and help_for_forces (Instagram).