Northern Ireland is a region attempting to overcome a legacy of violence and division and to build a new society based on human rights and equality. In spite of the “fresh start” represented by the Belfast Good Friday Agreement and the St Andrews and subsequent agreements, it is widely recognised that “dealing with the past” is unfinished business. This is a difficult and multi-faceted task and there is no consensus on how the many elements should be dealt with – hence the inclusion of the issue on the agenda of the multi-Party Group.
In relation to dealing with the past, the Together: Building a United Community Strategy contains commitments on the delivery of services to victims and suggestions on responsible remembering, celebration of culture and identity and a variety of mechanisms of reconciliation. CAJ recognises the importance of such initiatives as well as community based activities such as storytelling, community histories, organised dialogue and a variety of forms of memorialisation. We also recognise that there is a range of continuing real and perceived injustices arising out of the conflict that remain to be resolved, including many cases where people were tortured or seriously injured. However, we are convinced that the main obstacle to coming to terms with the past is the almost 3,000 cases involving Troubles-related deaths where the perpetrators were not identified or brought to justice, were inadequately investigated or are otherwise unresolved. If these cases were properly dealt with, then we believe the way would be open to engage with other serious cases and to undertake the many sided truth recovery and reconciliation measures that comprehensively dealing with the past demands.