Reconciliation or equivocation?

I’m as anxious as anyone to see real peace in Northern Ireland, but I don’t think the proposal in the Eames/Bradley report to give a ‘recognition payment’ of £12,000 to anyone who had a relative killed in the troubles is the right way to go about it. It sends entirely the wrong signals to anyone who lost a loved one at the hands of one or other of the paramilitaries, or the family of an innocent civilian killed by the security forces (yes, there were several, over and above those shot by the paras in Derry in 1972). There is simply no equivalence between this category of victim and those paramilitaries who met death in shoot-outs with the security forces, or who blew themselves up when planting bombs in public places.

Having said that, the proposals for a legacy commission and a reconciliation forum are promising. In optimal circumstances, they could turn into something akin to the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. But I fear that the good bits will be obscured by the controversial notion of the payments.

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