I heard a young woman on the radio this week talking about economic needs in Ballymena. She is a very articulate woman who expressed her frustration that she perceives herself and her generation as the future, and that their jobs prospects are tied to the future of Ballymena. She was enthused that Liam Neeson has endorsed a campaign to bring manufacturing to Ballymena following the recent heavy job losses. Then she made some comment about all of the money being spent on the past. She clearly has the view that budgets to deal with the past are interfering with her jobs prospects up in her home town.
It was a bit of surprise to me munching on my toast listening to her. But then I suppose maybe it shouldn’t have been. The idea of dealing with the past gets big opposition. It gets the blame for being in the way of political progress, inter-community relationship building progress, and now it is somehow being blamed for lack of economic progress.
Which would all be very well if the myth of dealing with the past being a big bogey man were in any way true. The mythical monster of dealing with the past has been devised, fed and promoted by those whose history, actions and allegiances may well be undermined by an independent, thorough and impartial examination of our past. And that gets a lot of unfair traction.
But there are places where the experiences, rights and needs of families get more focus. This paper in particular, along with some other media outlets do dedicate significant space and airtime to those whose rights were violated during our conflict. That has not prevented any of them from also articulating economic, political or social stories. None of this is anything but current.
The families affected did not choose this faux impasse. They did not choose that their loved ones would be robbed from them. They did not choose the systematic cover up of those killings. They did not choose a system that would deny them basic forensic facts, or basic information about culpability. They did not choose the trauma that affects daily life tasks or coping. They did not choose that their children grow up with the legacy of all of this, making it as much part of their children’s lives as it has been a part of theirs.
This week the anniversary of the killing of Pat Finucane will be marked with an anniversary lecture by the world’s leading expert on what changes that entire landscape – information and disclosure. Frank La Rue from Guatemala will link a society’s recovery from conflict to the dignity of truth for victims. And he will place this in the context of international and human rights law. Truth is these families’ right – it is not a favour anyone might be doing them.
So let’s grow in every respect – economically, politically, societally. And let’s do it equally. Truth for victims ensures their equal role in our shared future.