Forget about the future - let's get on with the past! Trails of truth recovery and provisional justice in Northern Ireland

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'Forget about the Future - Let's get on with the Past! Trails of truth recovery and provisional justice in Northern Ireland'
Abstract: In Northern Ireland an agreed and comprehensive framework for ‘dealing with the past’ has yet to be worked out. In this policy vacuum a bricolage of different methods, working at different levels, driven by various actors has emerged to address the pressing issues of truth recovery and provisions of justice.
Drawing on categories of truth (forensic, narrative, social, restorative) and justice (criminal, constitutional, historical, restorative) derived from the transitional justice literature, this paper sets out a template for analysing the incremental and disjointed process of dealing with the past in Northern Ireland.

Through an examination of four cases of how to deal with the legacy of conflict in Northern Ireland (the Historical Enquiries Team, the ‘Belfast Project’ at Boston College, the Consultative Group on the Past, and the Saville Inquiry), the paper shows how separate dimensions of truth and justice are addressed in different initiatives rather than within a comprehensive policy framework. While this approach is in part an attempt to separate out and depoliticise the issues at stake and thus defuse controversy, these examples show that although the different dimensions of truth and justice might be analytically separable they are rarely empirically so and always risk spilling back into each other, ultimately regenerating conflict. The examples thus demonstrate how initiatives conceived to serve a particular function can often transmute to serve other or additional functions with severe consequences for both the peace process and future policies for the past.
Original languageEnglish
Publication year2013
Publication statusPublished - 2013
EventTowards 2016: old and new Irelands - National University of Ireland/Galway, Galway, Ireland
Duration: 5 Jun 20137 Dec 2014


ConferenceTowards 2016: old and new Irelands
LocationNational University of Ireland/Galway

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