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Concern at approach of unionists to truth debate

5 July, 2004


Sinn Fein North Antrim MLA Philip McGuigan has expressed concern at the approach of some unionists to the debate on truth and dealing with the past after Jeffery Donaldson, writing in today's News Letter, attempted to reinforce a one-sided hierarchy of victims by suggesting that there are 'innocent' and, therefore, 'guilty' victims.

Mr McGuigan said:

"It is a matter of concern that unionists such as Jeffery Donaldson are using the debate on truth to reinforce an entirely one-sided hierarchy of victims. Labelling victims 'innocent' or 'guilty' contributes little to the search for mechanisms for dealing with the past. People from every part of our society have suffered as a result of the conflict. Insisting on a hierarchy of victims is not merely hurtful and insensitive, but underlines for nationalists the resistance of certain unionist politicians to the lessons of the past and the necessary process of change.

"I note that in recent weeks we have had important contributions from the Methodist Church and from the Healing Through Remembering project on the importance of 'Acknowledgement' as a starting point for any process of truth recovery. Sinn Fein welcomes these genuine attempts to advance the discussion on how we might learn from and deal with the past and will be seeking meetings to explore this further.

"However, despite the media fanfare surrounding his visit to South Africa, we have heard nothing from Paul Murphy as to how his Government intends approaching the issue of truth recovery. We have asked him for a meeting and will be telling him that his focus needs to be on how his government will contribute towards any independent truth recovery process rather than telling the rest of us what we need to do. A good start would be for the British government to acknowledge its role in creating and maintaining the conflict in Ireland.

"We accept that there are genuine fears and doubts around the whole issue of truth and truth recovery processes. However it is clear that many victims and survivors of the conflict believe that some formal collective examination of the past is necessary for them to find closure. And while there are difficulties in this for everyone, it is still an issue that needs to be addressed.

"The best way to go forward, in fact the only way to ensure confidence in the process is for the Truth consultation process to be independent and international." ENDS

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