Ferris calls for Independent International Truth Commission
Speaking during a Sinn Féin sponsored debate on the Good Friday Agreement in the Dáil this evening Kerry North TD Martin Ferris repeated his party’s call for an Independent International Truth Commission to deal with legacy issues arising out of the conflict in Ireland.
Deputy Ferris said Sinn Féin is very mindful of all the difficulties involved in truth recovery, particularly for victims and their families, but there is an onus on all political leaders to promote this.
The following is the full text of Deputy Ferris’ speech:
“The Good Friday agreement is now 15 years old. This historic agreement presents all involved in the Irish Peace process the opportunity to resolve all outstanding issues associated with it the military conflict, now thankfully in the past.
“However, there remain painful difficulties involved in truth recovery, particularly for victims and their families.
“Sinn Féin believes that as a society seeks to leave conflict behind, and to move forward there is a requirement that all of us address the tragic human consequences of the past.
“Republicans are very conscious of the hurt and suffering which has been caused through conflict in our country. We reject any attempt to create and sustain a hierarchy of victims. All victims and survivors of the conflict must be treated on the basis of equality.
“In order to deal with our past, do justice to the memory and victims and give closure to families of victims and survivors, we need to put in place a mechanism to facilitate that.
“Sinn Féin believes an independent International Truth Commission is required as a vehicle for truth recovery.
“Sinn Féin is very mindful of all the difficulties involved in truth recovery, particularly for victims and their families, but there is an onus on all political leaders to promote this.
“The discharge of these responsibilities needs to be rooted in the political dispensation agreed on Good Friday 1998.
“How do we deal with our past will also help to shape our future. We must also learn from our past – the civil war in 1922-23 left a bitterness and hurt which was allowed to fester for generations, and shaped the very nature of politics in this state – civil war politics – no truth recovery process.
“A truth recovery process would have helped to heal the pain of that particular period.
“In contrast Nelson Mandela’s Government initiated in 1995 a commission of inquiry known as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in to all apartheid related activities, with the objective of mending unbridgeable racial disparities. The politics of reconciliation embodied in the inquiry predicated on the fundamental principle that ‘to forgive is not just to be altruistic; it is the best form of self-interest.’
“For many years Sinn Féin has worked alongside victims and survivors organisations in their efforts to uncover truth, particularly those people killed directly by the British state or through their surrogates of British Government agencies in the unionist paramilitaries organisations. An independent international truth commission is required now, with all participants in the conflict sincerely and genuinely embracing it.
“All process should be victim-centred and should deal with all victims of the conflict on the basis of equality.
“There are vested interests who do not want the truth and who will oppose the creation of a meaningful truth recovery process and who will use specious ‘political legitimacy’ to that end.
“The disgraceful British and Unionist wrangle over the ‘definition of a victim’ and the ‘recognition payment’ are cases in point.
“But truth recovery cannot and will not be dealt with through a British Unionist prism or, for that matter, through an Irish Republican prism.
“The British Government which has historically played such a divisive and violent role in Irish affairs must join in an honest endeavour which allows the people of our island to carve out a new future.
“The British Government has pursued as a matter of policy the use of administrative and institutional violence and collusion.
“It has employed the full weight of its political influence and authority to actively deny, cover-up and block truth recovery processes.
“This has involved the suppression of reports by various commissions from Stalker, to Sampson, to Stevens, and it has also refused to fulfil its commitments, for example on the Pat Finucane murder case or its refusal to co-operate with the Barron commission.
“If there is to be an inclusive healing process and a genuine process of reconciliation then the British Government must face up to its responsibilities.
“The Irish Government has a constitutional, legal, and moral responsibility to actively promote and encourage this course of action
“All of us have to pledge ourselves to tell and hear the truth about the past.”