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Duffy on a Truth Commission for Northern Ireland

Aoife Duffy, a PhD student in the Irish Centre for Human Rights at NUI Galway has just published an article entitled “A Truth Commission for Northern Ireland?” in the International Journal of Transitional Justice. The abstract states:

 A report published by the Consultative Group on the Past (Consultative Group) in January 2009 recommended that a ‘Legacy Commission’ be established for Northern Ireland that would fulfil a reconciliation, truth-recovery and justice mandate. The work of the Consultative Group highlights how international justice norms are interpreted at a local level in a way that takes account of local histories and priorities. This article critically examines the proposed Legacy Commission and finds that the framework outlined by the Consultative Group does not sufficiently challenge discourses of violence that hinder the bedding down of positive peace in Northern Ireland. Universal human rights and justice concepts remain peripheral to this framework, which avoids the type of profound conflict analysis that might advance societal stability and harmony. Instead of challenging the structural and institutional inequalities that underpinned the violence of the conflict in Northern Ireland and opening up new pathways to accessing truth and justice, the Consultative Group’s report advocates a truth-recovery process that is not open to public scrutiny and is couched in the language of forgetting, which begs the question whether this is a genuine attempt to explore sidelined or dissenting narratives of conflict, or merely another forum in which to contain them.

The article is extremely engaging and comes at a time when there seems to be a ratcheting up of activity regarding the Northern Irish processes, with the Report of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry due to be released soon and the imminent exhaustion of the consultation period on a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland. It’s well worth a read.

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