Those who thought Northern Ireland is ‘problem solved’ will have had an unpleasant surprise this week. The publication of the Eames/Bradley Report on the legacy of the Troubles made the proposal that all victims of the Troubles – both victims of violence and perpetrators of violence – might receive a ‘recognition payment’. It certainly lifted the sticking plaster and allowed us to see the bad stuff underneath.
Winston Churchill’s words came back:
“Then came the Great War: Every institution, almost, in the world was strained. Great Empires have been overturned. The whole map of Europe has been changed. The position of countries has been violently altered. The modes of thought of men, the whole outlook on affairs, the grouping of parties, all have encountered violent and tremendous changes in the deluge of the world.
“But as the deluge subsides and the waters fall short, we see the dreary steeples of Fermanagh and Tyrone emerging once again. The integrity of their quarrel is one of the few institutions that has been unaltered in the cataclysm which has swept the world.”
Northern Ireland has moved on. There is a pragmatic political settlement which is holding together. But as somebody there said to me last week, it is a place which is still ‘bound’. Political leadership may support accommodation – but I don’t see much leadership which seems interested in much more than that. When you look at South Africa, you can see that spiritual and political leadership did work together – ArchbishopTutu and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, for example. Maybe the outcry about the Eames/Bradley report is precisely because of the clash of values which happens when people attempt to deal with the deeper issues.