Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Thursday, 2 December 2021

Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement

Engagement with Justice for the Forgotten

Mr. Alan Brecknell:

I will come in on what the Deputy said about getting to the truth. One of the things I mentioned earlier was that we need to have some form of investigative process to get to the truth. We see that a part of the proposals being put forward by the British Government refer to a body where people will come forward and offer up their truth and whatever. We must remember that will be their truth. Can that be questioned or investigated? Can it be stood over? It is important that whatever process is there includes a rigorous investigative process and is not a matter of asking people to come forward and tell us what they did in order to be punished. That does not work. It does not work, whether that is being suggested by a Government or civic society bodies that want to propose these types of processes whereby people come forward to say what they have done and that is it. That then becomes the narrative of the conflict. To me, that does not work.

Mr. Pádraig Ó Muirigh, who represented most of the Ballymurphy families in the recent inquest, made the point at a webinar I attended recently that a witness came forward claiming something completely contrary to the story of those number of days and when the witness was questioned and it was put to him, he was unable to stand over those claims. That is why I think the process must include an inquiry. People cannot just come forward willy-nilly, saying they did this or that without those claims being challenged. That is what we need to be looking towards. We need to be examining how we can do this in such a way that it gets as much information as possible to the people who need it. It is about seeking the truth. Justice means different things to different people. We must be realistic and say that many of these incidents and murders happened over 50 years ago, so from that perspective are we going to be able to get people through the court system, if that what justice looks like? To me, that is not necessarily exactly what justice looks like. It is just one part of justice. Justice means much more. It can mean just understanding what actually happened to someone's loved one. We need to not lose sight of that. As I have said, there is a notion in the proposals that people would come forward. I do not believe that any British soldier who shot someone in the streets of Belfast or anywhere else in the North is going to come forward. By the same token, I do not believe that any large numbers of members of paramilitary groups are going to come forward and "fess up" to what people have done or what they did in the past. We must be honest with victims and survivors and put it out there loud and clear that such a process, or one like it, will not work.


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