More than 250 individuals and representatives of victims and survivors’ groups took part in a ‘Dealing with the Past Conference’ recently.
These included Robin McKernon, Les Chambers and Gordon Orr, from the Larne Voluntary Welfare Group.
The ground-breaking conference was held by the Commissioner for Victims and Survivors, Kathryn Orr OBE at the Stormont Hotel, in Belfast.
The commissioner will be giving her considered recommendations to the First Minister and deputy First Minister on structured ways of ‘dealing with the past’ at the end of March.
The conference formed a significant part of the evidence gathered for her submission.
The main issues addressed by the conference were truth, justice, acknowledgement and reparations in a workshop format, designed to ensure that everyone had a voice and that all voices were heard.
Working in partnership with Queen’s University Belfast, University of Ulster, Healing Through Remembering and the Transitional Justice Institute, the Commission will add the evidence gathered from this conference to that supplied by the Victims Forum Dealing with the Past working group, the research carried out by the Commission and the collective weight of information supplied directly to the commissioner in her engagement with groups.
Kathryn Stone said: “A better and shared future” is a pipe dream for many victims and for many they are just words that take no account of the burning rage about the lack of justice, the not knowing, the grief that becomes all-consuming and the pain of physical and psychological injuries.
“In many cases, victims have become prominent voices in the effort to heal divisions across communities – an extraordinary example of leadership from which all in Northern Ireland could learn.
“We must take more time to better understand the different experiences of different parts of Northern Ireland, so some of the next steps will include spending more time in both urban and rural settings including the border areas.
“I will make a formal submission to ministers at the end of March and my recommendations will include firm advice around truth, justice, acknowledgement and reparations.
“I believe the recommendations will be part of an ongoing process that will require constant monitoring to ensure that we take account of the continuing and varied issues that are raised with the Commission by victims, survivors and their families as a legacy of the troubles.”