Deep Troubles
January 28, 2009 12:25 PM   Subscribe

The Consultative Group on the Past released its long awaited report today, discussing strategies to build trust and dialogue between communities and heal wounds in Northern Ireland. Part of the strategy was compensation and inquiries to be funded jointly by the British and Irish governments, to the tune of £300K. The report's presentation was interrupted by deeply angry protesters. Some were upset at the idea of financial compensation for the loss of human life. Some were incensed that families of paramilitary members killed in the Troubles were to receive equal compensation to bystanders caught in the crossfire. Some comments on the report from public figures, and from the Program Director of Amnesty International's NI office.
posted by Grrlscout (9 comments total)
£300 million, not £300 thousand. Still, for peace in Ireland, cheap at the price!
posted by alasdair at 12:45 PM on January 28, 2009

True that! Diminishes the magnitude of the cost, though not the intent ;)
posted by Grrlscout at 12:58 PM on January 28, 2009

for peace in Ireland, cheap at the price!

It would be if that was what was going on. It's more like spending £300m to incite new resentments.
posted by Phanx at 1:23 PM on January 28, 2009

Do you think so, Phanx? I'm a British taxpayer, and a Unionist, and a loyal subject of Her Majesty. And I'm politically-aware and well-read. But I am strongly aware that Northern Ireland is in so many ways a "special case" and what looks on the face of it wrong and foolish and weak is in fact the "right" thing to do, if such a difficult subject can have something so simple as a "right." I wouldn't consider myself able to comment further - it's such a difficult subject.

Clearly, tabloid newspapers think they are able to identify clear rights and wrongs. Do you really think it's that simple? For the people of the province, most especially, not the English Sun readership?
posted by alasdair at 3:13 PM on January 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

[meta] You know, it's at times like this that I question why I spend so much time on MetaFilter. If this were about the relationship between Texas and Mexico, or even Israel and Palestine, there would be furious (furios?) argument going on right now in this thread.

But British (Irish) politics? Well, it's an American site, so it's not a criticism as such that foreign politics don't press so many buttons here.

But where, then, is our Where do I go for insightful discussion on UK issues? The newspaper and BBC blogs are full of knee-jerk right-wingers and low-value name-calling. And so here I am, on a U.S. site discussing the politics of a wet island in the Atlantic thousands of miles from the U.S. To your credit, Americans, of course. [/meta]

posted by alasdair at 3:19 PM on January 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Been following the back and forth about this via various posts on Slugger O'Toole; here's a recent one, and you can see in the back-and-forth in the comments that opinion is sharply divided. From what I can gather, the money offer does look ill-advised; most families aren't focussed on compensation and perhaps concentrating on truth and reconciliation work rather than open up the whole can of worms about hierarchies of victimhood would have been more prudent.
posted by Abiezer at 9:58 PM on January 28, 2009

the biggest problem about this report, it seems to me, when compared to the south african example is that there was concensus, effectively, in SA about who had been the agressors and who the victims.
where you have a conflict that was much more balanced, with demonstrable wrongs on both sides (though clearly vastly disproportionate numbers of deaths caused by republican paramilitaries), it is much more difficult. the purgative power of "forgiveness", as seen in SA, is rather more difficult to summon when those who, in the eyes of many victims, were absolutely guilty are now in power and, in many cases, liable to strut.
in other words, what value forgiveness when guilty people don't feel penitent?
the £12,000, though, was a tactical error. but i also agree the british papers don't have any right to speak for the northern irish. and what gordon brown said was a disgrace.
posted by trulyscrumptious at 4:17 AM on January 29, 2009

I don't know why you think I think it's simple, alasdair. "for peace in Ireland" looks like a radical over-simplification to me.
posted by Phanx at 5:56 AM on January 29, 2009

You don't think peace is possible? I do... or at least, I did before the economy tanked in both NI and Eire. People who have jobs and see themselves as going places in life generally tend to avoid hurling firebombs. People with no jobs, on the other hand... all bets are off.

I have a friend who was born in Belfast - dad was a squaddie/special policeman stationed over there. He has a deep hatred for republicans, and for those who'd try to excuse or justify the bloodbath on either side. He's had a hell of a time when visiting the US, as Americans hear the accent and assume he's from Eire... go on about their tenuous Irish ancestry, and occasionally go off the deep end with anti-British crap they learned from some Pogues CD. He and I argue pretty passionately about this topic, when we're in the mood to set the world to rights. The one thing that we both agree on is that there has to be complete and utter honesty and transparency for this process to work. There were wrongs on both sides. Serious, hurtful, destructive wrongs that will fester like a cancer if the facts around them are obscured in any way. If a guy like my friend can consider the idea of republicans sharing government in NI, based on both sides being honest about things like funding sources, arms caches, who did what to whom on whose orders... well, there's some hope for Northern Ireland.
posted by Grrlscout at 3:39 PM on January 29, 2009

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