Professor Michael O’Flaherty describes comments by Northern Ireland Attorney General John Larkin as ‘deeply unhelpful’

Professor Michael O’Flaherty, Director of the Irish Centre for Human Rights in NUI Galway.
Nov 20 2013 Posted: 12:26 GMT

Professor Michael O’Flaherty recently stepped down from his role as Chief Commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission

2013 NUI Galway Professor Michael O’Flaherty, Director of the Irish Centre for Human Rights at NUI Galway has issued a statement in reaction to Northern Ireland Attorney General John Larkin’s stated view on prosecutions linked to events that predate the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.

Text of statement;

“Today’s intervention in the Northern Ireland peace process by John Larkin, as reported in the media, is deeply unhelpful.  By proposing that a line be drawn in the sand regarding pre-1998 atrocities he is defying everything that has been learned internationally on healing the wounds of conflict. 

Northern Ireland needs to confront its past and not run away from it.  Unconditional amnesties can never be countenanced, and, like any other post-conflict society, Northern Ireland needs a comprehensive programme of what is called “transitional justice”.

Society, north and south of the border, is suffering because of the failure to address the past.  Some of the most vulnerable in society remain at the margins, with inadequate acknowledgement of their suffering; many are dying without ever being able to share their stories of pain and loss. 

There is not a day that goes by without the unresolved senses of neglect and injustice triggering societal problems. The lack of a truth recovery process means that tribal myths will continue to trump actual memory.

It is not as if we do not have a decent road map regarding how to proceed.  Back in January 2009, a “consultative group on the past”, chaired by Archbishop Robert Eames and Denis Bradley published a report that proposed a carefully considered process overseen by a Legacy Commission. 

The Eames Bradley report reflected the views of a wide cross-section of society and mirrored international good practice.  Just a few weeks ago, the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission published its own paper that considered how best “to move towards a more integrated and holistic transitional justice policy” and called for a fresh look at the Eames/Bradley recommendations. 

If John Larkin’s comments have any merit it is to have triggered media attention to a neglected aspect of the peace process.  Now the debate needs to move past his own comments and to how best to ensure truth, justice and healing for those whose lives were devastated by the Troubles.”


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