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De Silva gives lead on dealing with our violent past

By Liam Clarke

Published 25/01/2013

Murder is always shocking, but the killing of Pat Finucane (right) - gunned down in front of his wife and children as they shared a family meal - is one of those which stands out.

If it were my parent, or spouse, I might not be any more satisfied than the Finucane family are with Sir Desmond de Silva's report into his killing. If their dismissive reaction is understandable in human terms, that doesn't take away from the fact that such reports could make a significant contribution to dealing with the past.

Sir Desmond dug deep in Government records, putting hundreds of them on the internet long before they would have normally been released and, in many cases, setting aside official secrecy.

What was published may have been redacted to protect individuals, but the disclosure is remarkable.

Releasing documents is something the British and Irish governments could do on their own initiative, preferably under independent oversight.

That would put pressure on the paramilitaries and other actors to follow suit. It would be a good start to the truth-recovery process at a reasonable cost. There are international precedents, for instance in Germany, where the old East German state's secret police archive has been opened up to scrutiny.

It would not be a complete answer to dealing with our violent legacy - nothing would. But it could be part of the answer.

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