Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 23 October 2014

Today, we all must reflect on our past

We have wrestled long and hard over the issues raised by our past. The debate will probably go on long into the future. What to do about drawing a line under our issues, how to bring about a form of justice and how to describe what a victim means? These are just some of the questions from which we struggle to find answers. The events of the G8 focused on how far we have come since the conflict and it is sometimes necessary for outsiders, such as President Obama, to remind us of this.

However the issues surrounding truth and reconciliation continue to resonate. A hastily put together document on a shared future from the First and Deputy First Ministers detailed the setting up of a committee to bring forward recommendations on flags, parades and that big subject we call the past and to do so by Christmas.

It is a very tall order and applicants for chairman of that committee are unlikely to be queuing around the block. In truth there is no overarching solution for dealing with the past. It will be resolved largely in people's hearts, not in words or on a piece of paper. In all likelihood it will be moved forward by small things not great set-piece events such as a truth commission.

And as such an idea that is gathering ground has some merit. Today is a Day of Reflection. Chances are you may not have heard of it. But an organisation called Healing Through Remembering has been running the day for a couple of years now.

It is a day for small events, for silent contemplation and personal contemplation about the loss of loved ones in our conflict. It asks that people observing it think about the future, about breaking down barriers and committing to a shared future.

But if healing the wounds of the past is unlikely to come from a one-size-fits-all initiative could something like a Day of Reflection play a small part? Perhaps.

Healing Through Remembering is a noble organisation but a small one. Is the answer that Stormont should take this initiative, re-enforce its cross-community origins and put it on an official footing?

Would a statutory day or even a public holiday, perhaps replacing one of our many others, be a significant raising of the consciousness about this day?

Certainly many think so and we too are persuaded that it has merit. For the more of us who take out time to remember those who have suffered and are still suffering from a blighted past the greater will be our determination never to go back there.

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