Belfast Telegraph

Friday 24 October 2014

Listening to stories has a place to play

Malachi O’Doherty’s Comment piece in this newspaper of June 30 examines the NIO’s consultation on the Eames-Bradley recommendations and makes a number of comments regarding that process and indeed this Commission’s role within the proposed Legacy Commission.

The Commission for Victims and Survivors are strong advocates for the development of a Living History programme which will record the stories of the conflict and make them publicly accessible.

Fundamental to the creation of that resource is not just storytelling, but story hearing. We believe that the facilitative dialogue processes we, and the other organisations we have worked with to develop this programme proposal, have developed are different and will encourage others to listen. In that act of listening, we believe perceptions and viewpoints will be challenged.

We acknowledge that many people have told their stories through the media and that many do not want to speak. Our aim is to bring together the stories of those who wish to speak into a central archive for the first time, to create a counter-narrative of the history of the conflict and not merely affirm the contemporaneous accounts of it. By its very definition, those narratives will be self-selecting and will allow many who have not had opportunity to speak the chance to do so.

Mr O’Doherty’s assertion, however, that “a massive archive of stories is one alternative to a Commission of enquiry such as Eames and Bradley envisaged” cannot be left unchallenged. Storytelling and story hearing have a place to play in building peace by creating understanding and opportunities for dialogue in a society where contested history is at issue. They do not, nor should they ever, form an alternative to a robust process which holds accountable those responsible for wrong-doing, whatever “side” of the community they may be from. We as a Commission would oppose any such position being taken.

We encourage the community to contribute to the NIO consultation on the Consultative Group recommendations and we ourselves will be continuing a process of dialogue on the matter internally and externally over the coming weeks.

Commissioner Patricia MacBride

Commission for Victims and Survivors

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