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Reconciliation vital to put Troubles in past

I once said to two IRA men, who had both served time for murder, that the best I could do in summing up the Troubles was that we had got into a mess that we should have avoided as a society and, as a result, young men and women had acted in ways that otherwise they would not have done.

One agreed, but the other insisted that the IRA campaign of violence was necessary and justified. The first I can work genuinely together with despite that past, the second I will be pragmatic with, but trust will be limited. My perspective, shared by many across our society, is that nothing was achieved through violence that could otherwise have been achieved through peaceful means. However, the violence occurred. Thousands killed and injured, billions of damage caused, thousands imprisoned, our society deeply divided and the economy blighted for years. We should ensure that never occurs again.

The governments seem to effectively be proposing an amnesty for all murderers using statute of limitations legislation. My view is that we either investigate the past crimes in full, no matter the consequences, including senior members of Sinn Fein going to prison, where appropriate, or we suspend pursuit of justice, forensic truth, inquests, civil actions and all other forms of investigations for 30 years at least and give our society a chance to continue to undo the damage from that unnecessary conflict.

If we are to consider an amnesty, or suspension, I would like to see some element of a commitment to real reconciliation, such as a forum to allow victims to tell of the impact the violence had on them and their families, genuine shared housing and schooling and a clear statement that violence should never again be used to further political aims on this island and a politics that strives to maximise the potential of this place we share - no matter what your constitutional preference might be.

trevor ringland

Holywood, Co Down

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