Landmark conference aiming to find truth from past
Key figures in Northern Ireland’s war and peace have met under the same roof to discuss our bloody past and the painful search for truth.
They were part of a major conference hosted by the group Healing Through Remembering (HTR) on the eve of today’s ‘Day of Reflection’, which will think back on decades of conflict here.
The meeting — in private — also comes ahead of important decisions to be made by Secretary of State Owen Paterson on demands for a public inquiry into the 1989 murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane, and what to do to answer wider questions on the past.
How last night’s conference can feed into that decision-making process is not yet clear, but event organisers are hoping it can help inform the debate.
Police chiefs Matt Baggott and Sir Hugh Orde were part of a panel which also included loyalist paramilitary leader Jackie McDonald and Sinn Fein’s legacy spokesman Mitchel McLaughlin.
Speaking to this newspaper ahead of last night’s conference, McDonald said: “It’s an amazing line-up.
“It’s one of the most important things that has happened.”
The panel were joined in the room by Lord Eames and Denis Bradley, who co-chaired the Consultative Group on the Past, victims’ representatives, former RUC officers, Seanna Walsh, who read the IRA endgame statement in 2005, and former loyalist prisoners including Alistair Little, Tom Roberts and Winston ‘Winkie’ Rea, leader of the Red Hand Commando.