Belfast Telegraph

The loyalist voice must be heard

By Brian Rowan

Rewind to the period of the mid to late-1990s and you will find loyalist representatives at the heart of the political negotiations. And, then, fast-forward into the here and now.

Things are no longer the same, with loyalists now outside the talks tent. "If they are going to leave it to the five Executive parties (now four after the UUP resignation) it's going nowhere," PUP leader Billy Hutchinson said at a recent conference.

He was speaking about the past and the challenges of designing a process with all the relevant sides and voices on the inside.

A new report was made available at that event: Truth Recovery Revisited, a contribution from within loyalism.

Tom Roberts of the Ex-Prisoner Interpretative Centre also addressed the model proposed in the Stormont House Agreement, including the new Historical Investigations Unit (HIU) and an Independent Commission for Information Retrieval (ICIR).

"Where would the incentive be to engage with the ICIR when one could also be the subject of an HIU investigation?" he asked. "It seems somewhat futile to propose the establishment of these bodies without consulting with communities who may be expected to engage with them."

The latest loyalist contribution to this debate follows a series of workshops. Speakers included Denis Bradley of the Eames-Bradley Consultative Group, Queen's law professor Kieran McEvoy, Healing Through Remembering director Kate Turner and the Wave Trauma Centre's Alan McBride.

The report, by academic Lisa Faulkner, recommended that, within the loyalist community, a "dealing with the past" sub-group should be established to keep across political developments and disseminate relevant information.

But Roberts highlighted another concern: "There is also the perception from a loyalist perspective that history is being rewritten and that the causes of the conflict are the responsibility of all things British and unionist."

Loyalists are not inside the latest negotiations and, on the outside, their concerns and questions are not being answered.

On this issue - addressing the past - it is not the way to shape a process.

Brian Rowan is a writer and commentator on security issues

Belfast Telegraph


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