Fintan O’Toole: Investigating the Troubles requires a hard-headed exchange: truth for amnesty
There will be no justice for victims and the bereaved. But we can at least have the truth
The scene of the Enniskillen bombing seconds after the blast in November 1987. Photograph: Pacemaker
In the anatomy of contemporary European savagery, the Troubles in Northern Ireland barely register as a pin prick. What is 3,500 deaths over 30 years when we think of 100,000 over three years in the war in Bosnia? But what marked the Troubles is not the scale of suffering but its intensity. It happened, not just in a small society, but disproportionately at the blandly euphemised “interfaces”. Even leaving aside the atrocities perpetrated in Dublin, Monaghan, Birmingham, Guildford and other places outside Northern Ireland, there were 16,209 bombings, 36,923 shootings and 47,541 people injured.
The Methodist Church has estimated that one in three people of all ages in Northern Ireland have been directly or indirectly affected by this violence. Within the most affected areas, the proportion must be far higher. And while the needs of the victims are paramount, there is also trauma for those who inflicted violence and for their families.