Legacy of the Troubles


Sir, – Further to my article “Disavowal of past violence key to laying moral foundations for united Ireland” (Opinion & Analysis, July 19th), a number of people have asked me what is the point of asking Sinn Féin and the representatives of loyalist paramilitarism to acknowledge their role in 30 years of terror, if there is little chance of a positive response? Rather like other aspects of legacy, there is always a possibility, if not now then later on.

More immediately, it is empowering for people who do not share the values and obfuscations of armed groups to make demands of those responsible for communal suffering, irrespective of the odds.

The alternative is to let issues of human rights and the morality of orange and green violence go by default.

Challenging terror is surely a democratic imperative.

I would also argue that some kind of emancipatory politics, embodying new ethical perspectives and including public apology, is a prerequisite for stable constitutional arrangements in a new Ireland (whatever shape that might take). – Yours, etc,


Institute of Irish Studies,

Queen’s University,


Sir, – In his opinion piece on the British government’s proposals to introduce a Troubles amnesty, Michael McDowell once again focuses entirely on the issue of criminal prosecutions and asks us to “shift our gaze from the injustice sensed by the victims” (“We must set our eyes now on pragmatic reconciliation”, Opinion & Analysis, July 21st).

Mr McDowell seems to ignore the fact that the proposed legislation intends to end all judicial activity relating to the Troubles, including legacy inquests and civil actions. Effectively, this would mean that the families of people killed by the security forces, as was the case with the Ballymurphy deaths in 1971, would, in the future, have no recourse whatsoever to set the record straight as to their innocence. There are many such cases still around as documented in Raymond Murray’s book State Violence.

I am afraid that “realpolitik” and the “logic of statecraft”, as practised in post-Civil War Ireland, are no substitute for genuine efforts by the state to provide victims of the Troubles with access to the truth. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 12.