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As a son of someone killed in the Troubles, and as a psychotherapist, I offer my thoughts on ‘historical crimes’.
Firstly, in my view, the use of the term ‘historical crimes’ is inappropriate, because the suffering endured by people who lost loved ones is current.
For the families and friends, their losses are not historical and this should be our primary consideration in deciding how to resolve these matters.
The bereaved are likely to have post-traumatic stress symptoms. The impact of death and violence can persist down the generations, unless an intervention provides catharsis.
Catharsis can be achieved in a number of ways, so the bereaved can reach a point in which some meaning can be gleaned from their experience.
One way is for justice to be seen to be done, for those who have been murdered or maimed, via a proper accounting of what took place and an acknowledgement of the impact of injustices.
Also, access should be provided to free or low-cost counselling.
For me, and I do not claim to speak on behalf of any others, similarly affected by the Troubles, I believe that a thorough, legally-based calling-to-account, in relation to the Troubles, is appropriate to honour those affected and the memory of those who have died.
This calling-to-account, with a similar approach in South Africa, must include both governments acknowledging their role in the mayhem. Such an approach would require a form of amnesty for those who participate in the process and should also include the ongoing possibility of legal sanction for those who do not.
I do not see the benefit of punishing perpetrators, though I can appreciate that there are people who do see this as a way forward.
Instead, it is my belief that the South African approach, legally binding in these islands as a whole, is the best, or the least worst, way in which to honour, with justice, the memory of my father, family members who have died prematurely as a direct result of his murder, and the many thousands of others who have been so terribly hurt by what has taken place.
This approach would also be a compassionate gift to subsequent generations, through public acknowledgement of what was done.
This might also exorcise the culture of shame in Ireland.
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