The thorny issue of dealing with the past has dogged peace processes throughout the world. One school of thought is that it is better to turn the page of history and move on. Human rights have been abused by all the participants and no useful purpose is served by opening up old wounds. Another view is that it is neither possible nor healthy to simply turn the page of history without first knowing what is written on it. Because the past has not been dealt with the wounds are still open.
Human rights have been abused by all participants to this conflict but the problem is that violations committed by the state have been consistently covered up as a matter of policy. In the two cases outlined below for instance neither family can officially say that their relative was murdered. Why focus on Danny Hegarty and Seamus Bradley? 496 men, women and children were slaughtered in 1972 alone, the year that Danny and Seamus died. Indeed 9 others were killed in nearby Claudy within hours of Operation Motorman, including 9 year old Catherine Eakin, as the result of three IRA car bombs in the County Derry village.
As we approach the anniversary of Operation Motorman there are two reasons to focus on the deaths of Danny Hegarty and Seamus Bradley. The first is that members of both families made a decision to recover their own 'historical memory' of the circumstances leading to the deaths of their loved ones. They therefore asked the PFC for support in doing so. The ongoing Bloody Sunday Inquiry has prompted other families to do the same. The second reason is that we are all diminished if we choose to ignore or collectively deny terrible events in our common history. Those whose responsibility it was to uphold the law broke the law. Those charged with investigating and prosecuting murder clearly failed to do so. If anything this fueled the conflict more than any factor.
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