Friday, 10 June 2011


Further leakage from the past happens this week. Former members of The Provisional Irish Republican Army (Provos) give statements to The Smithwick Inquiry, run by the Irish state into the killing of two Royal Ulster Constabulary officers near Jonesboro (54 degrees North, 6 degrees West) in 1989. A new inquest is announced into the killing by loyalists of Gerard Slane in 1988 and a former Brigadier in The British Army is required to attend to give evidence.

These, and other, moves produce very divided views, with callers to phone-in radio programmes, comment writers to news media websites and letter writers to newspapers asserting, among other things, that the inquiries cost too much, take too long, cover the wrong incidents, are always benefiting 'the other side', are not enough, never get to the real substance of the matter and, most damning of all, leave matters in a worse shape than before.

Is it time for an agreed and comprehensive truth recovery process?

In the play AH 6905 (Dave Duggan, Sole Purpose Productions, 2005), Danny, who is undergoing an operation to have the truth of the conflict events between 1969 and 2005 cut out of him, wonders:

If I open my innards to this truth recovery and let the world listen to the thrum of blood in my heart, the gush of bile in my spleen, the susurrations of air in my lungs, the drip, drip, drip of urine in my kidneys, the clatter of corpuscles and platelets in my arteries, when I sound them all from deep inside where the dead reside, will I be healed?

Will Danny get what he wants from a truth recovery process? Knowledge, truth, prosecutions, justice, revenge, peace? What would the elements of  such a truth recovery process be, given the experience of instances in Guatemala and South Africa? They would be social and healing, judicial and legal, national, communal and personal, and above all, political.

There are 17 known cases of individuals who are suspected of having been murdered and secretly buried. There are 3269 unsolved killings before the police's Historical Enquiries Team. There are calls for international inquiries into the murder of solicitor Pat Finucane and other high profile killings. This is just the tip of the pile of unresolved matters from the past. 

And matters unresolved continue to infect society, continue to populate our world with wandering wraiths, so that the dead abound and, like Van Helsing in Bram Stoker's novel Dracula, Danny arms himself with the garlic, thorn roses, crucifixes, the Host, wooden stakes, heavy mallets and other implements necessary to secure the dead in their graves and release the living, suffused with grief and sorrow, to continue their pained lives.

Note: The text of the play AH 6905 is available in Plays in a Peace Process by Dave Duggan, (Guildhall Press, 2008).

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