Northern Ireland amnesty?

Article published today by Professor Hamber in the Belfast Telegraph on the British Government’s proposal for an amnesty for all conflict-related offences.

“Amnesty a line in the sand? It’s not even close”

If we know anything about the Johnson government in the UK, they are not great at sticking to agreements or taking the views of the devolved nations seriously. The recent statement by the Secretary of State, Brandon Lewis, proposing new legislation to enforce a statute of limitations for all conflict-related violations in Northern Ireland fits this mould.

In July 2019, following a 15-month consultation on the legacy proposal in the Stormont House Agreement (SHA) of 2014 agreed by all political parties, the British Government committed to its full implementation. Two years later, it is now proposing to pull the SHA apart.

“The Troubles,Belfast, Northern Ireland 1970–2 Coldstream Guards” by Kaspar C at  CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The recent proposals remove a focus on justice and investigation, favouring information recovery and storytelling under an undefined banner of reconciliation. All of Northern Ireland’s five main political parties, the Irish government, civil society organisations and most victims’ groups are heavily critical of what amounts to an amnesty for conflict-era offences. Yet, the views of the people of Northern Ireland, and especially victims of both state and non-state violence, seem to matter little.

Read more https://brandonhamber.medium.com/759595928619

NIAC Submission: Mental Health

In early 2020 the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee (NIAC) launched a new consultation on “Addressing the Legacy of Northern Ireland’s past: The UK Government’s New Proposals”. This consultation specifically focused on the Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Brandon Lewis’, proposal around dealing with the past, i.e. the Ministerial Statement: Addressing Northern Ireland Legacy Issues: Written statement HCWS168 (18 March 2020). The NIAC consultation sought views on this statement.

In response to this consultation, the Chair and Professor Siobhan O’Neill, Professor of Mental Health Sciences, Ulster University, made a submission to the Committee. Our submission (download in full here) argues that the new proposals aim to address some of our concerns about the Stormont House Agreement by reducing the number of institutions that victims and survivors will need to engage with. This minimises the risk that victims will be re-traumatised by having to engage with multiple institutions. However, the new proposals also emphasise the process of gathering information rather than justice. We argue that this will cause significant hurt to many for whom justice was required for meaning-making, and who had awaited justice in order to process the trauma and recover. You can read more here.

Seminar: Trauma-Informed Approach

The second seminar in the Dealing with the Past series was hosted online on 18 May 2020, with some 250 people joining online.

The seminar was entitled “The need for a trauma-informed approach to address the conflict’s legacy” and was delivered by Professor Siobhan O’Neill on 18 May 2020. In this seminar Professor O’Neill presents the evidence on the transgenerational impact of trauma, and highlights the importance of a “trauma-informed” approach to addressing the conflict’s legacy to protect the population from further harm.

The seminar is part of the Transitional Justice Institute (TJI) and INCORE, in partnership with Healing Through Remembering and the John Hume and Thomas P. O’Neill Chair in Peace, online seminar series. The seminar was chaired by Professor Brandon Hamber.

Dealing with Past: Online Seminars

Despite the challenging current context debates about how to address Northern Ireland’s past continue. The Transitional Justice Institute (TJI) and INCORE, in partnership with Healing Through Remembering and the John Hume and Thomas P. O’Neill Chair in Peace, will be hosting an online seminar series to debate these important issues. This online seminar series will explore the Stormont House Agreement and dealing with the past in Northern Ireland and run for the remainder of the year.

Find out more and review the schedule of seminars.

Dealing with the Past Course for Professionals

Schloss Münchweiler in Switzerland the venue for the training
Schloss Münchweiler in Switzerland the venue for the training

For the last number of year the The Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) in cooperation with swisspeace has organized a high level course entitled Dealing with the Past Advanced Learning Course for Professionals .
The course according to the organisers addresses a range of topics which are central to the development of a holistic approach to Dealing with the Past (DwP) and to the implementation of relevant mechanisms for dealing with prior and on-going grave human rights violations. Special attention is paid to case studies, to a gender based approach, to the need to integrate DwP in the negotiation of peace agreements, as well as in the post conflict efforts.

In 2016 the course took place in Switzerland, 5 – 13 July 2016. Professor Hamber and Alistair Little (Beyond Walls) were asked to contribute to the course a range a two day session on dealing with victim-perpetrator issues in post-conflict societies, reconciliation and dealing with the past.

Participants on the course
Participants on the course

Paper: Victim and Survivor Issues

cvsni-logoMore locally, Professor Hamber recently was able to make some very direct suggestions around victim policy at the “Building the Future: Victim and Survivor Issues in Context. Review of the Victims and Survivors Strategy 2009-2019 Conference hosted by the Commission for Victims and Survivors, Titanic Belfast, 9-10 March 2016. Professor Hamber presented a paper on the victim issues and stumbling blocks in the dealing with the past process. The paper argues that

1.We cannot build the future if we do not have a common vision for the future;
2.We cannot build the future if we do not truly understand the past;
3.We cannot build the future without a holistic and collaborative approach; and
4.We cannot build a future without dealing with dominant masculine cultures.

If you would like to read the paper it can be downloaded here.

Pictured at the Commission for Victims and Survivors Conference to review the Victims Strategy are Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, Commissioner Judith Thompson and First Minster Arlene Foster (Credit: VCS website. Press Eye - Northern Ireland -9th March 2016)
Pictured at the Commission for Victims and Survivors Conference to review the Victims Strategy are Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, Commissioner Judith Thompson and First Minster Arlene Foster (Credit: VCS website. Press Eye – Northern Ireland -9th March 2016)

Lecture in Dublin

irish_association_logoOn returning from Washington DC, Professor Hamber spoke on 12 September 2015 at the Irish Association for Economic, Cultural and Social Relations, Stephen’s Green-Hibernian Club in Dublin on the topic of “Transforming Societies After Political Violence”. The lecture focused on the challenges of building peace in societies emerging from conflict and emphasised the importance of creating context-driven approaches to political and social trauma. The lecture also focused on how dealing with the past remains a key aspect of the Northern Ireland peace process that still needs to be grappled with.