The fourth seminar in the Dealing with the Past series entitled “Dealing with the Past and the SHA: Is a transformative gender approach possible?” was hosted online on 24 June 2020, with some 60 people joining online.
In the seminar Claire Hackett, Healing Through Remembering & Falls Community Council and Dr Catherine O’Rourke, reflected on the exclusion of women and gender from dominant approaches to dealing with the past in the Stormont House Agreement (SHA). The seminar discussed a specific intervention to remedy these absences and silences, namely the development of Gender Principles for Dealing with the Legacy of the Past by a network of women drawn from academia, the human rights and victims sectors. The seminar further reflected on the opportunity to address gender more broadly in any process to deal with the past, in particular the inclusion of LGBTQ experiences and perspectives. The seminar reflected on some of the reasons why these perspectives have been so absent from the primary debate, and considered possible strategies and approaches for devising a more gender-inclusive process.
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. The seminar can now be watched online.
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.
Through the prism of Northern Ireland, this article explores the function of existing and proposed archives within societies emerging from conflict, and highlights their potential in adding complexity to understanding conflict and challenging dominant narratives. The article outlines how, despite progress since the Northern Ireland peace accord in 1998, efforts to deal with the past and human rights violations have been piecemeal and politically contested. In the absence of a comprehensive approach to the past, testimony gathering, initiated ‘unofficially’ at a community level, has provided opportunities for individuals’ experiences of the conflict to be documented and acknowledged. The recent Stormont House Agreement (2014) seeks to establish an Oral History Archive as a central repository for individuals to ‘share experiences and narratives related to the Troubles’. The article discusses the challenges in developing this ‘official’ archive, and the problem of reconciling competing historical narratives of the past. This is contrasted against the growth in bottom-up ‘storytelling’ or testimony work. The article argues for supplementing the official process with wider testimony gathering processes directed by and located within community contexts. It is argued that the deliberate juxtaposition of contrasting horizontal or inter-community narratives held by different local parties may allow for the emergence of a more complex and inclusive narrative of the past, rather than attempts to impose a shared vertical narrative, which is subject to either further contestation or uncomfortable compromise.
Importantly this article was part of a special edition of the Journal of Human Rights Practice focused on the issue of archives and their role in transitional justice processes. Gráinne Kelly, Brandon Hamber and colleagues from swisspeace, Elisabeth Baumgartner, Briony Jones, and Ingrid Oliveira, were the guest editors of the journal. The journal special issue was timely as it meant that several high level academics and practitioners were able to distribute their research on the topic of archives focusing on a range of places: Northern Ireland, Kosovo, South Africa, Canada, etc.
The paper can be downloaded herefor those with academic access, or alternative email Professor Hamber for a copy.