10 March 2006

BBC Facing the Truth series masks the complexity of the truth say ACP


The BBC programmes on truth and reconciliation aired this week should not be viewed as an example of the form any proper truth process should take, an Ardoyne research group has said.

Tom Holland of the Ardoyne Commemoration Project said right from the outset his group and other victims’ groups objected to the BBC hosting such intense and painful exchanges about the conflict.
“These programmes may well help to highlight the need for some way to be found to comprehensively deal with our past.
“But the BBC, with respect to the political situation in Ireland, has always demonstrated an inherent British government and unionist bias,” Tom Holland said.
“This was reflected in the programmes’ content with two loyalist and three republican ‘perpetrators’ and one British soldier who thinks he might have accidentally killed the wrong man.”
The Facing the Truth series and subsequent special Spotlight episodes aired this week featured several North Belfast people including former IRA member Joe Doherty who met up with victims of the Narrow Water bombing, despite his not being involved in the attack, and Mary McLarnon who met with the British soldier who shot dead her brother, Michael McLarnon, in 1971.
Clifford Burrage, who admitted killing Michael, also met with Ardoyne republican Martin Meehan – he had savagely beaten Meehan to within an inch of his life that same year.
Tom Holland said the programme, which was chaired by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, masked the complexity of the conflict.
“It has brought us no closer to understanding who was involved, why they were involved, what role they played and how that impacted on the rest of society,” he said.
“More importantly, they showed no interest in the wider lessons we as a society need to learn from our traumatic experiences if we are to ensure that we never again revisit the conditions of conflict.”
To gain a proper understanding of the conflict an independent, international truth commission is required, the ACP believes.
“Neither the British state, unionists nor republicans have a right to control such a process.
“They all have an equal responsibility to outline their role in the violence and in creating the context to the suffering over the last 37 years.
“We owe it to the victims, to ourselves and to future generations to deal with this issue once and for all in a manner which has the fullest appreciation of the causes, context and consequences of the conflict we all had to endure.”
Martin Meehan, who took part in the Spotlight special programmes, said his contribution to the series was slightly different in that in his case two ex-combatants had come face to face rather than victim and perpetrator.
“The response I’ve got has been very positive.
“A lot of people were of the opinion that our exchange should be a model for the way forward,” Martin said.
“For me I got a lot of inner analysis of conflict resolution at its coalface. Confronting your enemy is a difficult road to go down.
“ But I think we all have to face that road sooner rather than later.
“Conflict resolution, I believe, should be robustly explored and developed for us as a community to make any progress,” said Martin Meehan.

Journalist:: Áine McEntee

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