Victims Commissioners – What are they doing?

May 7, 2009

Patricia MacBride

Mike Nesbitt

Brendan McAllister

Bertha McDougall

Where are you?

Victims Commissioners

 For the past month, these four names have only appeared in the news on two occasions.*  Once was to tell us that they were giving evidence on the Eames-Bradley Report to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee. 

And the other instance is in the debacle surrounding the appointment of Bertha McDougall as Interim Commissioner, an appointment now deemed as “not lawfully made.”

Their website shows a slowing down of diary appointments from early February, with 23 appointments in February, and 13 in March.  There are none listed for April or May. 

So, where are these Commissioners, and what are they doing to justify their £65,000 salary?  And if they are working, why aren’t we being told about it?  Where’s the accountability?

*Google news search

The Truth of Reconciliation

January 31, 2009

In the aftermath of the Eames-Bradley report* and the controversial £12,000 ‘recognition payment’ Denis Murray talks to Andrew Neil on This Week. Watch the video here

There are some interesting points raised. Around 2 minutes in Denis Murray states,

Some clergymen in Northern Ireland . . . say that I can offer you forgiveness, but that doesn’t mean anything unless you express regret

Is forgiveness conditional? Do we offer it on the grounds that someone is sorry? That’s probably our default way of doing things. Who forgives his wife for cheating on him if she doesn’t express regret, and sorrow for the pain caused? Yet Jesus, radical as ever, wants us to forgive unconditionally. He is quoted as saying;

 And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses

There is no clause. No conditions. No small print. If you hold a grudge, if someone has wronged you, forgive them. There is no hierarchy of sin mentioned, no one sin to great to offer forgiveness for. We should not wait for someone to express regret before we offer them forgiveness. Yet it is true, that we can offer it and they may not accept it. They may feel small because we have offered something they cannot fathom and refuse out of disbelief or mistrust. They may simply have no remorse whatsoever. But we are called to forgive.

And Jesus knows a thing or two about forgiveness. He offered the ultimate forgiveness of sin. He offers forgiveness for all our sins, through his death and resurrection. And he can offer it, but it won’t mean anything in our lives unless we recognise our need for it, continually, acknowledging that we need to be forgiven for our disobedience against our perfect creator.

Another thing to note is Michael Portillo, 5 minutes in. He says this:

The thing that would most interest me for the future … will be whether
education is now going to be inter-communal, whether Catholics and Protestants are going to go to the same schools … If that’s not happening, then that’s a very serious problem

This is a statement I agree with wholeheartedly. Would we not rightly say America was stuck with its past if black children and white children went to different schools? For Northern Ireland to rid itself completely of sectarianism, the education system must be overhauled. I’m not calling for greater promotion of integrated education, I’m calling for an abolishment of segregated education.

Segregated education allows for one version of history to be taught to pupils of one background. It means our children will grow up with the mindsets of their parents and their grandparents. It means another conflict will never be far away from the surface, as long as we keep the ‘other side’ anonymous.

How can you hate Catholics if you’re friends with one? How can you loathe Protestants if you play football every lunchtime with them? But if you wait until you’re 16,18 and in a working environment, or third level education before you interact with people of the ‘other side’, then by that time you may well have a deep rooted sectarian mindset. It is imperative that with EU money being directed to Eastern Europe thus reducing cross community schools projects funding, that we address our Education problem immediately, and pave the way for the next generation.

*You can read the 192 page Eames-Bradley report here

£12,000 the value of life?

January 30, 2009

So, there is quite a ruckus going on at the minute over the head of the Eames-Bradley report, which among other things has called for families of all those killed during the troubles to be given £12,000. Frankly I find the whole ‘recognition payments’ thing rather foolish. It has overshadowed other good ideas that come out of the report completely. It has opened up wounds of pain that it seeks to heal, as many families feel bitter at the ‘one size fits all approach’ (e.g. The families of the nine people killed in the Shankill Road bomb will receive the same amount as the family of Thomas Begley, who died carrying out the attack when the bomb exploded prematurely). And it also attempts to put a price on life. Is £12,000 too much? Is it not enough? Is money really the compensation that these grieving families want?

Apparently the monetary value of the minerals and skin that compose our bodies amounts to around £3.00. Now that seems a petty amount, and a price that completely devalues me as a person. So £12,000? It’s a considerable amount more, it’s a yearly wage, but I still think I’m worth more than that. Ask any of those families who lost a loved one during the troubles if they would pay £12,000 to have them back, and they would in an instant. Life does not have a monetary value.

The Bible tells us in the book of Genesis that we are created in God’s own image. If God who made the vastness of the universe, saw fit to create me in his image, as a being who loves relationships, who laughs, who cries, who feels love and pain, then surely that gives me much greater worth than any monetary valuation?