The IRA Statement, which has been cautiously welcomed by Alliance, was announced ironically during the John Hewitt Summer School in Armagh: “Tarnished Map: the Geography of Memory after Conflict”.
Yvonne Boyle, Alliance Party Spokesperson on Arts, Culture and Heritage, said at the end of the Summer School:
“The IRA announcement came after two sessions on Thursday – Hugh Orde speaking on “Policing the Past/Policing the Future” and Gillian Slovo, ANC member and novelist, talking about her work and experience.
“Hugh Orde spoke about how little energy is given here to looking at the whole situation for the whole people. He said there was a need to critically review and move to synchronise the various memories within our community. He stressed the importance of people telling their stories and also accepting the memory of ‘the other side’.
“Gillian Slovo spoke about sitting through a Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearing regarding the amnesty application of the ex-South- African policemen who were responsible for the death of her mother, Ruth First.
“She said the most difficult thing was that she began to get to know them i.e. the intimacy of enemies. While she said she did not believe their account of what happened, she said ‘I think I heard a truth underneath their lies – the unpalatable truth of who they were and their hatred of us.’
“She asked how can people learn to live with each other in these circumstances?
“She said it was important to find ‘a truth that can settle you, where you do not have to brutalise others to accept that there is a difference in their truth about what has happened’.
“This surely is a challenge for all of us. Can we hear the unpalatable truth of what the IRA were, whatever we think of their words, and in witnessing their statement, can we accept the difference of ‘their truth’ about the past? That I believe will help us realise the full potential of this opportunity.”