Tuesday, April 14, 2015

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New Yorker Discussion On Northern Ireland’s Past

Ed Moloney comments on a radio conversation prompted by the New Yorker magazine's coverage of Gerry Adams/Jean McConville story.  Ed Moloney is a well known Irish journalist living in New York. He was the project director for Boston College’s oral history project. He blogs at The Broken Elbow.
An interesting conversation here between the New Yorker magazine’s Patrick Keefe, who wrote the recently published, much discussed, much praised and lengthy piece on Jean McConville and Gerry Adams, and Philip Gourevitch, a writer for the magazine who has specialised in covering the conflict in Rwanda. The discussion is moderated by Amy Davison.

Here is the audio preceded by the website’s intro:

The murder, in 1972, of Jean McConville, a widowed mother of ten living in Belfast, is one of the most notorious crimes committed by the I.R.A. during the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Patrick Radden Keefe wrote about the McConville killing, and about the alleged involvement of the prominent Irish politician Gerry Adams, in a recent issue of the magazine. On this week’s Out Loud podcast, Keefe and Philip Gourevitch join Amy Davidson to talk about the aftermath of the Troubles and the path to peace in Northern Ireland.

There’s a common misconception in the United States, Keefe says, that the Irish conflict was largely resolved by the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. “I was really shocked,” he says, “when I spent time in Belfast for this story, to find a society that’s still really profoundly divided, and in which some of the terrible things that have happened in the past stubbornly refuse to stay in the past.”
Some politicians, including Gerry Adams, talk about the dangers of scratching at old wounds, but Gourevitch, who has written extensively about reconciliation in post-genocide Rwanda, contends that unless past traumas are acknowledged, it’s almost impossible for torn societies to heal. “In terms of the historical process,” he says, “there has to be a sense that they’re living inside the same story.”

The Audio


Michael Mahoney said...

This is a really interesting discussion about the value and pitfalls of probing into the past, of choosing between confronting painful truths or promoting amnesia. In the bout between the two approaches, it's probably the early rounds in the post-GFA era.

Ed Moloney recently pointed out that in the audio clip the writers Keefe and Gourevitch do not mention the current battle in Northern Ireland between two ways of dealing with the past: the 'truth process' versus the pursuit of prosecutions. The latter approach seems to be gaining the upper hand. Could this be a way of allaying Unionist fears as Sinn Féin continues to gain strength on the island or do British conservatives like Cameron and Michael Gove want to tear up the Blair script and shut down the so-called 'Peace Process'?

In this discussion, Keefe suggests - or throws out the idea - that an avoidance of the past only causes problems "down the road." But doesn't genuine reconciliation between the Nationalist and Unionist communities first require a shared acceptance of Northern Ireland's legitimacy? Rwandans, whether Tutsi or Hutu, do not disagree that they live in Rwanda.