Journal Article

Denial, Silence and the Politics of the Past: Unpicking the Opposition to Truth Recovery in Northern Ireland

Cheryl Lawther

in International Journal of Transitional Justice

Volume 7, issue 1, pages 157-177
Published in print March 2013 | ISSN: 1752-7716
Published online November 2012 | e-ISSN: 1752-7724 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ijtj/ijs029
Denial, Silence and the Politics of the Past: Unpicking the Opposition to Truth Recovery in Northern Ireland

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Abstract1

There has been considerable and protracted debate on whether a formal truth recovery process should be established in Northern Ireland. Some of the strongest opposition to the creation of such a body has been from unionist political elites and the security forces. Based on qualitative fieldwork, this article argues that the dynamics of denial and silence have been instrumental in shaping their concerns. It explores how questions of memory, identity and denial have created a ‘myth of blamelessness’ in unionist discourse that is at odds with the reasons for a truth process being established. It also examines how three interlocking manifestations of silence – ‘silence as passivity,’ ‘silence as loyalty’ and ‘silence as pragmatism’ – have furthered unionists’ opposition to dealing with the past. This article argues that making peace with the past requires an active deconstruction of these practices.

Keywords: truth commissions; denial; silence; unionism; Northern Ireland

Journal Article.  9996 words. 

Subjects: Human Rights and Immigration ; Public International Law

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