Sinn Féin Westminster Candidate Cllr Catherine Seeley has said she believes that the ‘failure to address the past’ will continue to bring parties back to the negotiating table.
Speaking at the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis in Derry last weekend, Ms Seeley stated that dealing with the past was necessary in order to move society forward.
She said: “In 1987, IRA volunteers and a civilian were shot dead by the SAS in an ambush at Loughgall. In November that same year, 11 civilians were killed by an IRA bomb at a Remembrance Day in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh. 80 other people died that year as a result of the conflict in the North. That was the year I was born. Yet even though I was born into a war situation, I grew up in the context of peace - albeit a fragile and imperfect peace.
“7 years later the IRA called a ceasefire, the loyalists followed suit and the road opened for engagement, talks, negotiations and eventually the Good Friday Agreement. 1998 promised a better future for everyone. I grew up amidst hope and optimism.
“In the 17 years since 1998 we have had many more engagements, negotiations and Agreements. Because at times we need to return to talks - when it is necessary to push both the political and peace processes forward. But I believe it is the failure to address the issue of reconciliation, national reconciliation, the very process of nation building and peace building, that brings us back to the negotiating table, time and time again.
“This needs resolved in order to move our collective society forward. In the wake of this latest agreement there will be a renewed focus on the need to develop a reconciliation process that addresses the trans-generational division and hurt created by conflict - on all sides. This process must be an all-inclusive one and it must address the past. But ultimately, it must serve the future.
“Those tasked with shaping such a process must find a meaningful role for the many younger political and community voices on all sides, in taking this process forward.”
Cllr Seeley also called on those who had grown up in peace from differing political backgrounds with “a bigger stake in the future than in the past”, to contribute to the dialogue and progression of reconciliation.
Following the Ard Fheis, Cllr Seeley added: “Very different historic narratives and political views divide us. There are both real and imagined fears of and for each other. There also remains the fear of change itself. That will remain our reality until we change it and embrace a reconciliation process. We may never agree on the past, but this must not hold back the future.”
The Ard Fheis was held in Derry’s Millennium Forum from 6 - 8 March this year. Over 2,000 delegates, visitors and special guests attended. and over 200 motions were debated and voted on.