Reparations remain a contested issue in Northern Ireland. Former combatants are now in government, such as Sinn Fein, whose paramilitary wing (IRA) was responsible for some of the conflict’s worst atrocities.
It also includes two Unionist political parties who have had links with loyalist paramilitaries and shown unwavering support for state violence. Reparations have been at the core of political and ideological struggles about the past. For example, the reaction to a recommendation by the Consultative Group on the Past (appointed by Tony Blair) that all families of those killed should receive a £12,000 recognition payment resulted in the abandonment of a comprehensive proposal to deal with the past. The central issue of controversy was the reparations payment would go to the families of former paramilitaries, state forces and civilians alike.
More recently, proposals to provide a pension for those seriously injured during the conflict have been frustrated by the fact that a small number of injured former paramilitaries would also benefit. In the absence of an over-arching mechanism for dealing with the past or an official reparations programme, contests over ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ notions of victimhood, truth recovery, blame and acknowledgement have mapped onto the binary narratives and understanding of the conflict.
Photo Credit: Cat Collector