Canada Council for the Arts




CENTRE FOR IMAGE, PERFORMANCE AND TEXT, University of Wollongong 2002
CORRYMEELA 2007 and 2008

Artist, Lycia, was invited to attend the Keynote Speech at Corrymeela Summer Festival, the first cross-community summer festival in Ballycastle’s Peace and Reconciliation Centre (for Peace and Conflict (and ‘witness to Trauma’) studies and dialogue) in 30 years:

by Donald W. Shriver, Jr. from NYC, USA

Expert on Citizenship and Civil Rights.

Now I am not sure just what the new government of Northern Ireland ought to do about addressing the pains of the past, but I am very sure that it is building up citizen wrath to come if it decides merely to ignore those pains, to invent no public memorial to them, and to offer no symbolic or material compensation to the wounds which survive in this society, similar to wounds that some members of every society carry in their bodies or their spirits from the past.

When, in 1999, the Oregon legislature officially repealed an 1849 law forbidding black people from crossing the territorial border, one black citizen exclaimed, ‘At last they have told our story!’

Not to permit government to get away with public amnesia – that is one continuing reason for the pressures of citizens upon government from all sides of every country’s ‘troubles’. It’s a hard case, I grant.

Are the losses on all sides susceptible to joint public mourning?

A lot of citizen conversation will have to decide. Right now, in New York City, we are building memorials to 9/11; and one of my regrets is that, so far, the suffering families have refused to incorporate some gesture of mourning for the terrorist-suffering of other peoples around the world.

Personally, I have to respect the New York Mayor who, soon after 9/11, called attention to the 40,000 Londoners who perished in the Blitz of 1940.

Can we find in our own suffering, a window to the suffering of others?

I hope we can, but at least in 2008 in Northern Ireland, it will be a test of your entry into real democratic order if you can find room in the public mind and public symbols to take account of the costs, justified or not, which many people paid to bring a new measure of peace and justice to this society.

It is a question for much citizen debate: can we design public memorials to the injustices of the past which do some justice to all sides of the conflict?

Can we, in the very decisions of the design of memorials, expand public empathy for the ‘other’side?

Clegg and Liechty, authors of Moving Beyond Sectarianism, ask: “What kind of structures and processes might we put in place, within our traditions, to help one another let out our hurts and to ritualize remembering, repentance, forbearance, and forgiveness?”

I recommend seeking some help in these matters from contemporary Germany, which has astonished the world by its ability to deal in public ways with its own negative history of 1933 – 45.

Shriver is an expert in the Holocaust, Apartheid, Civil Rights in America and the author of An Ethic for Enemies: Forgiveness in Politics and Honest Patriots: Loving a Country Enough to Remember its Misdeeds

© 2001-2010 Lycia Trouton   Updated 3rd March 2010