VICTIMS, SURVIVORS, AND THE RECONCILIATION PARADIGM
by Joseph S. Robinson
Most scholars and practitioners of peacebuilding and transitional justice tend to work under what I refer to as the reconciliation paradigm. This paradigm accepts the contention that difficult pasts can and should be mediated in order to enable a peaceful and just co-existence. Yet critical scholars of transition regimes point out that reconciliation can be instrumentalised by powerful actors invested in ‘drawing a line’ under contentious pasts. Others argue that reconciliatory discourses minimise transitional legal and institutional inadequacies.
This paper calls attention to the ways in which the reconciliation paradigm can impose a dominant temporality on victims and survivors. This imposition takes the form of widespread social and political expectations and pressures to ‘move on’ or reconcile to the post-conflict status quo. In this context, the reconciliation paradigm is viewed with deep scepticism by many victim and survivor communities in Northern Ireland. Many understand the paradigm as domesticating and depoliticising; an entreaty to abandon the types of political struggles that upset or inconvenience transitional governance.
This paper ultimately reminds scholars and practitioners that, for reconciliation to be salvaged, it must not be allowed to become an instrument of ‘closing the books’ on the past
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About the Glencree Journal
This essay was written for ‘Dealing with the Legacy of Conflict in Northern Ireland through engagement and Dialogue’, a Journal by Glencree in conjunction with the Irish Centre for Human Rights at NUI Galway and Ulster University. The Journal forms part of Glencree’s Peace IV ‘Addressing the Legacy of Violence through Facilitated Dialogue’ project which focuses on creating meaningful, purposeful and sustained contact between victims/survivors groups, and representatives of groups and individuals with differing interpretations of what happened in Northern Ireland’s past. It also aims to create forums to share learnings from these dialogues on a national and International basis.
Featuring contributions from 19 authors, including academics and practitioners in the fields of peace studies and conflict resolution, the Glencree Journal brings a keen focus to many of the issues that are intrinsic to the Peace IV Project. It will also help to inform practitioners in a wide variety of fields of future pathways to sustaining a just and equitable society in a post-conflict situation. The Journal essays were peer reviewed by the Editorial Team led by Professor Ray Murphy of the Irish Human Rights Centre at NUI Galway, Professor Patricia Lundy, Dr Niall Gilmartin and Dr Philip McDermott of Ulster University, and Dr Rory Finegan, Maynooth University and formerly Assistant Manager (2020) at Glencree of the Peace IV ‘Addressing the Legacy of Violence through Facilitated Dialogue’ Project.
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A project supported by the European Union’s PEACE IV Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB).