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Past Imperfect: Dealing with the Past
in Northern Ireland and Societies in Transition

Edited by Brandon Hamber

This publication brings together the papers presented at the 'Dealing with the Past: Reconciliation Processes and Peace Building' Conference and draws on the ideas of the participants to further the debate about dealing with, or perhaps not dealing with, the past in Northern Ireland. Includes chapters on South Africa, Northern Ireland and Guatamala.

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Download all chapters [ Download Winzip, 246kb]

Available in hard copy from INCORE Telephone: +44 02871 375500 or in South Africa from Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation Telephone: +27 11 4035650

First published 1998 by INCORE/UU

ISBN 0 9533305-4-0

Past Imperfect: Dealing with the Past in Northern Ireland and South Africa

Edited by Brandon Hamber

Published 1998, INCORE/UU: Derry/Londonderry, Northern Ireland


Preface: the cemeteries of truth

Chapter 1

The past imperfect: exploring Northern Ireland, South Africa and Guatemala
by Brandon Hamber (pp. 1-12)

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Chapter 2

The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission: looking back, moving forward
by Mary Burton (pp. 13-24)

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Chapter 3

Should we remember? Recovering historical memory in Guatemala
by Roberto Cabrera (pp. 25-30)

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Chapter 4

Remembering in Northern Ireland: victims, perpetrators and hierarchies of pain and responsibility
by Marie Smyth (pp. 31-49)

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Chapter 5

How should we remember? The work of the Northern Ireland Victims Commission
by Kenneth Bloomfield (pp. 50-55)

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Chapter 6

Remembering to forget: issues to consider when establishing structures for dealing with the past
by Brandon Hamber (pp. 56-78)

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Chapter 7

Conclusion: a Truth Commission for Northern Ireland?
by Brandon Hamber (pp. 78-79)

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Afterword: war is people


1. Living with the trauma of the troubles summary of the recommendations of the Bloomfield Report

2. Dealing with the past in Northern Ireland: questions and issues to consider

3. Dealing with the past reading material [ Download PDF Format What's PDF?]

4. Dealing with the past Internet resources [ Download PDF Format What's PDF?]


Sir Kenneth Bloomfield

Sir Kenneth Bloomfield was educated at the Royal Belfast Academical Institution (of which he is a governor) and St Peter's College, Oxford, where he read Modern History. He was appointed Head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service on 1 December 1984. In that capacity he was the most senior advisor to successive Secretaries of State for Northern Ireland and other Ministers on a wide range of issues. He retired from his position in April 1991. Sir Kenneth received a Knighthood in the 1987 Birthday Honours List. In December 1997 he was asked by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to head the Northern Ireland Victims Commission. His report entitled We Will Remember Them was published in April 1998.

Mary Burton

Mary Burton was born Marie Macdiarmid Ingouville in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She moved to South Africa in 1961 when she married a South African, and became a South African citizen in 1994. She has been active in human rights organisations since 1965, including the women's anti-apartheid organisation, the Black Sash. Mary Burton served as national president of the Black Sash from 1986 to 1990 and is now a trustee. She was Provincial Electoral Officer for the Western Cape Province in the 1994 general elections in South Africa. In 1995 she was appointed to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and served on its Human Rights Violations Committee.

Mario Roberto Cabrera

Mario Roberto Cabrera holds a Masters of Public Health and is also a physician. Presently he is the Psychological Restoration Area Co-ordinator for the Human Rights Office of the Archbishop of Guatemala working on The Recovery of the Historic Memory Project (REMHI) in Guatemala. Roberto Cabrera works on designing, planning and implementing the psychosocial component of the project.

Marie Smyth

Marie Smyth currently co-ordinates the Cost of the Troubles Study, an investigation on the experiences and effects of Northern Ireland's Troubles on the population of Northern Ireland. She also teaches at Smith College in Massachusetts. She has taught for ten years at the University of Ulster, Northern Ireland, and has researched and written on issues such as segregation, mixed marriage, women's roles, life in enclaves in Northern Ireland, and the social, economic and political effects of violence and low intensity conflict. She has written widely on the psychological and physical cost of the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

Brandon Hamber

Brandon Hamber is a Clinical Psychologist and works at the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation in Johannesburg, South Africa. He co-ordinates the Transition and Reconciliation Unit at the Centre and has co-ordinated the Centre's work focusing on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission over the last three years. He is a visiting fellow (1997/1998) at the Initiative on Conflict Resolution and Ethnicity (INCORE) in Northern Ireland, where he holds the Tip O'Neill Fellowship. His work at INCORE focuses on countries coming out of violence and strategies for dealing with the past.


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