Riflessioni sul Perdono, sulla Dignità e sulla Riconciliazione

Anne Gallagher

1. I negoziati di pace, generalmente, sono incentrati sulle dimensioni politica ed economica. Quale è la Sua percezione della necessità di toccare aspetti più profondi e genuini della riconciliazione e come si può ottenere questo?

My background is in nursing. For over a decade I was a Staff Nurse and served in Casualty and Neurosurgery in Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital, at the height of the Northern Ireland troubles, working with surgeons and specialists to piece back together the broken bodies of people shot, blown up and maimed during the conflict.
At times it was no different from operating at a forward field hospital in combat zones, like those we see in war torn areas today. We were operating in the midst of a terrible period of attack and counter attack which was spiraling out of control, and we were seeing the broken human results every day from all sides.
As a nurse I was a non-combatant, a neutral in this conflict only concerned with saving life as I was trained to do. However, I was brought up in Bellaghy in Mid-Ulster which was steeped in the folklore and traditions of the republican tradition. My own brothers were parties to the combat – and due to circumstances they found themselves in, did what so many young men in our area did…. they joined the IRA.
The Northern Ireland “war” trained us very differently. So when I write about this, I can’t claim to be just a bystander – maybe nobody who is human truly is. While one half of me was trying to put the broken victims back together, another part was desperately worried about members of my family – the brothers who I grew up with and who were closest people to me in the world and whose actions were contributing to the grim toll of our daily human workload in intensive care and in emergency operating theatres.
I am and always have been anti violence, and the culmination of all these experiences – personal, home and professional, led me down a particular route following the 1994 Northern Ireland ceasefire, and towards Seeds of Hope, the organisation I founded shortly afterwards.
As a nurse I was trained to heal, and healing is the phenomenon that Northern Ireland has barely begun to address. The trauma goes deep still, and we have not yet even begun to pierce the surface of it more than a decade after the Good Friday Agreement.
The victims, emotional and physical simply remind society of the war it now wishes to forget, and their anger and grief has been virtually swept under the carpet. Also the divide between the communities is in some ways as deep today as it was in the 1970s. While politics seems to be working, it is primarily a separate process between the politicians.

2. Quali sono le condizioni nelle quali, al di là dell’assicurare gli interessi della parti in conflitto, può essere stabilito un processo incentrato su un senso di equità e dignità?

First contacts when I began to do this work were with loyalists from the opposing side of the Northern Ireland division, men like Bobby McConnell and Alec Calderwood, both life prisoners, both whom I still regard today as close friends.
With their support, we began to initiate pioneering peace work with present and former republican prisoners in a number of pilot schemes. We decided to use art as a focus – and of course art is an important realm of prison education and a form of escape and expression for many prisoners. I decided to create an art resource – a travelling art display consisting entirely of prison art, and I travelled to the Maze and Maghaberry prisons to visit prisoners and ask them to join in the work.
The biggest donation would come from the most unlikely source – Michael Stone, who carried out the attack in Milltown cemetery on a high-profile Republican funeral in 1986 in which three mourners were killed.
I was taken to his cell by a prison officer, with no idea how I would be received, particularly when he discovered my family background. Which is maybe a good point to pause the story and back up a bit.
One of my brothers, Dominic Mc Glinchey had joined the IRA in his late teens, but after a disagreement with that organisation, he joined a splinter group, the INLA, and his name became synonymous with actions, which, whether he was actually behind them or not, were considered poisonous and deeply provocative to the loyalist community.
To Michael Stone, a loyalist “soldier” that provocation could be factored up by a large magnitude. I was left alone outside his cell, and what happened next left me dumbstruck. When he learned I was Dominic Mc Glinchey’s sister, he invited me into his cell and spent nearly two hours talking to me. He donated one of the most powerful art works that ever came out of the prisons, “The Mask.” He was yet to become a rather famous artist in his own right. This was a portent of things to come.
Setting up Seeds of Hope took me to the USA where I met leading practitioners of Restorative Justice and Conflict Mediation, and soon many of those figures, including Justice Janine Geske and Bob Enwright came to Donegal in Ireland for our first major conference, called “The Lost Art of Forgiveness“, which included one of the most spellbinding talks any of us have ever heard, by Sunny Jacobs who spent 17 years in prison – 5 of them on death row for a crime she was innocent of. Her exoneration came too late for her husband, Jessie, who was executed by electric chair. Both were later proved innocent.

3. Quanto il perdono è essenziale alla dimensione della riconciliazione? Alla radice della Sua cultura politica e/o della Sua fede religiosa quali sono i principi che implicano o escludono il perdono? Quali versi o detti che fanno parte del Suo personale patrimonio spirituale possono, nella sua opinione, avere un significato universale

She started her talk by saying what a privilege it was to be standing in front of us giving this talk. Then she paused and thought for a moment, and said, actually the greatest privilege was standing in front of us, being able to breathe.
A number of conferences, attended by former members of the IRA and the loyalist paramilitary organisations followed, in the safe territory of the Donegal coastline, where they ate, drank and sang each others songs. One of those former IRA members, Patrick Magee had already played a major part in my work.
In the early 1980’s I had been in contact with Joanna Berry. Her father was Sir Anthony Berry, and he was killed in the IRA explosion that destroyed the Grand Hotel in Brighton in an attempt to kill members of the British government in 1984. Joanna wanted to meet the man who planted the bomb, and I managed to get word of this to whom. When Patrick Magee agreed to meet Joanna, they did so for the first time at my house in Dublin.
Tell me your story. I want hear everything – the anger, the pain, I want to hear it all.” This was one of the things Patrick said to Jo half way through the first secret encounter. It was not what she expected. One year earlier she had watched Pat Magee being freed early to the outrage of many. It made her angry – her father would never be able to return home. When she got the call that Patrick had agreed to meet, she had just 24 hours to compose herself. She did not know what to expect.
I knew Patrick was also anxious. He also could not know quite what he was walking into, or in what state of mind the woman he was to meet was in. But his attitude was – If I was prepared to kill for what I believe, the least I can do is agree to meet a victim of my actions. He had just been given an unexpected newfound freedom from prison under the peace agreement. He did not know the meeting would alter everything.
He later told Jo, “It would have been easier if you had been angry been angry with me.” He elaborated in subsequent meetings: “I was prepared for anger. I could have dealt with that. What I was not prepared for was someone prepared to listen to me. Or even forgive me for killing your father.” These snatches of dialogue, most of which were captured for a film, demonstrated something unique was happening. For Pat, much re-examination seemed to stem from the meetings with Jo. Through the dialogue, Patrick in some ways sought humanization in the eyes of the enemy – the British. And Jo humanized the enemy for him. He told Jo in the first filmed meeting: “Your father was for us a legitimate target. But meeting you I discovered he was also a father, your children’s grandfather, and a human being.” The meetings began to take their toll, and Pat mentioned, without self-pity, something of the human anguish it was bringing up.

4. Il perdono richiede qualche forma di pentimento da parte di coloro a cui il perdono viene offerto? Il perdono ha condizioni o è senza condizioni?

After we talk, for the first time in my life I am being faced with images of the human consequences of my actions.” He also spoke about how he felt the process changed him, how he was confronting his humanity. In one meeting Jo told him her daughter had insisted she come along to confront Patrick personally.
I must come and tell him myself” she told her mother. Pat asked Jo what she had told her daughter afterwards. “Well, she asked me if you were sorry. And I told her – yes, you were sorry.” Her daughter’s response, as relayed back to Pat, was “Well, does that mean granddad can come home now?” Patrick’s unspoken reaction spoke volumes.
The documentary that came out of it, ‘Facing The Enemy’ – became an exploration into reconciliation by two people who took their fate and the “truth” process into their own hands. This is something that has never been followed on any wider level in Northern Ireland since the peace process began. Jo chose engagement over revenge, and it redefined her life. It was an extraordinary choice, and much more complex than the forgiveness some took it for. It was Jo’s unique human openness that Patrick said he found so disarming and intriguing when they met. Patrick subsequently set up an organization, Causeway, to help other former colleagues who wanted similar encounters. Both give frequent talks together, and are invited to speak all over the world. It’s not what most people would choose, and both respect that.
But in Northern Ireland, there is no parallel process. It is hard to legislate for peace. Politics appears to be working inside Northern Ireland’s government Executive for the first time, even though it often looks one step away from unraveling. But dislocation between communities is as deep as ever. Patrick and Jo humanized their broken relationship, and took a personal risk. It’s a rare phenomenon. It has not been replicated on a wider level, and given the data it’s not surprising. But then Patrick himself found it easier to feel regret towards a single human being.
More than a decade after the peace process many victims still view peace skeptically as a party to which they are not welcome. There is no truth commission as happened in South Africa and to an extent Rwanda – there will always be contention here about whose truth, and whose process.
The trauma is still all around – the walking wounded haven’t magically disappeared, but for the most part, today they have simply retreated from view, and removed themselves from a peace process from which they are perhaps the only non-beneficiaries.

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