Not forgetting The Troubles in Britain
by Eilish BOSCHERT for Northern Ireland Foundation
19 January 2017
The International Conflict Research Institute (INCORE) and Healing through Remembering co-hosted a book launch for The Northern Ireland Troubles in Britain at Ulster University.
The first of its kind, this book addresses the legacy of the Northern Ireland conflict in Britain.
Contributing editor Jo Dover opened the discussion by explaining the origins and inspiration for the book. After meeting at a conference on victimhood in France in 2010, the three editors (all English) discovered that they shared an interest in the Troubles, but recognised the noticeable lack of information or dialogue on its effects in Great Britain.
In an attempt to seek out those of similar interest, they organized a three-day conference in 2012, which revealed overarching themes of marginalisation, ‘unfinished business’, and invisibility of British victims and survivors.
The Northern Ireland Troubles in Britain is split into four thematic sections: perspectives of the British State; anti-state activisms; culture and representation of the Troubles; and memory, peace-building and ‘dealing with the past’.
It contains essays and memoirs from an array of activists, scholars, and victims/survivors from diverse personal, political, and academic backgrounds, to create a truly interdisciplinary dialogue.
Although the Northern Ireland conflict was fought predominantly in Northern Ireland, the rest of the United Kingdom felt its effects. Dawson explained that it generated anxiety, criticism, and resistance in Great Britain. Sentiments left unrecorded, but present nonetheless.
Hopkins described Great Britain as a post-conflict society that does not recognize itself as such, which begs the question: how do these legacies of conflict play out in the present?
He went on to explain that denial of conflict in Britain silences those affected, such as families of personnel who served in Northern Ireland, victims of Republican and Loyalist campaigns, and injured soldiers.
This book implores its readers to look at the Troubles as central to British society and culture.
It is necessary, the editors argued, to engage with the legacies, conflicts, and histories generated by the impact of the Troubles in Britain.
Hopkins elaborated that while the book was neither comprehensive nor exhaustive, it is an integral introduction to a larger investigation.
It aims to establish a new field of enquiry that will further the debate and understanding of the effects of the Northern Ireland conflict in Britain.
Director of Healing through Remembering, Hedley Abernethy, added to the discussion by highlighting the healing potential that this work offers, by creating open spaces in which people’s’ testimonies are heard and validated.
Although their work is the first of its kind, the editors hope they can stimulate community engagement all over the UK.
They intend to establish a research network that archives the experiences of the Troubles in Great Britain, but affirm their dedication to personal reflection and memoir as well as academic discourse.
The discussion ended on the recent Brexit referendum and its impact on community relations and engagement.
With a hint of optimism, Dover suggested that Brexit may be “a window to examine the complexity and nuances” of the shared history of the UK and Ireland that may help in confronting difficult questions in the months to come.