Healing Through Remembering

Healing Through Remembering (HTR) is an extensive cross-community project in Northern Ireland, made up of a diverse range of individual members with different political perspectives and social experiences.[1][2]

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HTR aims at comprehensive involvement of all stakeholders to investigate the feasibility, viability and usefulness of remembering the Troubles and in so doing both individually and collectively contribute to building a better future for all[citation needed]. Through ongoing internal discussions, research, round table discussions, conferences and outreach programmes, HTR has produced a range of reports, options papers, discussion papers and audits which continue to inform discussion[citation needed][3] throughout society – this includes community groups, political parties, statutory and Government policy makers.

The object of Healing Through Remembering is to promote, for the benefit of the public in Northern Ireland, the advancement of education in the purpose and methods of mediation, conciliation and reconciliation of disputes or conflicts and of all the means of managing them for peaceful resolution in the interests of good citizenship and community relations and in particular to promote research and the exchange of views that help towards education into the causes, prevention and alleviation of destructive patterns of behaviour and into peaceful means of resolving conflict.[4]

Members come from across Northern Ireland, Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland and have been meeting over the past number of years to focus on the issue of how to deal with the past relating to the conflict in and about Northern Ireland.

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In March 2000 the All Truth is Bitter Report[5] was launched. It documented the visit of Dr. Alex Boraine to Northern Ireland in February 1999 and recommended wide-ranging discussion to explore and debate ways of examining the past and processes of remembering so as to build a better future.

A number of individuals were invited by the authors of All Truth is Bitter to form a Board. After much discussion, in June 2001 a diverse group of individuals agreed to become the Healing Through Remembering Project Board and carry forward the work of the project.[6]

HTR carried out an extensive consultation in 2002 which asked individuals, organisations and communities “How should people remember the events connected with the conflict in and about Northern Ireland and in so doing, individually and collectively contribute to the healing of the wounds of society?

In June 2002 HTR published the findings of the consultation in the form of the Healing Through Remembering Report.[7] This report made six recommendations:

  • a collective storytelling and archiving process,
  • a day of reflection,
  • a network of commemoration and remembering projects,
  • a living memorial museum,
  • acknowledgement leading to the possibility of truth recovery and
  • a Healing Through Remembering Initiative.

The organisation has established five Sub Groups to engage in dialogue and discussion and carry out research to fully examine the recommendations of the 2002 Report.

The Storytelling group considers how a collective oral narrative might work as vehicle for dealing with the past.

The group is developing the parameters for research into the impact of Storytelling. The Storytelling Sub Group has carried out and published an audit of storytelling initiatives related to the conflict, hosted a one-day conference on the theme of “Storytelling as the Vehicle?” and published a report of the conference.

The Sub Group is currently working on producing a Good Practice Guide to Storytelling incorporating the values, definitions and core principles of storytelling.

The Day of Reflection group considers how best the conflict can be collectively remembered and reflected upon.

The first Day of Private Reflection took place on Thursday 21 June 2007. The purpose of the day is to “Provide an opportunity for people to remember the events of the past in a non-confrontational, dignified and respectful manner.” Healing Through Remembering and its Day of Reflection Sub Group took time to carefully consider and plan the day to bring it to fruition. A free-phone telephone support line was made available before, during and after the day. The Day of Private Reflection was launched in March 2007 and received considerable media interest and attention. Interest and support for the Day of Private Reflection came from all sections of the community. There was widespread support in favour of a second Day of Private Reflection, with Healing Through Remembering as the lead organisation. A full and independent evaluation of the day was commissioned and is scheduled for publication in March 2008. The sub-group also held a residential which took place in September 2007.

A full range of materials to help raise awareness of the Day of Private Reflection[8] and aid reflection on the Day have been produced and are available to order free of charge from HTR or via www.dayofreflection.com

Groups and individuals are also encouraged to develop their own materials and resources. The Day of Reflection Sub Group carried out extensive research on international experiences of days of remembrance before proceeding with plans for an initial Day of Private Reflection on 21 June 2007.

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