Patrick Radden Keefe, Northern Ireland Conflict Researcher
«The ‘Brexit’ will mean the disappearance of the United Kingdom as we know it; Scotland will go away and I can see the Northern Irish splitting up, ”says this journalist.
Jean McConville was 38 years old when she disappeared in Belfast in 1972. She was a widow with ten children, who did not begin to glimpse the truth – she had been assassinated by the IRA – until decades later, when her remains were unearthed in 2003 on a beach. lonely. This crime, one of the most heinous committed during the period known as’ The troubles’, serves as Patrick Radden Keefe (1976) as a common thread in ‘Say nothing, a true story of crime and memory in Ireland of the Norte ‘to compose an epic and intimate X-ray of the sectarian conflict that confronted Republicans and unionists for more than three decades. A journalist for the ‘New Yorker’, Keefe talks this Wednesday (7:00 p.m.) with his professional colleague Gorka Landaburu in an event organized by the Memorial Center for the Victims of Terrorism in Vitoria.
-The sons of McConville, during the trial that in 2019 acquitted former IRA Ivor Bell of ordering his murder, affirmed that “we may not have justice, but at least we have truth.” In situations like this, is truth more restorative than justice?
-Yes. I tend to think that truth is more important than justice in the long run. I have interviewed many, many victims, and often the most important thing to them is knowing that on that date this is what happened to their loved one, who was murdered and buried in a secret grave under that person’s orders. There is value in truth, which is somehow more important even than justice and accountability.
– Can the truth help in reconciliation?
– I want to think that yes. Of course we see that peace is possible, a kind of cold peace, a peace without reconciliation. But, if you really want a reconciliation, there has to be some kind of truth process because hundreds of years can go by and these hurts won’t go away.
– The amnesty law that the Government of Boris Johnson wants to approve for the crimes committed during the ‘Troubles’, can it be a path to reconciliation or, as nationalists and unionists think, a bad idea?
– The South African peace model, which is not perfect, had a good thing, and that is that it exchanged amnesty for the truth. The problem with Johnson’s proposal is that different communities think that the injustices they suffered are the most important, so they think, “Amnesty is fine for my people, but not for others.” You also have to think that who makes this proposal is the British State, which was involved in many atrocious crimes during that period. And we have seen it over and over again, every time some kind of accountability is demanded from the British state, its army or its intelligence services that is when proposals like this usually appear. They don’t want the truth to come out.
– Do you think that ‘Brexit’ and the Northern Ireland protocol can affect peace in the region?
– Tensions have increased again. However, I don’t think the ‘Troubles’ will return because the circumstances in which they arose were very specific. In the long term, what the ‘Brexit’ will mean is not the return of that period but the end of the United Kingdom as we know it. Scotland will go away and I can easily see Northern Ireland breaking up too.
– In the book you speak of paramilitary groups, a common terminology in the United Kingdom – even in the BBC – applied to the IRA. In Spain, except in certain environments, we speak of ETA in terms of terrorism. How important is language?
– Language is tremendously important, but it is also a trap. I’ve given it a lot of thought. All these proper names are politicized so if I talk to you about ‘Northern Ireland’, there are people who immediately tell you that it is ‘Northern Ireland’, that simply saying ‘Northern Ireland’ is political and that you already know what. foot you limp. I think ‘terrorism’ is a very appropriate word to describe any situation where large numbers of civilians are killed in pursuit of a political goal. But I often use the word ‘paramilitary’ because I don’t want to get into a semantic fight, I think it’s a distraction. Anyone who honestly reads my book will recognize that it is very explicit about the terrible things the IRA did. At the same time, to say that there is no legitimacy in your claims because of the way you have acted is an oversimplification for me.
-Presents Gerry Adams as someone who denies having been from the IRA, but at the same time someone indispensable to the peace process.
–Adams is one of the most fascinating figures of the 20th century. Raise many found passions. Some see him as a figure of pure evil and others speak of him as Nelson Mandela. For me, he has told some monstrous lies, but politically he was right in realizing that the IRA could not keep fighting forever, that there would be no military end, but that it had to be a political end. The greatest irony is that their lies may have been necessary to bring peace. But not admitting to being in the IRA is ridiculous.
– In Spain some have wanted to see in Arnaldo Otegui a kind of Gerry Adams.
“I don’t know enough to comment without sounding like a naive American.” But (Adams) is an architect: Who wouldn’t aspire to have the same kind of transformation in the public eye?
«The past doesn’t disappear because you don’t talk about it or close your eyes»
Although the whole truth about the case of Jean McConville has not yet been revealed, his murder began to be clarified thanks to the so-called ‘Boston Tapes’, an oral history project launched in 2001 by Boston College, which secretly interviewed dozens of implicated from both sides of the conflict. They agreed to provide their testimony on the condition that it be made public only after they had died. The institute tried to keep its promise, but was not counting on the court battle that the Northern Ireland Police would initiate to deliver the tapes.
“The Boston College project has had many failures,” acknowledges Patrick Radden Keefe, “but with a noble and good ambition.” The author knows well the value of the word and the difficulties that still exist in Northern Ireland to dig into the truth. “Many think that the only way to keep the peace is not to delve too deeply into the things of the past. And I don’t think that’s true. The past doesn’t go away just because you close your eyes or don’t talk about it.