Title: ‘Oral History in the Shadow of Conflict: Truth, Justice and Accounting for the Past’
Drawing on over twenty years’ experience of post-conflict oral history research, this paper will consider the role and function of oral history in facilitating access to truth, justice and accountability. In particular, it will draw on work that Dr Bryson has been developing with human rights lawyers since 2014 to inform key debates on dealing with the past in Northern Ireland. Outputs from the collaboration include writing over 30 policy documents and blogs, providing evidence to parliamentary committees, drafting ‘model legislation’, writing responses to government consultations and providing free technical legal and policy advice to key stakeholders including the Council of Europe, US Congress and the United Nations. The UK government’s recent proposals to engage oral history to deal with the legacy of the Northern Ireland conflict will be a key focus. To conclude, the paper will consider how approaches to oral history in the context of Northern Ireland might inform broader commemorative initiatives on the island of Ireland.
Dr Anna Bryson is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Law and a Fellow at the Senator George J. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice. Her research sits between modern Irish history, socio-legal studies and transitional justice and she has been involved in a series of research projects exploring the history and legacy of conflict. Anna has a particular interest in oral history and has conducted more than 200 interviews with a range of individuals including ex-combatants and former prisoners, victims and survivors, former security force personnel, lawyers, politicians and senior government officials. She was a co-founder of the Oral History Network of Ireland, is the Northern Ireland regional contact point for the Oral History Society and was elected as Chair of the independent human rights organisation, the Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ) in 2020.
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