Unionism, Truth Recovery and the Fearful Past

Cheryl Lawther

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


While formal truth recovery processes have been commonplace in many transitional societies, the question of whether Northern Ireland should have an official examination of its past has been contested. Some of the most vociferous opposition to a truth mechanism has been from unionist and loyalist political parties and associations. The Consultative Group on the Past's recommendation for the establishment of a ‘Legacy Commission’ – a bespoke truth recovery body for Northern Ireland – has hence become the most recent focus for their concerns. Based upon extensive and original qualitative interviews with elite level political and civil society representatives, this paper analyses and explores unionists' and loyalists' opposition to and reluctance to engage in the truth recovery debate. This paper argues that their oppositional discourses to truth recovery are grounded in prevailing ideological beliefs and perceptions. The longevity of these factors poses significant questions for the future development of the truth recovery debate in Northern Ireland and the place of unionists and loyalists within it.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)361-382
JournalIrish Political Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • truth recovery
  • Northern Ireland
  • opposition
  • unionists
  • loyalists


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