As far as I’m concerned, Jack Nicholson is the greatest actor to ever appear on the big screen.

I especially enjoy his work when film explores a strong message, as in “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” which highlighted the cruel, backward way a mental institution dehumanised its patients.

In the more recent “A Few Good Men”, Nicholson’s character, Colonel Nathan R Jessup runs a U.S. Marines unit at Guantanamo. He “eats breakfast 300 yards from 4,000 Cubans who are trained to kill me”. So he runs a ruthless regime in which he feels justified in covering up the murder of one of his men by his own soldiers because he was too weak to toe the line.

“You can’t handle the truth,” is one of the great iconic lines that Nicholson delivers, the truth in this case being that the Colonel feels he’s entitled to cross the line between right and wrong.

Finding that line is a dilemma which faces people engaged in conflict all over the world, none more so than in our own country.

In the medium of film fiction, such morality is straightforward and simple. Right versus wrong is obvious and right usually wins in the end; so nobody watching “A Few Good Men” would be on the side of the Colonel’s covering up his soldier’s death.

In real life, though, the line appears to have become blurred depending on which cause you support. Here, different sides have different narratives of what happened in the past. Wrongdoing by your side is often morally-justified in a skewed view of a so-called greater good.

It’s called, I think, cognitive dissonance.

Killing someone was wrong, no? Or has even that sacred principle become a grey area in a fog of equivocation? Are some lives less sacred than others, and are blind eyes being turned to some deaths because they came from the other side?

So now we’re seeing the conflict of a physically violent past moving in the realms of re-fighting difference through a toxic argument over legacy.

The recent “Time for Truth” campaign was undoubtedly very emotional for families whose lives were taken, but the heavy backing by Sinn Fein for those seeking answers about deaths at the hands of the State left the party open to accusations of hypocrisy and, indeed, insensitivity to the victims of the IRA. Do the victims of Enniskillen and many other places not equally deserve the truth about the victims of the Provisionals’ ruthless campaign?

On the other side of the coin, there can be a complete denial by elements of Unionism that there was grave wrong inflicted on the Nationalist community. In accusations that Republicans are grotesquely trying to rewrite their history, some will attempt to downplay wrongdoing by the State.

The truth we can’t handle is that violence was deep, dirty and complicated. And as the conflict became ever-more shocking it saw a dubious morality fester under the surface in which evil elements in all sections of society were allowed to get away with things which should never have been allowed in society.

It’s easy for one side to blame the other as the only aggressor and to call out for the truth about what their enemy did; but if anyone deserves the truth, surely everyone deserves the truth -- however unpalatable that may be.

The effect of the past hurt is deep-rooted and anyone who thinks that a legacy process will be easy isn’t paying attention.

There is a serious democratic deficit in Northern Ireland, and not just because the Stormont Assembly is in mothballs. We’re stuck. And there is little accountability in this place.

Last week, the family of Claire Roberts, a nine-year-old girl who died in hospital in Belfast in 1996, heard the truth at her second inquest that her death was caused by her hospital treatment. Yet after a public inquiry found a cover-up and the inquest got to the truth, after 22 years Trust legal representatives were still challenging the experts.

And a figure in the Department of Health was warning media editors to limit some aspects of the Roberts family’s criticism of them.

God forbid the family would be allowed to tell us the truth.

Or that the public would get to the truth of the scandal of the RHI scandal, for example.

In this newspaper, Rodney Edwards is doing sterling work exposing the dreadful abuse of many victims over years; yet in some quarters in the establishment he’s being put under pressure because, in my opinion, he’s embarrassing the authorities for their past failures.

Stand firm, Rodney. These people deserve a voice and the community deserves to be told.

Nowhere, however, are we stuck more than in the area of dealing with the legacy of violence.

In an excellent article in the Irish Times this week, Steven McCaffrey wrote about the important role the media must play in helping to deliver real change.

He bemoaned the decline of news media in Northern Ireland which meant a lack of a proper debate about a new future and wrote: “We know that failure to fully address the legacy of the Troubles poisons the poorest, most traumatised communities to further misery.”

I think it’s an important point. Failing to deal with the past doesn’t just continue to disrespect, even traumatise, victims. It also pollutes our present and infects the chances of moving forward to a better future for us all.

A few weeks ago, I was privileged to be asked to speak to a group of activists from various countries about my role as a reporter in this county, particularly on the paper’s coverage of conflict; I spoke about a number of incidents and tragedies and the awful times we had gone through.

Afterwards, a young man from South Africa came to talk to me and admitted my words had made him very emotional in remembering some of the past atrocities in his own country.

To my surprise, he said that even though South Africa had been through a truth process which had cleansed many issues, there were still problems caused by the differences of the past.

It will take us a long time to build a true peace here, but a legacy process of facing up to some harsh, difficult truths will be needed.