John Larkin’s call for an end to prosecutions for Troubles-related crimes has understandably been met with outrage by those who still hold on to the belief that the murderers of their loved ones could face a day in court.
As a unionist who opposes the Belfast Agreement – be that in its 1998 form or its ever so slightly modified 2006 form – I am totally opposed to such a proposal. I believe Mr Larkin’s comments were appalling, particularly when one considers he is the chief guardian of law in Northern Ireland.
However, I do not think it is unreasonable to point out that the logic of the pro-Agreement position is not that far removed from what Mr Larkin suggests.
With people convicted of even the most horrendous of pre-1998 crimes, there is no prospect of them serving anything more than two years in prison.
Gerry McGeough, who was convicted of the attempted murder of then part-time soldier and current DUP councillor Sammy Brush in 1981, was sentenced to 20 years in 2011 but was released in January 2013.
And surely it is not unreasonable to argue that by deeming an organisation which until relatively recently they referred to as “Sinn Fein/IRA” suitable coalition partners, unionists have granted republicans an effective amnesty. What’s more, due to their places on the Policing Board and the devolution of policing and justice powers to the Assembly Republicans now have a direct say in law and order matters in Northern Ireland – as the debacle over the National Crime Agency illustrates.
In 2001 Peter Robinson proposed a motion of no confidence in the then Education Minister, Martin McGuinness. Having detailed a catalogue of accusations against McGuinness, Mr Robinson closed with the words:
“Is our society going to turn a blind eye to the activities of the "Bogside butcher"? Are we going to continue with this unseemly and immoral sham? This house can decide whether it has confidence in Mr McGuinness - I do not.”
The “unseemly and immoral sham” of having republicans at the heart of government is the core of the problem in Northern Ireland which will always lead to “unseemly and immoral” suggestions to deal with the problems “the process” inevitably throws up.