Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 December 2014

Editor's Viewpoint: Past grievances must be resolved

There is little doubt that relationships between Northern Ireland's two largest parties, the DUP and Sinn Fein, have cooled rapidly in recent weeks.

Starting with Sinn Fein chairman Declan Kearney accusing First Minister Peter Robinson of speaking out of both sides of his mouth, the political row intensified. A Sinn Fein and SDLP motion in Dungannon Council calling for the release of convicted terrorist Gerry McGeough who tried to kill a member of the council, DUP man Sammy Brush, unsurprisingly angered the DUP. And now Sinn Fein is at loggerheads with their government partners over the arrest of senior party official Padraic Wilson on charges connected with the murder of Robert McCartney in a Belfast bar.

Sinn Fein's branding of the arrest as political policing rings hollow given that the party sits on the Policing Board and that the Chief Constable could hardly ignore information on such a serious matter. If illegal acts are alleged to have taken part then the police are duty bound to investigate.

But fundamentally these ongoing rows are a symptom of our failure to deal with the legacy of the past. The Eames Bradley report which suggested setting up a truth and reconciliation process was a genuine effort to address this problem but has been allowed to gather dust since its publication. In the resulting vacuum we continue to have political squabbles as issues from the past arise piecemeal without any proper means of resolving grievances.

Just what the Chinese Government will make of this latest spat is anyone's guess as it awaits the arrival of Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness on one of the most important trade missions of recent times. Our political leaders will be presenting a united front on the visit, while tensions continue to seethe beneath the surface. Perhaps we may never arrive at a formula which will allow us to address the past in a way which satisfies everyone, but we must attempt to do so urgently if we are not to continue to have more days and weeks like this.

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