THERE can be nothing more distressing than to have no right of reply when attacked by elected representatives because you are a public servant and, especially, if living in a different jurisdiction.
That is surely true of the Garda Siochana when they were viciously set upon by some unionist MLAs during a Stormont debate on the Smithwick tribunal.
To claim that one, two, or perhaps three members of the force, sometime in the distant past, dishonoured the Garda Siochana is very unfortunate.
But to suggest that gardai today are colluding with dissidents is disgraceful. It brings nothing but shame on those who made those remarks, and brings into question their commitment to the future.
When rising to make those remarks, they conveniently forgot that, as recently as January, Garda Adrian Donahoe was brutally murdered in Co Louth after a dissident republican gang crossed the border to rob a credit union.
They also clearly had no respect for the memory of Garda Jerry McCabe, murdered in Adare in 1996, or his colleague Garda Ben O'Sullivan, shot and seriously injured in the same bank robbery by the Provisional IRA.
Even as these speeches were being made, the Garda Siochana and the PSNI were working as a team on the border.
As a northerner who lived in a border county in the Republic during seven of the worst years of the Troubles, I know just how critical the role of the Garda was.
JOHN DALLAT (SDLP)
MLA for East Londonderry