Belfast Telegraph

In-the-runs: Victims are just pawns in the game of politics

By Alan McBride

What a mess has been made of the on-the-runs issue.

I have to admit to being somewhat confused by the whole saga and the report by the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee has not helped me to understand it any better.

If I am to believe the Secretary of State, the letter issued to OTRs was simply a statement of fact, telling them that they were not currently wanted for anything.

If that's the case then what is all the fuss about and why were people who were not being pursued by the police on the run in the first place?

What is it that I am not seeing here?

Unless, of course, those put forward for the scheme by Sinn Fein were involved in republican violence, and these letters were to act as a "get out of jail free" card and part-payment for Sinn Fein's support for policing in Northern Ireland.

I have no doubt the DUP did not know the detail of the deal struck between the Government and republicans, but I also have no doubt that they never really wanted to know. They knew the issue of those on the run had to be addressed and as long as it was never made public, then no one would be any the wiser.

Following the collapse of the Downey case, the DUP had to go public with their ranting and their raving.

The sad aspect of all of this is that those who suffered through the Troubles have to watch passively as their quest for justice is once again reduced to a political pawn on the chessboard of building peace.

That bit I do get: building a sustainable peace and a brighter future for us all will frequently involve compromise, what academics might refer to as "transitional justice".

But it's not justice as most people would understand justice, and for me the only thing that makes these unpalatable deals palatable is if the society that is being created is more fair, more equal, more shared and where those who suffered as a result of the violence are looked after.

I have to say we have some way to go yet.

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