Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 6 October 2015

Viewpoint: Revulsion at Stone attack on democracy

Published 30/11/2006

Michael Stone's chilling letter to the Belfast Telegraph, describing how he planned to murder the Sinn Fein leaders, Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, at Stormont, is typical of the man. It is a confused mixture of fact and fantasy, by someone who thinks he has a right to take life to destroy a democratic peace process.

Thankfully, he has lost whatever credibility he ever had, within loyalism, and admits that he was acting alone, as a "freelance dissident loyalist". Yet when his case comes to court, for attempted murder, it must be explained how he obtained such an array of weaponry for his aborted mission - including seven nail bombs and an explosive device. Did he make them, or who helped him to get them?

Now that he is safely behind bars again, the Government must be regretting the wholesale release of paramilitary prisoners, under the Good Friday Agreement. Stone is one of 15 killers who have broken the terms of their licence, and he can hardly be the only one who has pretended to turn over a new leaf, as artist, author and peace process supporter. Until all paramilitary organisations disband, the temptation to return to old ways will remain.

Only a psychologist could analyse Stone's letter, and judge whether it was written by a fantasist or a cold-hearted assassin. His "mission" was never going to happen the way he planned it, bluffing his way past the security staff, throwing a "flash-bang device" and seeking out his victims either in the Assembly chamber or the Sinn Fein rooms, but it reveals a meticulous, calculating mind.

Once again, it helps to emphasise the brave part played by the security staff, who could not have known that the gun was a replica or that Stone was not wired up like a suicide bomber. They deserve the highest credit, and medals, unlike those who let themselves be persuaded that the Assembly, on such a special day, did not need police protection.

The damage has been done, by Stone, to the unionist cause he would claim to uphold. Around the world, nationalist sympathisers have seen the depths to which a so-called loyalist would sink, to try to stop unionist politicians entering a tentative, and very conditional, relationship with their republican counterparts.

All the fine arguments about whether Sinn Fein should have to support the police before the DUP would be required to agree to power-sharing have been lost in Stormont's revolving door. There must be universal revulsion, against all such attacks on democracy, and a new resolve to ensure that the rule of law is the bedrock on which power-sharing will be founded.

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