Belfast Telegraph

Disappeared victim's brother slams 'double standards' of SF's Kelly over Troubles crimes

By Claire McNeilly

Sinn Fein has been accused of double standards after one of its MLAs questioned whether police officers are withholding information about past crimes.

Gerry Kelly, the party's policing spokesman, was criticised over a statement calling on the Police Federation for Northern Ireland (PFNI) to state whether members have been instructed not to release details.

The comments from Mr Kelly, an MLA for North Belfast, came after serving and former PSNI officers urged the Government to scrap its "one-sided and unfair" legacy proposals for Northern Ireland.

Federation chair Mark Lindsay characterised the Historical Investigations Unit (HIU) as a parallel police service and warned that its officers wouldn't engage with legacy bodies tasked with investigating the past.

In response to Mr Lindsay's comments, Mr Kelly said the PFNI's stance on legacy issues was "appalling" and he challenged the organisation to clarify whether officers are withholding information about historical crimes.

The PFNI said it was "entitled to have a view on these matters".

However, Mr Kelly's comments were strongly criticised, with some claiming Sinn Fein should examine what information its members hold which could help resolve Troubles-era crimes.

Oliver McVeigh, whose brother Columba was murdered and secretly buried by the IRA in 1975, accused Mr Kelly of double standards.

Mr McVeigh said "his organisation could stop a lot of suffering for a lot of people if it made information about past crimes available".

"For Gerry Kelly to question the police about information represents double standards when he was in the IRA and his past friends could be helping retrieve information too," he added.

"Whenever Sinn Fein puts my family out of all our suffering I'll listen carefully to his views.

"We've lived a never-ending saga just trying to get my brother's body back. I'm still hopeful.

"People in his organisation could make it easier and make it happen.

"Sinn Fein should be thinking about getting the IRA to give information out about the final three remains yet to be recovered."

Marcus Babington, whose Catholic civilian father James Henry Babington was killed by the IRA in 1989, also condemned Mr Kelly's comments.

"Gerry Kelly and Sinn Fein should be encouraging their representatives to come forward on all information they have on past murders," he said.

Mr Babington also accused Sinn Fein of trying to cherry pick its support for police.

He added: "Sinn Fein signed up to support for the PSNI, so either Gerry Kelly supports the police and has confidence in them or he doesn't."

Mairia Cahill, who accused Sinn Fein of a cover-up following her sexual abuse allegations, also urged the party to "look closer to home".

Ms Cahill, now an SDLP politician, said that Mr Kelly's remarks were "disingenuous" and "nothing but an attempt by Sinn Fein to take the focus off themselves".

"It's a bit rich for Gerry Kelly to accuse the police of withholding information about past crimes when Sinn Fein has access to a wealth of knowledge in relation to criminal activity - not to mention the very brutal way in which people were dealt with - and not one of them would come forward and put that out into the public domain," she said.

Ms Cahill said families of IRA victims are still being "brutalised by people because Sinn Fein are not admitting their crimes".

She added: "For Gerry Kelly to call for the PFNI to be truthful about the past without any semblance of introspection whatsoever means that I don't believe any victim harmed by republicans will ever get answers."

A Government consultation on addressing the legacy of past violence closed yesterday, with bodies suggested including an HIU and an information retrieval organisation.

Reacting to the statement issued by Mr Kelly, a PFNI spokesman last night said the organisation is "entitled to have a view on these matters".

"We wouldn't encourage anybody to break the law or to refuse to co-operate with any lawful authority," he said.

"Any suggestion to the contrary is incorrect. We have already, and always will, encourage support for the law."

Belfast Telegraph

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