Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Sinn Fein can't have it both ways on past

Editor's Viewpoint

The reaction by Sinn Fein to the arrest and remand of John Downey in relation to the murder of two UDR soldiers in 1972 is yet another indication of the complexities of dealing with the past.

A leading member of the republican party, Gerry Kelly, described the arrest as vindictive and in bad faith. He also said Mr Downey has been a strong supporter of the peace process, as if that was sufficient to prevent him, or anyone else, being investigated for a serious crime.

Mr Downey is deemed to be an entirely innocent man unless a court determines otherwise and his detention on the back of an European Arrest Warrant should not be seen as any indication of guilt.

But Mr Kelly's comments indicate the difficulty Sinn Fein has in trying to change its image as a party in hoc to hardline republicans. Just last week, party president Mary Lou McDonald described her meeting with the new Garda Commissioner Drew Harris as positive and productive.

At that meeting she had pressed for gardai to investigate the Dublin/Monaghan bombings and killings, which involved suspected collusion between terrorists and state forces in Northern Ireland.

How can the party call for the investigation of some crimes, while protesting vehemently when it is a republican involved?

Many will see Mr Kelly's comments as asserting traditional republican views, while the party is attempting to create a more moderate, modern image in the Republic.

If police are to pursue historic crimes they must be permitted to pursue all crimes where there is an evidence trail. Most people, especially the bereaved, will agree with DUP leader Arlene Foster, who says that people who deliberately took life should be held accountable for their actions.

It is difficult to believe Sinn Fein's assertions that it would co-operate in any future truth and reconciliation process, when it obviously believes that fellow republicans should not be investigated.

Also, how can the party deny that the relatives of the two UDR men killed in 1972 should be denied a potential opportunity to learn more about their relatives' deaths?

Addressing the legacy of the past cannot be a partial process if it is to have any credibility.

All the evidence must be sifted, weighed and followed to its natural conclusion, be that in an arrest and prosecution, or filed away as insufficient.

Belfast Telegraph

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