I attended a breakfast held by the Larne Rotary Club yesterday morning.
The speaker was a former policeman who only three weeks into the job had both his arms blown off in an IRA rocket attack which also killed his colleague.
Thankfully, he refused to let this destroy his life and is now one of the top psychologists in Northern Ireland and an inspirational speaker.
As I listened to him I wondered whether any of those who were responsible for the attack on his patrol received one of the get-out-of-jail-free cards issued by our government.
It also brought home to me why the anger and disbelief expressed by all parties in the House of Commons on Wednesday was justified.
The role played by the present Government and the previous Labour administration in the shabby, secretive, sneaky and sleekit deal which saw IRA man John Downey walk free from the court where he was being tried for his alleged part in the mass murder of soldiers in Hyde Park at the height of the IRA terror campaign has generated public disgust across the UK.
The Secretary of State was clearly embarrassed as she tried to explain the part which the current government has played in administering the ‘amnesty’ for IRA terrorists brokered by the Blair government.
Peter Hain, the Secretary of State at the time of the dirty underhand deal, oilily tried to brush it aside as something which was “clearing up an anomaly” necessary to keep the peace process on track, a despicable excuse which drew cries of shame from around the chamber.
The Attorney General protested that he was angry at the outcome but gave no explanation to my question as to why the government would not appeal the decision, judicially review it or have the letters which granted the ‘amnesty’ withdrawn, especially since he claimed some had been given by mistake.
The truth is that the previous Labour government connived in covering up a behind-the-door ‘amnesty’ for terrorists.
They deceived the public, the House of Commons, the NI Executive, the Justice Minister and the Policing Board: an affront to the justice system and our democratic institutions.
That in itself should be an adequate measure of the sordidness of this bargain with the devil.
It is also the reason why Peter Robinson raised the stakes so high with his threat to resign unless there was an inquiry into the operation of this deal, who knew about it, the number of terrorists benefitting from it etc, and since the government has claimed it is opposed to those who have evidence against them escaping justice then the letters issued should be withdrawn.
It is essential that whatever was devised in secret is now fully divulged to the public and the role played by ministers, civil servants and the PSNI is revealed and, more importantly, if any more “mistakes” have been made they are undone so that killers cannot escape justice.
The fact that the Prime Minister has hastily moved to accede to these reasonable demands is to be welcomed and is a vindication of the stance which Peter Robinson has taken on an issue which has caused deep anger and resentment.
His judgment on this issue has been proven sound and the outcome should be no more on the runs escaping justice.
Whilst the time has now passed for lodging an appeal, I am disappointed that the government did not take the opportunity to do so when it had the chance.
While Jim Allister engaged in his favourite destructive activity of finger wagging and political point-scoring, the resolute, bold, and – yes – high risk action taken by Peter Robinson backed by the united and collective opposition of all Northern Ireland politicians in Westminster has resulted in the government taking this issue seriously which hopefully will keep the on the runs on the run and eventually see them in jail.