The most generous thing that can be said of Billy Hutchinson’s remarks about UVF murders was that he answered questions without the evasion which has marked Sinn Fein answers about IRA atrocities.
But his brutally honest response — that he still thinks UVF murders such as his own were justified and that they helped prevent a united Ireland — represents a deeply dangerous philosophy.
As victims’ campaigner Kenny Donaldson has said, most victims of the IRA, irrespective of whether they forgave their tormentors or harboured hatred for them, did not attempt to break the law in a bid for some sort of justice. It is a testament to the values of those people that they showed such restraint even as IRA murderers at points appeared to run rampant through isolated Protestant communities.
The lawful actions of those victims stand in perverse contrast to the crimes of terrorists of all shades. And those victims’ dignified response to attacks completely undermines Mr Hutchinson’s claim that the IRA left him with “no option” but to murder two men on their way to work.
As the cousin of the PUP leader’s victims poignantly recounts in today’s News Letter, it was not the IRA which forced him to kill Edward Morgan and Michael Loughran. It was Mr Hutchinson and his accomplice who made that choice.
Mr Hutchinson also claimed that UVF murders helped maintain the Union. Even if that was true, it would be morally repugnant. Yet the random sectarian killings which were a hallmark of the UVF did little to hinder the IRA. Arguably, they may have helped republican terrorists by diverting police resources to investigate loyalist attacks.
In his News Letter interview, Mr Hutchinson spoke about the need to move the UVF away from violence and towards politics. Such a transformation would not only be to the benefit of society but to the benefit of Mr Hutchinson’s party.
PUP leaders have been saying this since the Agreement, yet the UVF still exists for no obvious legitimate purpose. The past cannot be undone. But Mr Hutchinson could achieve much if he helped remove the UVF from society.