Aggressive SF bid to rehabilitate IRA is at the heart of divisions

Morning View
Morning View

Some pundits from outside Northern Ireland wonder why relations here are now so polarised.

There are many reasons for that bitterness but a large part of it is the aggressive way in which Sinn Fein are trying to rehabilitate the IRA campaign.

As the DUP councillor Trevor Clarke writes opposite, or as Owen Polley wrote on these pages yesterday, or as many commentators have observed, it is one thing for people to have to stomach the fact that the terrorism was in some respects rewarded with a political settlement at Stormont that had to include Sinn Fein at all times, and the early release of prisoners.

There was even a weary lack of surprise at the revelation a few years ago that Tony Blair had tried to run a secret scheme to give comfort to On The Run IRA fugitives.

But then to find Michelle O’Neill, the face of a supposedly fresh generation of Sinn Fein, not only commemorating past IRA terrorists, but celebrating one of its most fanatical gangs – the East Tyrone killers who were stopped by the SAS at Loughgall before they inflicted more death and misery – was a disastrous setback for community relations and made republican demands for ‘respect’ and ‘integrity’ seem laughable.

But not only that, ex soldiers face murder trials without the benefit of comfort letters or shorter sentences while IRA leaders have seemingly not the slightest fear of arrest.

As the anniversaries of one atrocity after another come round – the Hyde Park slaughter mentioned right or Bloody Friday massacre recalled further up the paper – as well as countless other wicked crimes (ie little mentioned murder of the lawyer Edgar Graham, while Dublin repeatedly backs the SF demand for a public inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane, ) the legacy imbalance gets ever more stark.

People are fed up with it and it is one reason why they have flocked to the DUP and why opposition to an Irish language act is hardening. Also why there must be a pause on the Stormont House Agreement legacy structures including special scrutiny via inquests for 94 people who died at the hands of the sate including 35+ terrorists.