Sentences given to convicted dissidents are plainly inadequate

Morning View
Morning View

Northern Ireland is facing a considerable challenge at the moment from terrorism.

Most obviously there is the current dissident republican terrorist threat to life and property.

That threat is nowhere near as grave or urgent as it was when the Provisional IRA was at its peak in the 1970s and 80s.

But the dangers were made crystal clear last weekend with the gun attack on a PSNI officer.

The Province is also in the middle of a battle of ideas, as to whether past terrorism was in fact wrong.

It is increasingly unlikely for people in positions of authority in society at large to use the word terrorism with regard to that past Provisional campaign.

If terrorism is not really considered to be terrorism, then it is no small step towards accepting the notion that the state and the terrorists were equally culpable for the Troubles.

Meanwhile, the legacy structures have turned in against the RUC and Army to an alarming extent.

Barra McGrory, the DPP, has told the BBC that his department has been distressed at accusations of bias in favour of republicans.

But it is nonetheless clear that there is a deep-seated problem in the overall criminal justice system, much wider than any one office, that for some reason is failing badly to hold to account ex IRA terrorists, who killed by far the most people in the Troubles.

It might be that this moral fog around past terrorism is one reason why convicted dissidents are getting such alarmingly light sentences as they presently do. In other words, the light sentences are not a deliberate policy on any one part of the system but reflect a general reluctance to get tough with terrorists – a sense perhaps that such offences are just ‘political’.

The News Letter has been highlighting some of the most obviously inadequate sentences that have been handed out in recent years. We will continue to do this until they increase.