There has been widespread rejection of Peter Hain’s suggestion that, in the wake of the furore over ‘letters of comfort’ to IRA men, the soldiers who killed civilians on Bloody Sunday should be given an amnesty.
The former Secretary of State suggested at the weekend that rather than pursuing the soldiers and other Troubles cases, the PSNI should simply deal with today’s criminality and the threat from dissident republicans.
But DUP East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson said that Mr Hain’s comments demonstrated “an abject lack of respect for justice or the rule of law”.
The former Finance Minister said that such a move would be “a further affront to justice” and “makes a mockery of an independent justice system”.
He said: “A society must respect the rule of law. Regardless of who the perpetrator is, they must always fear justice catching up with them.
“No one should be above the law. That is why the Downey case was so immoral. It demonstrated a two-tier approach to justice.
“There was one law for the murderers of Lee Rigby and another law for Irish republican terrorists.
“Someone who has committed a crime should always fear the authorities...they should never be able to stop looking over their shoulder.”
Mr Wilson added: “Nothing surprises me from Hain. These further comments demonstrate that Hain was prepared to do anything to keep republicans on board.
“Morality and justice were cast aside. What next? Will Peter Hain be suggesting that the Omagh bomb suspects should be getting ‘you’re not wanted’ letters as well? The message being sent out by Hain to dissidents is deeply flawed and deeply confusing.”
Kenny Donaldson of Innocent Victims United (IVU) rejected the “immoral trade-off” proposed by Mr Hain.
He said that the former Secretary of State “in a show of panic brought about by his own willingness to engage in unilateral dirty dealing with republicans concerning the selfish interests of their constituency, is now calling for that same immoral stance to be replicated for soldiers caught up with Bloody Sunday”.
He said: “If sufficient evidence exists to prosecute then the soldiers should face trial. For any of its perceived or real flaws we must continue to support the criminal justice system.”
He added: “To now call for ‘immunity’ to be extended to the soldiers involved in Bloody Sunday would represent a 2-0 defeat for victims and not a 1-1 score draw as it is being presented by many.”
However, NI21 leader Basil McCrea said he agreed with Mr Hain that it was necessary to draw a line under the Troubles and stop investigating pre-1998 terrorist crimes in order to move society forward.