A former hardline republican has said that “actions speak louder than words” when it comes to the Dublin government’s commitment not to allow Troubles perpetrators go unpunished.
Irish Labour Party politician Mairia Cahill was responding to recent rejection of a Troubles amnesty by Charlie Flanagan, the Republic of Ireland’s foreign minister.
Former Sinn Fein supporter Ms Cahill, who has become a high-profile critic of the IRA in recent years, questioned the Irish government’s attitude to pursuing paramilitiaries, adding that many of her own relatives had fled to the Republic for sanctuary during the Troubles.
Speaking to the BBC recently [about three weeks ago], in the context of increasing unionist concerns over the pursuit of former security forces personnel, Mr Flanagan (a member of Fine Gael) had been quoted as saying: “There are no amnesties from prosecution provided for in the Good Friday Agreement or any subsequent agreements including Stormont House.
“The Irish government would not look favourably on any proposal to introduce such a measure – for state or non-state actors.
“The rule of law including the requirement for effective investigations of unlawful killings must be upheld by all responsible authorities.”
Ms Cahill said: “I think actions speak louder than words ... I don’t think there has been one prosecution I can even think of in recent times for any type of historical or legacy offence.”
The Republic’s record of action is “a bit at odds with what Charlie was saying”.
“Historically the Irish government have been very lax when it came to matters of members of the IRA, because at one time Muirhevnamor, a housing estate in Dundalk, was like Ballymurphy-on-Sea from the amount of on-the-runs that were living in it, including members of my own extended family. I know that for a fact.”
She said this included her uncle Joe Cahill, a now-dead IRA leader.
“A whole swathe of them all went to Muirhevnamor, and all lived there quite openly,” she said.
She also mentioned the on-the-runs letter scandal, which focused on letters which were sent to IRA suspects from Northern Ireland who were living freely in the Republic.
She further noted that former IRA gunman Kieran Conway is currently “working and living openly” in the Republic.
However, prosecuting someone requires both that “the evidence is there and the will is there”.
She believes that whilst neither the UK nor Irish governments are serious about pursuing Troubles crimes, the UK authorities are “much more open” about it.
She added: “I believe both governments are waiting for victims to die off so the problem will eventually be swept under the carpet.”
Ms Cahill came to prominence in 2014, after waiving her anonymity to claim she had been raped by an IRA man, and that the IRA had convened a court-style hearing into the claim.
All those alleged to have been involved were acquitted.