O’Connor revelations must be investigated, given their context

The campaigner and former Irish senator Mairia Cahill and sex abuse victim said of Paul O’Connor, director of the Pat Finucane Centre, that she would not care about his IRA membership if he had not spent recent years “digging up everyone else’s pasts without admitting his own”.

Monday, 25th November 2019, 1:01 am
Updated Monday, 25th November 2019, 1:13 am
News Letter editorial

That is a feeling that would be widely shared.

Few people in 2019 would be much interested in the past of a man in late middle age who had briefly been in a paramilitary group in his teens, and then left it and felt regret and moved on with his life. There are thousands of such people.

After all, few unionists were much interested in pursuing even IRA leaders five years ago. There was a widespread sense that the Province had moved on to a new chapter, and a much better one, and there was no point raking over past pain and tragedy and violence.

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But the political atmosphere has changed radically, in a way that is wholly the responsibility of republicans. On every front, and assisted by people in a range of different roles in society, they are actively pursuing the state over its past alleged wrongdoings. As republican terrorists know, there are vast wells of information on state forces who prevented civil war.

The terrorists are determined to use every legal method they can to hunt down state, and, shamefully, republicans are being lavishly funded by legal aid to do so.

This is the wider context in which the revelation about Mr O’Connor has emerged (a mere matter of hours after the Pat Finucane Centre challenged the claims about his past). It is essential therefore that this matter is further investigated.

Meanwhile, as the victims group Ulster Human Rights Watch says in a letter to this newspaper, what did Julian Smith mean when he said the Stormont House Agreement would be implemented in full?

Is this is his latest display of political ignorance, unaware of the widespread alarm among ex security forces and terrorist victims as to the plan? Or is he just ignoring the concerns?