While most people in Northern Ireland would warmly welcome the radical political progress that has taken place in the Province since the Troubles petered out in the 1990s, at times it is hard not to shudder at the sort of badness that has been tolerated along the way.
One of the most shameless acts of criminality carried out by the terrorists with which Sinn Fein were inextricably linked happened ten years ago.
The Northern Bank robbery was carried out at the height of the Christmas trading period in the heart of Belfast.
Imagine a political party linked to such culprits being allowed near high office in Germany, France, Spain or the Netherlands. But London would never have dared to stand up to the fury it would have incurred from nationalist Ireland had it tried to penalise Sinn Fein over the robbery.
When Robert McCartney was murdered by IRA thugs weeks after the heist, sparking revulsion even in Irish America, all of the parties – not just Sinn Fein – were penalised by not being invited to the annual White House St Patrick’s celebrations. ‘Equality’ is such that when the IRA murder and thieve, everyone is to blame.
In any event, Stormont was already suspended in 2004 due to previous republican dishonesty in the form of spying on the Hill and breaking into Castlereagh.
Police say that the Northern Bank case remains live but few people expect the robbery masterminds to face justice.
Even moderate unionists who strongly disagree with Jim Allister’s overall analysis of the way forward for unionism will share his dismay that circumstances are such that unionists either had to share power with the political front of bank robbers or be punished with a greener form of Direct Rule.
The only solace to be drawn from the 10th anniversary of the Northern Bank theft is that nothing of its like has recurred, but it is not good that we feel grateful at such a fact.