DPP quizzed over politics, soldier prosecutions, and more '“ in Irish

The Province's lead prosecutor has given a long interview, all in the Irish language, about everything from his Belfast childhood to possible immunity for soldiers.

Barra McGrory in a still taken from the interview, broadcast at 10pm on Monday
Barra McGrory in a still taken from the interview, broadcast at 10pm on Monday

Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Barra McGrory was quizzed by veteran journalist Eamonn Mallie about his youth, career, and about his lawyer father Paddy – whom he said had been approached by a a top Tory MP in the early 1990s in a bid to glean an insight into republican thinking.

Near the end of the half-hour subtitled BBC Two broadcast on Monday (which was titled ‘Beart is Briathar’), Mr McGrory was asked: “Are you a republican? Do you feel that way?”

“I’m not going to talk about politics,” he replied.

“It has nothing to do with the job I do. That’s a private matter, I believe.”

The interview began with Mr Mallie noting that Mr McGrory grew up around north Belfast’s Antrim Road during the Troubles.

Mr McGrory said that, since his father worked as a defence solicitor for republicans, “we had to be very careful around the house and in the area” – recalling that, when he was quite young, he realised the family was in danger when a hoax bomb was left under his father’s car.

He often had to walk through riots when heading home from St Malachy’s school, he said – adding that he originally wanted to be an Irish language teacher before finally deciding upon law in his late 20s.

Mr McGrory said both he and his father had known Pat Finucane – murdered by loyalists at home nearby in 1989 – “very well”, and that Paddy “had a lot of respect for the work Pat was doing... pushing out the boundaries of the law”.

He also said that Tory MP Patrick Mayhew had at one stage approached his father Paddy McGrory before becoming Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in 1992, and that “he understood my father had an insight into republicanism”.

“It was clear to my father that Mayhew wanted to find out if republicans were interested in making peace at that time,” said Mr McGrory.

He then said his father had gone to John Hume around that time, and encouraged him to “talk to Sinn Fein”.

Turning towards today, one point Mr Mallie said: “Many of the major jobs in law or in the administration of justice are held by people who were born into the Catholic tradition in Northern Ireland. Do you have any issue with that at all?”

Mr McGrory responded: “No, I don’t think it makes any difference.

“There was a competition, and people applied, so I don’t think it makes any difference.”

He was then asked: “Can you appreciate, however, that some people believe Protestants are not being treated fairly?”

He replied: “Well, I don’t agree with that. I have no interest in anyone’s religion or politics. There’s a competition for every job that becomes vacant. I don’t accept that at all.”

He said the job of DPP “isn’t easy”, adding that “you have to do your best to treat everyone fairly”.

“I do that,” he said. “But in our society, not everyone agrees with you all of the time.”

He was asked what he makes of the idea of a statute of limitations for soldiers who were stationed in the Province during the Troubles, essentially giving them an amnesty for historic crimes.

“That’s a political issue, Eamonn, and we don’t have a statute like that in relation to any other crime.

“If they are considering that, I hope they treat everyone fairly, and that they consider the victims as well.”

He was then asked he could remain in his position “if due process was set aside”.

“Well, that hasn’t happened yet... I don’t think it will happen,” he said.

“I think the government is prudent, and they realise it would be unfair if they did that, so I’m not concerned about that at the moment.”

Mr McGrory was also asked if there was “any truth” to the idea that the PPS “isn’t pursuing terrorists but rather soldiers”.

He replied: “There is no truth in it. I don’t seek out these cases. They are brought to me. For example, in the case of the soldiers, what happened is that the families approached the attorney general seeking a prosecution.

“Then, he approached me initially as he was concerned about the evidence and then, I have to do my job when I have all the information.

“So that isn’t true at all.

“I have a job to do, and I treat everyone fairly.

“They will receive due process of the law like everyone else.”