UUP MLA Alan Chambers blasts Sinn Fein’s ‘double standards’ on legacy

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald at Shaftesbury Recreational Centre in the lower Ormeau area of south Belfast after meeting families of Troubles legacy killings
Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald at Shaftesbury Recreational Centre in the lower Ormeau area of south Belfast after meeting families of Troubles legacy killings

A senior Ulster Unionist Party MLA has accused Sinn Fein of having “double standards” when it comes to information about legacy cases.

Responding to a call from North Belfast MLA Gerry Kelly for police files to be opened up to scrutiny, UUP policing spokesperson Alan Chambers claimed that while Sinn Fein would accept intelligence about loyalist suspects as “gospel truth”, they would dismiss similar information about republicans as “dirty tricks”.

Mr Chambers also pointed out how the IRA had attempted to destroy evidence in terrorist cases during the Troubles by blowing up police facilities.

His comments came following criticism of the PSNI over the way it handles information in legacy cases – specifically its failure to give “significant information” to police ombudsman investigators looking into the handling of a probe into a UFF mass shooting in the Ormeau Road area of Belfast in 1992 which claimed five lives.

The PSNI said its failure to initially disclose all the relevant information had been down to “human error”.

Mr Chambers, who represents the UUP on the Policing Board, said: “Legacy matters have once again been to the forefront with a focus on the PSNI retention and management of files.

“On one radio programme Sinn Fein’s Gerry Kelly was demanding that police files be opened up to scrutiny. Does he mean intelligence files?

“Republicans used to complain about ‘British securocrats’ spreading false information. Now they seem to be setting great store in intelligence files gathered by the same people who they previously said could not be trusted.

“I rather suspect that where intelligence files name informants or criminal suspects who are loyalists, Sinn Fein will accept such information as gospel truth. But where intelligence files name republican informants or suspects, this will no doubt be dismissed as disinformation and dirty tricks.

“As with their attitude to the EU, Sinn Fein appear to have made a complete U-turn regarding information and files. They have certainly come a long way from September 1992 when the IRA detonated a 3,000lb bomb outside the Northern Ireland Forensic Science Laboratory near Belvoir Park, in a bid to destroy evidence in terrorist cases.

In response to Mr Chambers’ comments, Sinn Fein MLA Linda Dillon said: “I think it’s disgraceful for Alan Chambers to attempt to pit the needs of victims against other victims.

“Sinn Fein made an agreement with the two governments and the political parties at Stormont House to give all victims a level playing field in their efforts to get maximum disclosure about the killings of their loved ones.

“More than four years on the British government has refused to implement those agreed structures and victims continue to be faced by cover ups and denied truth and justice.

“The PSNI has admitted that it failed to give the police ombudsman ‘significant and sensitive’ information related to under cover policing in investigations into up to 30 UDA murders in south and west Belfast and in the north west.

“The real question here is what is Alan Chambers’ position on the PSNI’s failure to make available relevant evidence to investigations by the police ombudsman into 30 murders?”