Powell: Releasing prisoners was not easier for Nationalists; it’s ignorant and offensive to suggest otherwise

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Responding to the latest attempts by the DUP to take ownership and responsibility for nothing that occurred in Northern Ireland before Ian Paisley was finally crowned, as First Minister, official leader of the unionist tribe, Blair’s former right-hand, Jonathan Powell, has just claimed something extraordinarily vulgar.

Releasing murderers as part of the Good Friday agreement after only two years in prison was an extraordinarily difficult thing for the government to do and an extraordinarily difficult thing for particularly the unionist community in Northern Ireland to swallow - but you have to have these difficult compromises of you are going to an agreement – you can’t just say it’s all going to be for one side.

(Emphasis mine.)

Extraordinary is the wrong word, of course. After all, Her Majesty’s [former] representative is only bearing witness to the British state’s traditional approach to victims, and those responsible for creating them. This approach helped (1) sustain the conflict for so long in the first place, and (2) explain the conspicuous lack of killers from the army and various “security services” who ever ended up in prison in the first place.

Highlighting these hierarchies and their persistence to this day isn’t simply a matter of record keeping and score settling.

It’s exactly attitudes like these that continue to shape our contemporary stale, short-tempered, entitled, and put-upon political dynamics that see Stormont act as a vehicle for entrenching past divisions rather than creating the shared space – and some grace – required to get past them.

  • Reader

    Ruari: Releasing prisoners was not easier for Nationalists; it’s ignorant and offensive to suggest otherwise
    Surely just paying attention for a little while suggests that Powell was correct? Just a matter of observation; whether now or in 1998.
    It may have been more productive for you to suggest that unionists were wrong to make such a fuss; as you might then have had a phalanx of shinners behind you saying that unionists had is coming to them and should have soaked it up.
    In the past few days here on Slugger it looks like only SDLP supporters from the nationalist side of the house have shown any concern at all about the prospects of significant numbers of people getting away with murder.

  • The keep

    Fine post Ruarai you took the very words from my mouth

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Reader

    An absurd leap of logic. You’re confusing whingeing with caring.

    The fact that nationalists have conducted themselves with maturity, toughness and selflessness, while unionists have behaved childishly and with vast self-absorbtion, does not mean nationalists don’t mind seeing people like Torrens Knight released.

    It’s not so much Powell’s remark as the bias it betrays that is telling.

  • Son of Strongbow

    Released nationalist terrorists were met with tricolour-waving cavalcades and street parties.

    Indeed there is a party arranged in Donegal for this weekend on Downey’s return to the county.

    Many, many released nationalist POWs [sic] were elected to council and MLA positions helping to make SInn Fein the largest nationalist party in NI (led in Stormont by Commandant McGuinness).

    On the other side of the street so-called loyalist terrorists form a micro group within unionism. Sinn Fein’s para politician mirror, the PUP, has a tiny electoral impact.

    Which community has taken released prisoners to its heart?

  • Brian Walker

    Ruarai, I’m afraid Mark Durkan’s warnings against side deals got rather drowned out and since their eclipse the SDLP have failed to stake out many distinctive positions,
    Is this about to change? .

  • Reader

    Billy Pilgrim: An absurd leap of logic. You’re confusing whingeing with caring.
    Yes, yes of course. As I predicted you think we should have soaked it up.
    So, if you dismiss the evidence of what people say and do, how do you decide what actually matters to people?

  • Charles_Gould

    SDLP cannot be faulted. Totally opposed to dirty secret NIO SF deals…..as Mark Durkan said yesterday in the commons.

  • Ruarai

    Reader,

    you should read more.

    You suggest: “Surely just paying attention for a little while suggests that Powell was correct? Just a matter of observation; whether now or in 1998″.

    At the time of the prisoner release negotiations, the majority of voting nationalists were SDLP voters. We all know that the major reason for their electoral preference was precisely on the question of justifying political violence. (Since SF have flipped and now actively condemn those who advocate political violence, nationalist voters’ preferences are inevitably more likely to be shaped by other considerations. Someone may like to let the SDLP know this.)

    Brian, I can’t and don’t speak for the SDLP, only myself, but if you mean your question rhetorically, then I guess it will be interesting to find out. Per my final point above to reader, they certainly have an incentive to do precisely that.

  • BluesJazz

    The ‘homecoming’ party for Downey, complete with republican band and symbolism was trailed on BBC Newsline tonight. A celebration of ‘one of us who escaped justice’.

    I’m sure the SF faithful will have a fun packed evening of gloating and singing. Maybe they’ll raise a glass or two to Tony Blair. A good son of Donegal himself to be sure.

  • SK

    Nail on head Ruarai.

    Sinn Fein crow about Paratroopers being brought to justice, while demanding “get out of jail” cards for their own.

    The Unionists abhor the idea of Paratroopers seeing the inside of a courtroom, but insist that Republican murderers must account for their actions.

    Two sides of the same hypocritical coin in this instance.

    “Which community has taken released prisoners to its heart?”

    “Released prisoners?” Is Bobo the thesaurus wielding clown referring to Peter Punt or Ruth Patterson here?

    Bobo should keep in mind that there are no British Army “on the runs” because nobody bothered chasing them in the first place.

  • Reader

    Ruari: At the time of the prisoner release negotiations, the majority of voting nationalists were SDLP voters. We all know that the major reason for their electoral preference was precisely on the question of justifying political violence.
    That doesn’t actually have anything to do with my point, and I don’t think it has anything to do with Powell’s point either. But if it was relevant then the obvious response is to point out that PUP and UDP got a small vote compared with SF back then, and smaller still in proportion now that the treatment of the old-boys is moving up (their) list of priorities compared with cheerleading for ongoing violence.
    My point would be that (to give both sides a positive spin) unionists are more principled on the issue of tidying up after the troubles, whereas nationalists are more pragmatic. I know that, though I voted for the GFA then, and probably would do so again, the hardest part of the deal for me was prisoner releases. I get the impression that was scarcely in the top three of reservations held by most nationalists.

  • http://www.secondnature.ie Michael

    Reader it wasn’t in the top three concerns because the way our system works you are either for or against. It would have been stupid to voice opposition to elements of the yes side if you risked bringing the whole campaign down. You had to suck everything up – even the bitter tasting stuff. It’s a mirror of the biggest problem of todays party politics – you might think that 50% of what your party talks is crap but 50% is great – so you get to choose – total capitulation to the party’s will or abstain from political life.

    unfortunately the alternatives – anarchism are far too mature and evolved for this place and indeed most places.

  • SK

    “My point would be that (to give both sides a positive spin) unionists are more principled on the issue of tidying up after the troubles.”

    State Collusion, Bloody Sunday, Ballymurphy…”Principled” my arse.

    Nationalists were ‘pragmatic’ about the release of prisoners is because unionists were fairly pragmatic about who should be arrested in the first place.

  • aquifer

    So Rauri

    Did militant Irish separatists want the paid or deluded dupes of British imperialism kept in jail?

    Maybe just enough of them to put the state in the wrong?

    The state held the ring open for democracy, what was wrong in that?

  • Charles_Gould

    SF holding a celebratory party for Downey does little to improve their image.

    SDLP a better party on a moral dimension.

  • Barnshee

    “The Unionists abhor the idea of Paratroopers seeing the inside of a courtroom, but insist that Republican murderers must account for their actions.”

    The paras etc spent hours being attacked by a mob. (I had the misfortune to be present in Londonderry— some of mob got shot– there is a substantial body of opinion which does not regret the action.
    Personally I would be delighted if the paras saw the “inside of a courtroom” and allow the proper comprehensive restatement of the events of the day

  • http://gravatar.com/joeharron Mister_Joe

    Pity you didn’t stand before Lord Saville and set him straight, then.

  • DC
  • Tom

    “Which community has taken released prisoners to its heart?”

    I’d imagine it would the community that suffered the brunt of the state’s imprisonment. Whether it be internment, collusion, or shoot to kill, the nationalist population suffered disproportionately.

  • Neil

    DC,

    allegedly a person killer. Your post belies the fact that you don’t actually care and are only interested in a cheap political point. How does it feel to still, 14 months down the line, be being played by the DUP like a harp by the way?

  • BluesJazz

    Neil
    Are you going to the Donegal celebration?
    Wolfe Tones, Boys of the old Brigade and all that Jazz..

    Sure the craic will be mighty.

    Toasts for Blair, Powell (Jonathan of course) and a serenade for Sefton.
    You boys stay classy.

  • MonkDeWallyDeHonk

    BluesJazz

    I seem to remember Johnny Adair being presented with a trophy in front of a large cheering crowd on the Shankill.

    When he, John Gregg, Torrens Knight and Michael Stone were released – they were all greeted like returning “heroes”.

    To this day, there is a massive annual parade down the Shankill in “honour” of UVF killer Brian Robinson who bravely shot an innocent Catholic Pensioner.

    There are OO lodges with “Loyalist” terrorist murders carrying their banners and indeed featured on their banners.

    There are even more “Loyalist” flute bands named in “honour” of “Loyalist” terrorists.

    Personally, I have no time for eulogizing anyone involved in violence.

    The difference between us is that I’m not a hypocrite – I don’t differentiate between Catholic and Protestant victims.

    Your hypocrisy would be laughable if it wasn’t so sickening.

  • Harry Flashman

    “I had the misfortune to be present in Londonderry”

    Clearly not on Bloody Sunday as the facts you state are simply incorrect and anyone who was there would know that.

    The Paras did not spend hours being attacked by a mob, the Royal Greenjackets spent about half an hour being subject to rioting by a group of around fifty unarmed youths who threw stones ineffectually at a line of troops well protected by barbed wire, armoured cars, helmets, shields and water cannon. The Greenjackets dealt with this minor rioting with the usual discipline of trained British infantrymen facing a not particularly daunting threat. They fired tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon with good effect and mostly dispersed the small group of rioters.

    This is how one would expect disciplined well-trained troops with good officers to handle a minor piece of civil disturbance. And to the credit of the British Army was almost always how they conducted themselves in such circumstances. They had after all years of experience around the world in such matters.

    However at this point a bunch of homicidal Paratroopers, hyped up with adrenaline and machismo about how they were going to show the “craphats” how to deal with this sort of business was sent in and then proceeded to massacre unarmed civilians. The people they shot included a small number of rioters but mostly they hit unarmed demonstrators huddling in terror or bravely going to the assistance of injured friends.

    Not a single “gunman” was among those shot. So undisciplined was the Paras’ shooting that their commanding officer (who later lied publicly on TV) could be heard shouting, ineffectually, at his men to stop shooting. The officer and his men were an utter disgrace to the British Army and the regiment was immediately and shamefacedly withdrawn from Derry.

    The Paras who committed the massacre were the same men who massacred a dozen or more other unarmed civilians, including women and a priest administering aid to a dying man, in Belfast a few months earlier.

    I hope this clears matters up for you as you seem to be extremely confused about the events which you claim to have witnessed.

  • Charles_Gould

    This thread highlights the fact that SDLP and SF have a very different approach to victims. As Mark Durkan stated recently, there is a need to put a high priority on victims interests (all of the victims). SF clearly have a different attitude.

    SDLP voted against the legislation that would have let people off the hook; SF did dirty deals.

    Mark Durkan said: “a key reason that we need to deal with the past is because we need to assure people that we haven’t ended the dirty war just to end up with a dirty peace.”

    and

    “some of us were right when we warned the Right Honourable Member for Neath (Peter Hain) and others that they were blighting the peace process with their penchant for side deals, pseudo-deals, sub-deals, shabby deals and secret deals – which are now doing major damage to the process more widely”.

    And doing great disrespect to victims.

    It is not the SDLP who are holding a party for Downey. It is SF.

    Those who vote SDLP certainly cannot be accused of finding sucm mal-treatment of victims easy. SDLP are strong on victims. And the SDLP are not selective in their approach to victims.

  • Charles_Gould

    That should say “such” not *sucm”

  • Barnshee

    “The Paras did not spend hours being attacked by a mob, the Royal Greenjackets spent about half an hour being subject to rioting by a group of around fifty unarmed youths who threw stones ineffectually at a line of troops well protected by barbed wire, armoured cars, helmets, shields and water cannon”

    I was in the immediate vicinity of Waterloo Place on the day
    I saw Brick,s Iron bars tins of human waste thrown at the Army -who I presume included Paras -it was in your own words ” a riot”- some rioters got shot-( I defer to your detailed knowledge of Army units -they all looked the same to me)

    By December 1971 dozens of soldiers and RUC had been killed in Derry,-some Derry citizens were shot on “bloody Sunday” —If you lie down with dogs you tend to get fleas

  • Niall Noigiallach

    Charles I’m afraid I have to disagree with your points about the SDLP being this champion of victims and somehow more considerate of victims than others. No one political party represents or speaks for victims, each share a particular responsibility for this, or at least they should. I’m sure on the morning of the SPAD Bill vote, the victims groups who turned up at Stormont relayed their thoughts to a few of your party members on where they stood on that particular issue. I’m pretty certain their position was at odds with the SDLP’s position.

    The point is every party could have done better for victims at one point or another. And for future reference, the electioneering on the thread is bordering on childish. I’m waiting on one of those diagrams being posted in a few minutes showing an image of a human brain next to a smaller human brain. No doubt the bigger brain will be that of an SDLP member and the smaller brain will of course be a Shinner. Rathar than point score on Slugger, surely you would be best off knocking on a few doors and canvassing people for their vote and using your persuasive skills to revive your party?

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Reader

    ‘…you think we should have soaked it up.’

    Nationalists ‘soaked it up’. Why can’t unionists?

    ‘So, if you dismiss the evidence of what people say and do, how do you decide what actually matters to people?’

    Oh, I dunno. Exercise a bit of judgement, maybe?

  • Harry Flashman

    Barnshee, I witnessed perhaps hunderds of riots in Derry in my day, not once, not once, did I see tins of human excrement being thrown. That is a simple fabrication on your part.

    Anyway like I say the Paras did not endure any of this as they were kept in reserve for the snatch operation.

    I am amazed that whilst you were there you were incapable of differentiating between the RGJ who wore NATO-style helmets and standard British Army uniforms and the Paras who had airborne helmets, wore very distinctive smocks of a different camouflage pattern, had Parachute wings clearly emblazoned on their arms and who played no part whatsoever in handling the rioting.

    Yet you saw tins of imaginary shit being thrown.

    Once again I point out that the majority of those shot were not rioters, countless items of photographic, police, medical, press, legal and TV evidence have conclusively proven that most of those shot were either running away, prone on the ground or in one appalling instance crawling to the assistance of a badly injured man.

    You missed all this but still saw tins of shit being thrown, eh?

    Should have gone to Specsavers mate.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    Ruarai,
    I’m sure it was hard for some nationalists too to see Loyalist terrorists walking out early. But the facts are that that situation happened mainly because one of the two big nationalist parties pushed for it and the other did not oppose them strongly; meanwhile none of the major unionist parties wanted it – indeed it caused the GFA to be rejected by many unionists. Yet very few nationalists voted against it.

    So the evidence is clear that prisoner releases were indeed more of an issue for unionists than nationalists. Powell was right on that (though I’m not his biggest fan otherwise).

  • Charles_Gould

    MU

    “’m sure it was hard for some nationalists too to see Loyalist terrorists walking out early.”

    Many nationalists who vote SDLP would be as appalled by the release of IRA prisoners as of Loyalist prisoners. It is not which religion or tribe they belong to that motivates the pain and the sense of injustice, but the deed that they did. Just as I would expect the same of many of the voters of unionist parties too.

  • FuturePhysicist

    I’m sure on the morning of the SPAD Bill vote, the victims groups who turned up at Stormont relayed their thoughts to a few of your party members on where they stood on that particular issue

    The SDLP position on the SPAD Bill is related easily to the thread title, it is insulting to suggest that nationalist victims of paramilitary violence especially those victims of the IRA want a sectarian veto to protect former prisoners or criminals from high paid jobs with little accountability.

  • Niall Noigiallach

    FuturePhysicist, the point was made to Charles who had made several references to the idea that the SDLP have more of a consideration for victims than SF. I merely pointed out that on the day of the SPAD Bill vote, several victims groups made representation to a few SDLP members at Stormont that they felt the SDLP were not acting in their interests. Therefore, its a counter argument to what Charles is actually saying

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    CG,
    Indeed, I agree.

    But Ruarai’s outrage was about Powell saying prisoner releases were particularly difficult for the unionist community to swallow. I think it’s clear that part of the GFA settlement was much less accepted within unionist circles than nationalist circles. The two communities did appear to have different approaches to the issue.

    I can only speculate as to why – and I say this acknowledging the bravery of many nationalists who hate the IRA as much as I do – but perhaps at some level, some nationalists did buy into the idea of Republican prisoners as “POWs”, in a way much fewer unionists did of Loyalist prisoners. Some will have had a sneaking regard for their “struggle”. As well as the widespread support terrorist parties like SF enjoyed even then, there was also a certain moral ambiguity in the attitudes of some other nationalists towards the IRA, as the reactions to the Hunger Strikes appeared to reveal (and the film The Hunger is a good example of a nationalist-informed discourse of moral ambiguity around Republican prisoners).

    So it was no surprise really that prisoner releases did not seem to attract the same levels of moral outrage in nationalist circles – though I’m sure there was plenty – as in unionist circles.

    The stark truth is that any kind of sympathy for the paramilitaries is more marginal within the unionist world – see Dr Kirk Simpson’s “Unionist Voices” book on how little real moral support most unionists are prepared to give to Loyalist terrorists. Not that unionists too haven’t indulged in the ‘sneaking regard’ mentality (the phrase was coined by John Taylor after all) – I’ve heard plenty of that – just to say the two communities are not mirror images. Culturally, the vast majority of “non-Loyalist” unionists were comfortable taking an unequivocal anti-terrorist stance and the wider unionist attitude to prisoner releases reflected that. That’s my take on it anyway. What is beyond doubt is that unionists struggled more than nationalists, as a whole, with the idea of prisoner releases.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    To shed some factual light here – apologies for lack of reference on the exact poll – but Tony Fahey et al in “Consensus and Conflict” (2005) quote a poll, which seems to be from around 1998, saying support for prisoner releases was 6 per cent among unionists and 37 per cent among nationalists. So clearly, many nationalists were opposed and I can see why Ruarai took offence. But at the same time, it backs Powell’s claim that it was even harder for unionists, with virtually no support for the policy among the unionist electorate.

  • Greenflag

    @ MU ,

    ‘ I think it’s clear that part of the GFA settlement was much less accepted within unionist circles than nationalist circles.’

    No thinking required -the GFA referendum resulted in a 71% Yes vote ( 90% of nationalist voters and just over 50% of unionist voters ) .

    It would be a mistake to assume that the anti -GFA unionist vote was predominantly because of ‘prisoner release’. Unionist politicians from all parties have had ‘issues’ working with the GFA since it’s inception and have collapsed the Assembly a couple of times . The latest near collapse has been avoided due to Mr Cameroon’s white elephant of a con job known as an independent judicial enquiry whose findings will be ‘discovered’ and forgotten about post the local and European elections.

    “The two communities did appear to have different approaches to the issue.I can only speculate as to why’

    It’s simple enough the why I mean . History . The Irish version – British rule in Ireland will always be biased in favour of the English ( i.e London /South East ) interest . In the multi national hierarchy the top was London then the Empire , the rest of England , Scotland , Wales and then from about the early 19th century Ireland got a look in -prior to that it was virtually ignored other than as a resource for food , cannon fodder and press ganged rustics for the navy.. Unfortunately the Irish have that legacy . Despite HMG’s efforts that legacy continues and while most modern Irish people look at the UK as a good neighbour etc there is a latent sometimes justifiable doubting of pronouncements on Irish (including Northern Ireland ) matters by UK politicians such as Jonathan Powell etc etc .

    Unionists on the other hand we are led to believe take as gospel anything which any HMG promises in relation to Ireland /Northern Ireland .That however is not what anyone will hear when some unionist politicians talk ‘off the record ‘ as it were .

    Perhaps the above may give some insight into why Unionist politicians are having and will continue to have many more problems with the GFA and indeed Direct Rule when it returns than Irish nationalists .

    They have higher expectations of HM governments in relation to Northern Ireland than any Irish nationalist would ever have !

  • Greenflag

    Addendum ,

    Paisley btw never shared those high expectations which in retro probably helped to account for his long political tenure and eventual replacement of the UUP by the DUP.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Mainland (sic) Unionist

    Powell said that prisoner releases ‘were particularly difficult for the unionist community to swallow’.

    You claim to agree, with your statement that: ‘the evidence is clear that prisoner releases were indeed more of an issue for unionists than nationalists.’

    Which is not the same thing at all.

    To suggest that the pain for nationalists of seeing psychopaths like Torrens Knight being released was less than that experienced by unionists with comparable figures, is an exercise in dehumanization.

    The release of prisoners was a bigger issue for unionists because unionists had comparatively little else to be worried about.

    All these years later it’s still clung to as an alibi for undiminished sectarian bigotry.

    ‘The stark truth is that any kind of sympathy for the paramilitaries is more marginal within the unionist world…’

    This is laughably myopic.

    The entire state of Northern Ireland exists because of a unionist paramilitary insurgency. It has been awash with pro-state paramilitaries (mostly in uniform and on the public payroll) since the beginning. Indeed, paramilitarism has been the mainstay of the unionist economy since the decline of heavy industry set in.

    Unionist support for paramilitarism (in the shape of organisations such as the RUC, UDR, ‘A’ ‘B’ and ‘C’ Specials, and quasi-paramilitary associations such as the Orange Order) has always been vast and deep and shockingly enthusiastic.

    The very state of NI is unionist paramilitarism made flesh.

    So please spare us hypocritical claims of moral superiority, just because most unionists don’t feel the need to support the illiterate dregs on unionism’s fascist fringes, the bottom-feeders who couldn’t even gain admittance to any of the smorgasbord of ‘legitimate’ unionist paramilitary groups.

  • FuturePhysicist

    FuturePhysicist, the point was made to Charles who had made several references to the idea that the SDLP have more of a consideration for victims than SF. I merely pointed out that on the day of the SPAD Bill vote, several victims groups made representation to a few SDLP members at Stormont that they felt the SDLP were not acting in their interests. Therefore, its a counter argument to what Charles is actually saying

    Sinn Féin have no concerns for victims, they voted against a law which would have prevented murders from the British Army and the Parachute regiment from taking SPAD roles even if they were prosecuted under the law. Even by their own legal fictions this is effectively the case. Sinn Féin have effectively forgiven the British Government so that the IRA will be forgiven by the British Government, that the settlement they’ve worked towards.

    I’ll leave it for the European Court of Human Rights to judge Mr. Kavanagh, rather than Sinn Féin bias who have failed victims so much by their own self righteousness they ensured the democratic passing of Traver’s Law even without the SDLP.

  • Niall Noigiallach

    FuturePhysicist, it does not take away from the fact that on the morning of the vote various victims groups were physically in Stormont. They were physically in the hall. And they were physically talking to SDLP members relaying to them their thoughts that the stance the SDLP took in relation to the matter were of no value or service to them. They felt the SDLP were not acting in their best interests. Therefore the point that the SDLP are more considerate towards victims than Sinn Fein is rathar inaccurate. It’s as simple as that

  • Morpheus

    FP, when it comes to Kavanagh all the SDLP did was allow a piece of legislation they publicly said was ‘flawed’ to progress – a point that SF will utilize in Derry when they are campaigning to get another MLA to get to the magic 30 so they can call their own POCs

  • tacapall

    “Sinn Féin have no concerns for victims, they voted against a law which would have prevented murders from the British Army and the Parachute regiment from taking SPAD roles even if they were prosecuted under the law”

    Indeed FP shortly after the Bloody Sunday apology from the British government Danny Morrison just happened to bump into the Commander in chief of the Parachute regiment Prince Charles at Glastonbury and didn’t they have a private conversation supposedly about tents but Danny Morrison described him as being personable and that “There is a line drawn through the past.”

    Depending on what side of the fence your sitting on, chance meetings with people like Prince Charles with someone viewed as an enemy of the state never happen and are actually choreographed. A political figure such as Danny Morrison proclaiming that a line has been drawn through the past with such a person suggests that statement too was choreographed.

  • FuturePhysicist

    It’s a legal fiction anyway, the 80 year old offenders would not be given a Special Advisor role anyway, however even when former bomber Gerry Kelly and ex UDR man and Orange Order lodge leader Jeffrey Donalsdon were playing happy families with the junior ministries, there were still Sinn Féin voters hoping this line drawn under the past would be invisible.

  • tacapall

    FP your taking the line being drawn under the past to just concern those paratroopers I wouldn’t agree and I would imagine Danny Morrison believed or was under the impression that the same thinking was being applied by the British establishment concerning certain republicans.

    Where do you get the idea that ordinary joe blogg Sinn Fein voters were even aware of a line being drawn in the past or that some individuals who Sinn Fein obviously considered as their own applied for immunity letters and royal prerogatives yet still swagger about claiming they are republicans.

  • Charles_Gould

    Alasdair McDonnell today: focused on the disdain for *victims* demonstrated by the SF/British secret deal.

  • Charles_Gould

    SDLP’s Alban Maginness said today OTR scheme was not done for the good of peace or of victims but rather the selfish interests of SF

  • Niall Noigiallach

    Charles, fair play to them. I’m sure their words today will translate into votes and that come the end of May the SDLP will be the talk of Ireland having made gains right across the board in all constituencies in both jurisdictions

  • bigglen

    Blue jazz and SOS at least Sinn Fein didn’t hire the ulster hall like the homecoming party for the paris three which was well attended by certain mlas

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    Billy (sic) Pilgrim,
    That’s quite a sectarian diatribe, but to cut to its main point, you say:
    “The release of prisoners was a bigger issue for unionists because unionists had comparatively little else to be worried about.”
    Really?! After enduring a 30 year terror campaign to bring about a united Ireland against the democratic vote in NI, the murderers were being welcomed into government – and we had little to be worried about?!

    But yes, I agree the peace process must have been painful for Republicans too, given the comprehensiveness with which they were outmanoeuvred politically and ground down from a security point of view. They have been doing a sterling job putting a brave face on having to accept the entire basis of their terror campaign was wrong (when they recognised the legitimacy of British sovereignty in NI) and that the means of pursuing it was wrong (which they had already recognised when they signed up to the Mitchell principles). I accept for proud people this must have been hard. Though as they were proud people who had killed a lot of innocent fellow citizens in pursuit of selfish goals, my sympathy was and is extremely limited.

    I personally was able to accept the prisoner releases as a price for the overall defeat of the IRA and I still think it was worth it. But note, that deal did not extent to OTRs – as is now well documented.