Attack the messenger, avoid the issue

Within a week of the Provisional IRA ‘apologising’ for the abduction and murder of 15-year-old Bernard Taggart in 1973, a Sinn Féin spokesman has accused the author of a new report on the paramilitary beating and shooting attacks on young people in Northern Ireland, Professor Liam Kennedy, of being “a well-known anti-republican” despite the report detailing that, of the 22 acknowledged shootings and beatings by the end of August this year, eight were carried out by republicans and 14 by loyalists.As quoted in the Irish News, courtesy of Newshound, the unnamed Sinn Féin spokesman, said, “”In the past he [Professor Kennedy] put his views to the electorate in west Belfast and was rejected at the polls.. He is not an impartial observer.”

Prof Kennedy stood in the Westminster elections in 1997 on a campaign to raise awareness about human rights issues, particularly so-called punishment beatings by paramilitary groups.

He was forthright in his reponse to the accusation of being ‘anti-republican’, stating that Sinn Féin’s claims were “completely predictable”.

“To say that someone is anti-republican doesn’t engage in the debate whatsoever… It’s just a slogan that can be tossed out and is a way of avoiding the issues.”

Professor Kennedy has been involved in research on this issue for some time – including this 2001 report, prepared for the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee of the House of Commons, They Shoot Children Don’t They?

In their response to the report, the SDLP called all such attacks “barbaric and wrong” and even David Ervine, of the PUP, called the new figures “shocking”.

To date Sinn Féin have failed to publish their statement on the SF website.