Iirsh Times columnist, Fintan O’Toole doesn’t often enter the realm of Northern Irish politics, but when he does it is usually worth reading. This week he kicks off with an emotional portrayal of 1973 killing of a 14 year old by a IRA gunman who had been using her as cover to attack a British Army patrol. Although the IRA has finally admitted the killing, he argues that there is a long term inconsistency in Sinn Féin’s approach to unlawful killing and cover-ups (subs needed).
The IRA in Derry at the time was led by Martin McGuinness, now Sinn Féin’s chief negotiator. After the murder of Kathleen Feeney it issued a public statement that traded directly on the IRA’s reputation for telling the truth about its own activities: “The people of Derry are aware that we have admitted responsibility for our actions even at times when mistakes were made by us and civilians injured. We say categorically that the shooting of young Kathleen Feeney was the work of the British army and not of the republican movement.” It later announced that it had murdered a British soldier in direct retaliation for the army’s alleged shooting of Kathleen Feeney.
He then asserts:
If the IRA could establish 32 years later that one of their own members killed Kathleen Feeney, it is almost inconceivable that Martin McGuinness did not know this at the time.
Sinn Féin has repeatedly and at times eloquently demanded that there should not be a “hierarchy of victims” of the Troubles, yet it continues to operate in a blatantly hierarchical manner. While laconic, anonymous statements following secretive investigations are good enough for the IRA’s victims, nothing short of full accountability is good enough for the victims of the British state and loyalist paramilitaries.
Sinn Féin also complains that politicians who knew about collusion between the British state and loyalist paramilitaries “have never been called to account for their actions or for their culpability in the murder of citizens”. Yet for almost 32 years, senior leaders of Sinn Féin knew that the IRA was lying about the murder of Kathleen Feeney. They knew what happened and why. And they kept their mouths shut.