McGuinness: we did not negotiate state immunity

Martin McGuinness has an op ed in the Irish News and uses it to hit back at Mark Durkan’s claim Sinn Fein negotiated a deal that will let the British forces off from the consequences of improper actions during the troubles. He categorically denies that that element was ever a part of his party’s negotiations from Weston Park in 2001, until the present day.And he is clear for his part:

Sinn F�in did not support, propose, discuss, or accept that members of the British state forces should be part of this process nor did we argue for a blanket amnesty. On the contrary we sought to ensure the scheme would not provide an amnesty to members of British state forces who carried out or were responsible for state killings or collusion and whose activities have always been covered up by the British government. The scheme published by the two governments at Weston Park in 2003 related only to OTRs.

Our position on collusion and state violence is clear. We support the families of the victims in their pursuit of truth and justice. The British state has always protected members of its forces against prosecution and in the small number of unavoidable convictions, the perpetrators have enjoyed minimum prison sentences, early releases, readmission to the British army and subsequent promotion.

The difficulty for Sinn Fein on this issue is that it was a billateral negotiation. No other parties were involved, so politically they ‘own’ the outcome – good and bad. Even if the bill is amended in some of its detail, it may de facto curtail Sinn Fein from further effective negotiations on the issue of collusion. Though it would be unwise to underestimate the capacity of Sinn Fein to take such set backs in its considerable stride, it also indicates the SDLP has been much quicker to sieze on the embarassment of its opponents that it has been in the past.