SDLP: proof that SF knew about OTR legislation

I’m blogging this on the run myself: a statement from the SDLP. From the SDLP

The SDLP has uncovered final proof that Sinn Fein accepted state killers getting away with it – and has accused the British Government of blatant double standards on loyalism.

Speaking at the launch of an SDLP briefing document 12 things they don’t want you to know about the NI Offences Bill, the SDLP?s Alex Attwood stated:

– Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams have both said publicly that Sinn Féin did not accept that members of the British state forces should be part of this process.

– They did accept it – and we have final proof. We have gone back to the Sinn Fein/British Government side deal of April 2003. It states that ? a qualifying offence would be any scheduled offence committed before 10 April 1998.

– Scheduled offences are offences like murder, bomb making, possession of weapons and are always tried in Diplock Courts.

– State killings in Northern Ireland are scheduled offences. That’s why people like Guardsmen Fisher and Wright and Lee Clegg were tried in Diplock Courts.

– So when Sinn Fein signed up to anybody who committed any scheduled offence before 1998 being able to skip jail, they accepted state killers getting away with it – now and in the future. They accepted this in black and white in the Hillsborough side deal.

Turning to other defects in the proposals, Mr Attwood stated:

– The IRA had to decommission and commit to end all activity before the Government would even introduce this legislation.

– But loyalists will be able to benefit even if they do not decommission a single bullet. Even if they do not end their drug dealing, intimidation, ?punishment? shootings and crime. If this legislation is assed, the UDA will be able to benefit right away.

– For thirty years the British Government has failed to take loyalist violence seriously – even though loyalists have been responsible for over 800 murders – most of them sectarian. So the blatant double standard applied to loyalist violence, while appalling, is not new.

– What is new is that Sinn Fein is complicit in this too. Their side deal only required loyalist organisations to have a ceasefire. Even though the IRA had to decommission, Sinn Fein did not insist that loyalists should have to do likewise – or commit to end their crime.?

– The British Government has said that it does not like this legislation – but has to introduce it to honour the deal done with Sinn Fein. The way out of this mess is simple. Sinn Fein should call on Tony Blair to withdraw this legislation. Let?s go back to the drawing board and devise a proper process that deals with OTRs proportionately while getting truth and justice for victims.?

NOTES TO EDITORS

Paragraph 4 of the British Government/Sinn Fein side deal states that:

– Legislation would set out who and what offences qualified for the scheme. A qualifying offence would be any scheduled or equivalent offence committed before 10 April 1998 . It would include offences committed by, or in the course of, escaping, or committed as part of an incident involving a scheduled offence. A qualifying person would be someone:

– who was not a supporter of a specified organisation;
– who was not currently involved in acts of terrorism; and
– who had not been convicted of a serious offence committed after 10 April 1998 for which he had received a sentence of five years or more.

State killings are scheduled offences. Therefore Sinn Fein signed up to this. Nowhere in the deal is it mentioned that state killers are not covered.

The only condition required for organisations to benefit is that they are not specified (ie. the Secretary of State recognises their ceasefires). The Secretary of State recognises the UDA ceasefire.

There is no condition requiring decommissioning or an end to all activity by loyalists in paragraph 4 or anywhere else.