Shaun Woodward: “the idea of pardons being given is complete nonsense”

Suzanne Breen in The Sunday Tribune has a report on anti agreement republican Gerry McGeough who is due to be tried for IRA membership and the attempted murder of UDR soldier Samuel Brush. It is claimed that Sinn Fein has provided the names of 216 on the run terrorists and that 47 have been granted pardons to allow them to return home without fear of prosecution. Vincent McAnespie was also charged with the attempted murder of Brush and weapons’ possession. In a document obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by Kevin Winters’ solicitors, the NIO says Sinn Féin provided the names of 216 on the runs. The PSNI and the Public Prosecution Service then reviewed files “to determine whether the individual is wanted for questioning, arrest or prosecution”.

The former head of the PSNI’s serious crime squad, Norman Baxter, told a House of Commons’ committee last November: “There was an extremely unhealthy interest by (NIO) officials about prioritising individuals who were on the run and ensuring they were cleared to return to the North.”

The NIO said decisions were evidence-based and whether prosecution was in “the public interest” and “political considerations play no part in this assessment”. This has been further supported by the Secretary of State Shaun Woodward who is reported on the BBC as saying: “I think when people actually look at the facts the idea of pardons being given is complete nonsense.”
Despite whatever Shaun Woodward says the reality is that there has been a great interest in forgetting about attempts to prosecute crimes from the past. The Historical Enquiries Team has thus far produced very few prosecutions and of course Eames Bradley has produced a proposed timetable for an amnesty after a suitable period of procrastination. On a somewhat related theme there have long been allegations that Operation Taurus into the activities of Martin McGuinness produced evidence which was then prevented from producing a prosecution for political reasons. If McGuinness can be protected from prosecution then why not other less important terrorists? Once of course such problems greatly distressed the DUP; nowadays we are less likely to see Dr. Paisley repeating these remarks:

Let us look at Mr. McGuinness’s history. He was in charge of operations during the trouble in Londonderry. In the McGuinness era of IRA control in Londonderry, there were 87 murders. Five of the victims were innocent children: Kathryn Eakin, a Protestant and nine-year-old child; Gordon Gallagher, a Roman Catholic and nine-year-old child; Bernadette McCool, a Roman Catholic, another nine-year-old child; Carol Ann McCool, a Roman Catholic and four-year-old child; and Kathleen Feeny, a Roman Catholic and 14-year-old child.
I have never heard Mr. McGuinness at any time utter one word of regret for the murder of those children; he is completely silent. A journalist questioning him on television about the Omagh atrocity asked, “If one of your constituents came to you and said that they had information about who was responsible for Omagh, what would you advise them to do?” He said, “I would certainly not advise them to go to the police.” That is in the public domain.
We have established that Martin McGuinness was to all effects leading the IRA army council and was busy in Londonderry. Members should know for what type of people they are proposing to bend the rules. One of the saddest calamities in Londonderry was the death of Frank Hegarty, who was murdered on the instructions of Mr. McGuinness. Mr. Hegarty had worked for military intelligence and knew where some of the IRA’s most important arms and explosives were hidden in the Irish Republic. When the Irish police raided them the Army, fearing that Mr. Hegarty’s cover would be blown, pushed him away to England. Mr. McGuinness then arrived on the doorstep of Rose Hegarty, and told her that he wanted to talk about her son and how he could return.
Twice a week for 13 weeks, Mr. McGuinness dropped by, the family met him and they drank tea together. He assured the mother, Rose, that if Frank came home, he could sort the matter out and all would be well; a firm assurance for a mother’s heart torn about her son. She persuaded her boy to come home. A rendezvous was arranged by Mr. McGuinness; afterwards the body was found in a roadway in Tyrone, a bullet through the head. That is in the public domain. Many journalists, both Protestant and Roman Catholic, have written moving stories about that murder.