And Alex Kane makes a fairly pristine argument that there’s nothing stopping Martin McGuinness from going to Smithwick and telling the truth… First of all, he sets the scene:
…the truth is that the UUP and DUP – the first time being December 1999 – still participates in an Executive that includes McGuinness, even though he is routinely referred to as a ‘godfather of terrorism’ and as the former officer-in-command of the IRA’s so-called army council.
I doubt if there is one unionist who believes that McGuinness has a clean pair of hands, let alone a clear conscience.
Even those who voted for the Good Friday Agreement in the 1998 referendum did so in the knowledge that many Sinn Fein members elected to the Assembly would be former terrorists.
They knew that some of them would have done things for which they would never be convicted, let alone brought to trial. At the last Assembly election the DUP remained the largest party on the back of a commitment to continue to work with Sinn Fein.
Every unionist MLA sits on a committee which includes Sinn Fein representation and in so doing (and however they may dress up the fact) assists in the co-governance of Northern Ireland with them. Just a month ago the UUP voted overwhelmingly to remain in the Executive with Sinn Fein.
So why the hoopla every time McGuinness has a skeleton dragged from his cupboard?
The truth, of course, is that McGuinness and Sinn Fein don’t give a damn. They are not going to budge. They are not going to come clean – because they know they don’t have to. So the “very serious questions” raised are actually for the unionists to address.
It boils down to this. If, given what most of them believe about Sinn Fein, they are prepared to sit around the same Executive table as Martin McGuinness and participate in Assembly committees with Sinn Fein then I’m not really sure what purpose is served by their wholly predictable reaction to something like Smithwick.
There is no opportunity for detailed, serious, orchestrated, researched questioning of Martin McGuinness in the Assembly.
But how can there be honesty and integrity in the political system if key figures are able to hide behind a shrug of the shoulders and a denial issued from a press office? Good government requires morality at its core.
I accept that there are questions which Sinn Fein wants answered about what went on and there are also questions which ordinary nationalists and Roman Catholics want answered about various activities.
Maybe one day there will be a mechanism for those questions to be addressed.
But at this point it is Martin McGuinness and only Martin McGuinness who can tell us about his past. What he did and didn’t do. Does he have sleepless nights? Does he have regrets?
Truth matters – and no more so than for those in government. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, to prevent McGuinness stepping up to the mark and accepting responsibility for his personal actions. Truth and trust are intertwined.
You can’t have one without the other.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty