Two weeks ago to almost universal revulsion Attorney General John Larkin proposed an effective amnesty for the crimes of the Troubles. Now the legal process has provided the most eloquent rebuttal to his suggestions.
The facts of the murder of RUC reservist John Proctor were as loathsome as so many of the Troubles. Mr. Proctor had just left visiting his wife and newborn son in the Mid Ulster Hospital when he was murdered with an assault rifle by Seamus Martin Kearney who lived only a mile from him. Kearney’s name was mentioned to Mr. Proctor’s widow as involved in her husband’s murder just a day after the killing. She told the News Letter:
“I believe he pulled the trigger. I was convinced for 32 years it was him that done it. For 32 years he would drive by my place of work.
“I would see him. He would just look at you, knowing he knew who I was and that I knew who he was.”
Mrs. McMullan (formerly Mrs. Proctor) is clearly aware that Kearney will only serve two years. However, she opposed the suggestions of any form of suspended sentence, truth commission, amnesty etc. saying:
“I would not like to see him walk free. Murder is murder and life is life…. Surely everyone deserves their day in court. After 32 years it was good to hear the judge say he was guilty. I am relieved it is all over.”
This conviction was obtained using DNA obtained from a cigarette smoked by Kearney immediately before Mr. Proctor’s murder. Using such techniques unknown in 1981 somewhat undermines Larkin’s assertion that “…every competent criminal lawyer will tell you the prospects of conviction diminish, perhaps exponentially, with each passing year.” TUV leader Jim Allister (himself a more than competent criminal lawyer) said the conviction highlighted
“the absolute folly of the attorney general’s call for an amnesty for pre-1998 offences”
“The particularly callous nature of Reserve Constable Proctor’s death highlights the nature of the crimes Mr. Larkin was suggesting should be forgotten,”
“I know from my discussions with this family how crucial the pursuit of the killer was to them.
“Their relentless insistence on justice was rewarded with the emergence of DNA findings. Such can happen for other families.”
Predictably Sinn Fein opposed Kearney’s prosecution with Ian Milne stating:
“Like the previous case of Gerry McGeough, it is our position that Seamus should be released and allowed to return home to his family.”
Kearney will of course be back with his family in two years: unlike Mr. Proctor. As Jim Allister says: “Murder is murder and has no sell-by date.”