Warren Little in his column for the Impartial Reporter makes some critical points on the OTR issue. First, unfinished business:
Other questions remain. Why did Peter Hain tell Parliament that he had no proposals for OTRs without mentioning the scheme? Why did he subsequently talk about having to ‘cut deals’ if the letters were merely factual assessments of the OTRs’ current status? Why were victims’ families not informed, at least on a no-names basis? That latter failure is glaring, and illustrates how the only players in this game were Sinn Fein and the Government. When elephants jostle, it is the grass that is trampled.
He concludes with some reflections on the political deficits that pushed a deal underground that the new political establishment could not bring itself to sell:
The Downey judgment was the right decision. Galling, but right, because the wider justice system would be undermined if convictions were to arise from unfair dealing. It has also forced into public awareness a scheme that was kept off the radar and stands as a sharp rebuke to those who might usurp due process.
We must decide where we go from here. We are not a people trapped in our past; we are a people trapped in a distrust stoked by our leaders. The Good Friday Agreement killed the notion that we are incapable of compromise. We made that giant leap of faith in releasing prisoners and we did so because the facts were laid open before us.
Had the OTR scheme been conducted with that same candour, it might have received the same brave nod of approval. Instead, we are left with a mess of accusation and counter-accusation, a public fearing the unknown, and a ‘fragile’ criminal justice system reeking of political interference.