“Sinn Féin begged on bended knee for an effective amnesty in criminal law for IRA historic crimes…’

I wasn’t going to mention the death of Dennis Hutchings in mid trial from complications arising from Covid 19. Mostly because I couldn’t see enough debatable politics in it when his story took a final and tragic (for all concerned) turn.

However, it moved Senator Michael McDowell (a former Minister of Justice for some time in the noughties) to out some of those who have been loud in their condemnation of the British government’s intention to install an amnesty.

His piece is worth quoting at some length:

Some people take the view that grave crimes such as murder, maiming, rape and sexual abuse should never be left uninvestigated or, if possible, unprosecuted however long ago they are alleged to have occurred.

The problem with adopting that view is that some perpetrators will be shielded from prosecution and many relatives of victims know that their cases will never end up in a prosecution because of de facto immunity from prosecution.

What chance is there of the man known as Stakeknife facing criminal justice? There must be a good number of people who could testify against him for the string of murders he committed – people who were in the IRA when he acted as its torturer and executioner, and people in MI5 and MI6 who ran him as a British agent during his campaign of killing.

But there is absolutely no chance that either group will come forward to provide evidence for very obvious reasons. He has bought the silence of both parties by the enormity of his crimes. [Emphasis added]

McDowell was never one for pulling his punches. If you are going to borrow you need to borrow so much that you can bring everything and everyone else down means you can bargain for the best possible terms. Same applies to killing.

He goes on to highly the colourful grandstanding of Sinn Féin members of Seanad Éireann, who condemned..

…in the strongest terms killings by crown forces over the duration of the Troubles, a catalogue of atrocities that they described in vivid detail. They rejected the idea of an amnesty in the strongest possible terms, not least because it would amount to an egregious breach of the 2014 Stormont House agreement.


After the Belfast Agreement was signed in 1998, it took eight further years to implement it to the point reached in the St Andrews agreement in 2006.

During that period, when decommissioning was eventually done to a satisfactory degree, the PSNI replaced the RUC and all the parties adopted the position of upholding the criminal and civil law, the leaders of Sinn Féin incessantly demanded that there should be immunity from criminal prosecution for unconvicted IRA members. [Emphasis added]

We know Sinn Féin approved of a law prepared in 2006 in the wake of the St Andrews’ Agreement to effect a cross cutting amnesty for old IRA, which was thwarted when the SDLP pointed out in the Commons it would include the British Army.

They were offered instead those letters of comfort that turned out to be worthless when old IRA man John Downey was arrest when he flew in to London, after which was revealed they’d been begging Blair for one since May 2000.

McDowell also confirms what many of us previously suspected:

…a de facto moratorium on investigation and prosecution of IRA members (other than those described as dissidents) came into operation. This was demanded by Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, the leaders of Sinn Féin at the time. And it was conceded.

Sinn Féin’s support for victims of the British looks like a cynical ploy to force the British in to giving them what they want whilst proactively denying it (a reality readily accepted by some of the victims groups they supposedly support).