DCSIMG

War of words continues over ‘Shinners list’

Crowds gathered outside St Marys Church, Creggan, February 1972 for Bloody Sunday funerals.

Crowds gathered outside St Marys Church, Creggan, February 1972 for Bloody Sunday funerals.

 

The war of words between Sinn Fein and the SDLP over the ‘On the Run’s’ (OTRs) issue has continued in the city with Foyle MP Mark Durkan accusing the republican party of ‘dishonesty’ over the political debacle.

The latest twist in the debate between both parties came after the Sentinel spoke to relatives of the Bloody victims who contended that back in 2005 that some of the families met with Sinn Fein representatives and that their support was sought by the party for OTR legislation and in return they would have to drop their desire to see members of the Parachute Regiment prosecuted for the killings on January 30, 1972.

This claim has been flatly denied by Sinn Fein who in response to questions on the matter released a statement from party Justice spokesman, Raymond McCartney MLA which said: “Sinn Fein have always supported the families of those killed by the British army on Bloody Sunday. Some of those families wish to seek prosecution against those responsible for the death of their loved ones.”

Sinn Fein also said that at no point did they agree to a “trade off” or amnesty for British soldiers over ‘on the runs’.

And, given recent calls by British MPs and indeed from the then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Peter Hain, that apparent safety from arrest or prosecution assurances given to over 180 republican suspects via what have become referred to as ‘letters of comfort’ should also be extended to members of the British forces, including those who were involved in the Bloody Sunday killings, Mr McCartney’s statement continued by saying: “Given the ongoing investigation by the PSNI following the Saville inquiry’s findings into the events of Bloody Sunday Peter Hain’s comments are ill judged and inappropriate.”

However, Kate Nash, who’s brother William was shot dead on Bloody Sunday and her father Alex wounded whilst trying to go to his son’s aid described the situation over OTRs as a “disgrace.”

She said she recalled there was an offer made to the Bloody Sunday families to support OTRs in return for dropping possible prosecutions against members of the Parachute Regiment, but the notion was rejected wholly by the families.

“Nobody should be above the law. I wouldn’t be surprised if soldiers had already been given similar letters. Sinn Fein seem to be leading players in this with the British Government. It’s shocking I suppose but not actually a surprise. It smacks of intrigue and dirty dealings. Where was the openness and transparency over this?”

Linda Nash reiterated her sisters claims and said she called thinking “what is an OTR?”

“They wanted to lump in support for OTRs in an immunity deal where no soldiers were prosecuted, but nobody agreed to it. I thought if they are on the run, that’s up to themselves, it has nothing to do with us,” she said.

In response to the Sinn Fein comments the SDLP MP told the Sentinel: “Sinn Fein’s dishonesty in of all this has related to their primary interest in getting their on the runs back with no questions asked-i.e. it has not been about the victims.

“I was always clear and honest about the bill and our opposition to it. Indeed, I have always worked for justice and for truth and respect for all victims-not least the Bloody Sunday families.”

Mr Durkan provided the Sentinel with a SDLP document compiled in November and December 2005, the time at which the legislation was presented at Westminster.

The document said: “Sinn Fein not only accepted that loyalists get skip jail cards, but also state killers. In return for the greater advantage of getting their on the runs back with no questions asked, Sinn Fein sold out the victims of collusion they claimed to fight for. They let state killers and loyalists totally off the hook-without even securing the truth.

“On 9 November (2005), the day after the Secretary of State announced publicly that the on the run legislation would apply to state killers, Conor Murphy flew over to Westminster to welcome it and brief on it and issued a supportive press release.

“On November 10, Martin McGuinness was interviewed on Hearts and Minds. He called our (the SDLPs) objections about state killers “naive” and said he did “not envisage that any of the people who were involved in the murders of nationalists...is ever going to be brought before a court in this day and age.” Compare that to what he says now: “We support the families of victims in their pursuit of justice and truth.”

The SDLP document continued by stating that during the Hearts and Minds interview Mr McGuinness “admitted that state killers would be able to get the benefit of the legislation but said that the people who would ‘gain most advantage from this are those nationalists and republicans who are on the run for over 30 years’.

“It was two whole weeks after the legislation was published before Gerry Adams said he was opposed to state killers being included. Sinn Fein in their side deal, signed up to state killers getting away with it. So Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams are just not telling the truth when they now say: ‘Sinn Fein did not support, propose, discuss or accept that members of the British state forces should be part of the process.’ “

In the transcript of the Hearts and Minds interview from 2005, journalist Noel Thompson asked the Deputy First Minister: “Let’s start with OTRs first. Mark Durkan says you entered into an alliance of sleaze with the government which has delivered, secured an amnesty for the security forces. Are you proud of that?”

Mr McGuinness replied: “When this began its life it was on the basis of On the Runs and On the runs specifically referred to nationalists and republicans who found themselves in difficult circumstances for over 30 years. How many RUC men/UDR men or British soldiers could have been described as On the Runs? None. Why was that? Simply because they were fortunate in having an undeclared amnesty bestowed upon them by successive British Governments.”

Noel Thompson then asked: “And now you have that written on paper.”

Mr McGuinness stated: “Well how many of them will come forward to avail of that situation? The people who will gain most advantage from this are those nationalists and republicans who are on the run for over 30 years. I don’t envisage that any people who were involved in the murders of nationalists, and Mark knows this better than I do, is ever going to be brought before a court in this day and age.”

Noel Thompson: “But you’ve taken that possibility away from victims?”

Mr McGuinness: “Victims and relatives know, for example in the case of Bloody Sunday families, the British Army was effectively marched up to Buckingham Palace and were decorated by the British Queen for their activities in Derry that day. So what’s the likelihood of those people being brought before court.

“People out there in our community have a good sense of what all this is about. People know this is about resolving an anomaly which flows from the GFA-prisoner releases. The fact is there were people (who) found themselves in this almost limbo situation. Sinn Fein has spoken today to a number of victims groups. there is a lot of anger within victim groups about the way this situation is being reported and the fact that relatives of victims of state violence are being virtually ignored in the course of this debate.”

Noel Thompson: “Mark Durkan is pointing out that it is you who are putting them in that position by giving an amnesty to security forces. He wants their voices to be heard.

Mr McGuinness: “Well Mark is very naive then if that is the case. because these people have effectively had an undeclared amnesty for over 30 years. Successive British Governments have stood over the murderous activities of some elements of British intelligence services-UDR, RUC and British Army and that’s a fact and people in nationalist and republican areas know that.”

Noel Thompson: “But they also know there have been inquiries and more inquiries planned?”

Mr McGuinness: “How many soldiers or RUC men have appeared before court for murders of 100s of Catholics and nationalists that have taken place over the years-few and far between.”

Noel Thompson: “And now they never will?”

Mr McGuinness: “They never would in my opinion. Anyone from the broad nationalist/republican constituency knows that the state always defends its service people. Those people who were involved, even in the importation of arms from South Africa-what possibility is there that these people would ever stand before a court-I think there is no possibility whatsoever. I am not as naive as Mark appears to be.”

Referring to the 187 cases where republican suspects were given letters assuring them they would no longer be actively sought by security forces as “Shinners list”, Mr Durkan told the Sentinel: “We always knew they was going to be a side deal. Peter Hain launched his Bill and it took in OTRs and everybody else. It was unconscionable that it was not going to be all-inclusive. Closure cannot be one-sided.

“Sinn Fein can pretend they were not responsible, by Sinn Fein were comfortable with the all encompassing amnesty in the past. They did a deal they could pass on but didn’t implicate them in a deal which included everybody else. If that was the mindset of the British Government be very hard to shake off Conservative MPs from saying that British soldiers should get the same assurances.”

“Did they really believe the issue would go away after that?,” said Mr Durkan.

Kate Nash, who’s brother William was shot dead on Bloody Sunday and her father Alex wounded whilst trying to go to his son’s aid described the situation over OTRs as a “disgrace.”

She said she recalled there was an offer made to the Bloody Sunday families to support OTRs in return for dropping possible prosecutions against members of the Parachute Regiment, but the notion was rejected wholly by the families.

“Nobody should be above the law. I wouldn’t be surprised if soldiers already had similar letters. Sinn Fein and the British Government seen to be the leading players in this. It’s shocking but I suppose I am nit really surprised. It smacks of intrigue and dirty deals. Where was the openness and transparency in this?,” she said.

Kate’s sister Linda Nash reiterated the claims.

“I remember when we were told thinking ‘what is an OTR?’. They wanted backing for OTRs in return for no prosecutions against the Para’s. Nobody agreed to it. I though if they are on the run, that’s up to themselves. It has nothing to do with us. We have been pressurised to give up marching and so on. Was this always about a dirty deal? I’ll keep on going for the honour of my family,” she said.

Sinn Fein Justice spokesman, Raymond McCartney said: “When the then British Secretary of State, Peter Hain introduced a reference in the proposed legislation to immunity for the British army, Sinn Fein immediately rejected it and rather than remove the section Hain dumped the whole Bill necessitating the renegotiation of the current OTR process.

“Mark Durkan’s attempts over recent days to misrepresent comments by Martin McGuinness are particularly divisive, offensive and disgraceful given the public role Martin McGuinness has played over the years in support of the families.”

Sinn Fein have also confirmed that Martin McGuinness will be speaking to the PSNI as part of the investigation into Bloody Sunday.

 

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