Former UUP strategist says OTR controversy is further evidence of politics stealing the dead

The aftermath of the Hyde Park bombing on July 20, 1982.
The aftermath of the Hyde Park bombing on July 20, 1982.

The former Deputy Chairman of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) Terry Wright says the crisis over On-the-runs (OTRs) is further evidence of a political failure in dealing with the past.

He made the comments after the case against Creeslough resident John Downey - a suspect over the Hyde Park bombing of 1982 - was thrown out as a result of assurances that had been made by the Northern Ireland Office (NIO).

It’s the first issue to have risen during Peter Robinson’s tenure as First Minister that has resulted in a promise that he will resign.

Mr Wright, who recently left the UUP for the Northern Ireland Convervatives, claims unionism’s internal divisions, Sinn Féin’s single-mindedness, and Westminster’s unsavoury realpolitik mean many lingering issues from the Troubles have not yet been properly resolved.

“Politics has and is stealing the dead and renders peace making more problematic against a maelstrom of accusation and counter-accusation,” claims Mr Wright.

“Community identity is the political camouflage. The unscrupulous nature of the Norther Ireland Office (NIO) and Westminster has proven toxic.

“The champions for the differing views are absolutist and unyielding. They are not about understanding and interpretation but justification. Actions are predicated on feelings of anger and desire for retribution,” he adds.

Mr Wright says the furore over the letters sent to up to 200 OTRs by the NIO was predictable. But why the surprise?

“Now the reaction over the OTRs is predictable. The only surprising thing is that people are surprised.

“During the years when de-commissioning, OTRs, joint Declaration and other issues were being discussed I was on the Party Executive of the UUP and it was always clear where the priorities of Westminster lay,” he claims.

It emerged at the Old Bailey earlier this week that the first letters to the OTRs emanated from Downing Street during the chieftancy of Tony Blair.

Mr Wright says this fits with Mr Blair’s past record.

He claims: “Westminster under the leadership of Tony Blair was unscrupulous in its dealing with unionism and was determined to put whatever pressure was necessary and make whatever deals were required to bring Sinn Féin into the political arena.”