Press Releases | Durkan: Sinn Fein aptly named – “We Ourselves”

Durkan: Sinn Fein aptly named – “We Ourselves”

SDLP Foyle MP Mark Durkan has said that in all of Sinn Fein’s negotiations with the British government over on-the-runs, it was never about victims of the Troubles, the Irish democratic interest or the interests of the nationalist community in Northern Ireland; it was about Sinn Fein and its people.

Speaking during yesterday’s House of Commons debate on the background and implications of the High Court judgment on John Downey (which Mr Durkan secured), he said:

“We have seen the adoption of contradictory positions. On the one hand, Sinn Fein has said that everyone knew all about this, and that this is an entirely confected concern now and, on the other hand, it has said that it was out of sensitivity to other people that it was secret and had to be done in that way.

“When one reads the whole judgment, it is absolutely clear how long and persistent Sinn Fein was in pursuit of the case for a scheme. It is also clear that a scheme was running from pretty early on. It went through various different mutations, but it was never enough. There was always the need for something more and for something else. What comes through is that in all the negotiations between Sinn Fein and the British and Irish governments, Sinn Fein was usually negotiating for itself and its people. It was never about the broad interests of the people or the (Good Friday) Agreement and its implementation. It was never about the Irish democratic interest or about the interests of the nationalist community in Northern Ireland; it was about Sinn Fein and its people. That is what comes through consistently in the evidence.

“I share people’s disgust at the way in which this scheme has been conducted—where it has been worked through as a Shinners list. One party goes to the police with a list of names and the list seems to grow all the time. When we first heard about the on-the-run scheme, we were told that it involved only a few dozen people. Now we know that it is many, many more. We said that there would be many more, but were told by Tony Blair and others that that was wrong. Sinn Fein, which says that it believes in an Ireland of equals, has complained about political policing. It has criticised some investigations into offences since 1998 and has said that those investigations amounted to political policing, even though they were driven by evidence from victims. If anything is political policing it is when the police end up providing a scheme on a parti pris basis, with one political party for a certain political motive, just because that has been brokered or directed by the government of the day, and that is what has happened in this instance.

“It is our view – which we raised during the Haass talks – that we need to address not only what happened during the Troubles but how the past has been treated since the Troubles. At times, there has been dereliction and a collective failure in the process, because we have not addressed promises made to victims and pledges made about the past in the Good Friday Agreement.

“Some of us tried in talks after talks to say that we should deal with the promises made to victims and the past, but, for instance, in Hillsborough 2003, when the SDLP and Alliance were arguing for a victims’ forum – partly with an eye towards considering what could be done about the past – that was vetoed because the UUP and Sinn Fein did not want it. Of course, at Hillsborough 2003 the two governments produced yet another statement on the on-the-runs, saying that they would deal with the situation through a scheme that would apply to all scheduled offences. That was why it was pretty dishonest of Sinn Fein to then say that it was shocked to discover that the 2005 Bill included everybody and anybody. That was clear from day one of the Bill, but it took it until December—weeks into the process—to withdraw its support. The opposition that some of us voiced to the Hain-Adams Bill helped to mobilise victims’ groups to put pressure on Sinn Fein to withdraw its support. However, the (British) government nevertheless persisted in coming up with a ‘bespoke’ scheme for Sinn Fein – this administrative scheme.”

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