Posted By: March 05, 2014

Brian Feeney. Irish News (Belfast). Wednesday, March 6, 2014.

HE came down the steps at Stormont Castle with a carefully chosen coterie of
accomplices: Depooty Dawds, the leader of the DUP MPs, Lord Morrow, Diane Dodds - in
case people had forgotten she is standing for Europe - and Michelle McIlveen for
their task? To nod sagely as Peter Robinson delivered news of his climb-down.

Robinson stepped up to the microphone and emptied a sack of garbage over the
assembled hacks. He didn't get his judicial inquiry, he didn't get the letters of
comfort rescinded after poor Arlene Foster unwisely assuring The Nolan Show that was
a requirement to avoid him resigning. He assured the press that the letters which
caused his humiliation were now 'worthless pieces of paper'. They're not. One of the
presiding high Court judges at the Central Criminal Court in London, Mr Justice
Sweeney, had found them binding and the British government immediately decided not
to appeal his decision.

The BBC kept repeating in terms that helped cover Robinson's [a-s] that David
Cameron had ordered a judge-led inquiry. He didn't. In typical PR man's piffle he
ordered a 'review'. Here are its terms of reference that no one seems to pay any
attention to: "To produce a full public account of the operation and extent of the
administrative scheme for OTRs, to determine whether any letters sent through the
scheme contained errors and to make recommendations as necessary on this or related
matters that are drawn to the attention of the inquiry."

Not a fig leaf - a raspberry.

All the judge has to do (and you've noticed there hasn't been a stampede of judges
volunteering) is to read Mr Justice Sweeney's 57 page judgment for a full public
account of the operation of the scheme. S/he won't be examining the policy or the
gestation of the scheme, can't compel witnesses, can't overturn it, rescind it,
alter it, and it isn't public.

No wonder the British politicians and officials involved in the scheme are disgusted
at the DUP's misrepresentation of it and of their roles in the process.

What has particularly galled them is the claim that the letters grant immunity from
prosecution, a false claim that has allowed DUP MLAs unscrupulously to goad
relatives of victims into emotional outbursts on the airwaves about justice and

What does the posturing of the past week tell us about DUP policy? Simple. To
promote an agenda of fear and loathing to hold victims of the Troubles hostage to
prevent political movement on any of the matters that have convulsed the streets of
Belfast for the past 18 months. Worse, it's unionist victims they are using for
their ransom demand for the DUP has insufficient regard for the hundreds of people
the UVF and UDA killed. After all, aren't they content to appear on platforms with
loyalist paramilitaries, march through nationalist districts alongside them and play
footsie with them at meetings?

The DUP's shroud-waving is intended to prevent any developments that Haass suggested
until after the present cycle of elections is over in 2016. This is despite the fact
that relatives of victims may die in the meantime, ignorant of the fate of someone
killed or badly injured decades ago. They rave about amnesties, never admitting that
Ian Paisley and scores of his supporters benefited from an amnesty in 1970. They are
silent about the amnesty the UVF enjoyed in 1922 despite the hundreds of Catholics
they murdered. There's no talk of pursuing the UVF or UDA for their killings in the
recent Troubles. They don't even need letters. There's no danger of extradition from
Ballysillan or east Belfast.

For reasons outlined here before the only possible way to uncover the truth about
the past is amnesty and that's the direction we're heading. The HET is dead. The
PSNI has neither money nor manpower to examine the past. The British government will
not spend any money either in compensation or on inquiries. Ironically the DUP's
disgraceful posturing is well on the way to guaranteeing a de facto amnesty. More
than that however, is that their behaviour ensures that as time passes absolutely
nothing will be done - no truth, no justice, no money, no compensation. Just