The appointment as a taxpayer-funded £60,000+ Special Adviser of someone guilty of murder is unacceptable in post-Peace Process Northern Ireland, as is the selection by Nationalists of a convicted terrorist to the position of Mayor. There comes a time we have to move on from such things even in a “peace process” which necessitates unpalatable compromises – and that time has passed.
The argument in favour is that such people were allowed out under the 1998 Agreement and are thus as free as anyone else to make themselves available and be appointed for such posts. Lobby groups do good work ensuring prisoners are reintegrated into communities and given fair opportunities. However, there are limits – and such appointments in 2011 vastly overstep them.
This is not the first Special Adviser or Mayor with terror convictions. However, the point is we are supposed to be moving into an era where every move we make is one of reconciliation. Such things are not for one “Community Relations Week” or one “Day of Remembrance”, they have to be constant and consistent. The pain caused by Sinn Féin through making such appointments therefore hinders progress.
Tom Elliott’s “scum” comments showed that he has not truly reconciled himself to the 1998 Agreement. However, Sinn Féin appears set on at least partially vindicating his claims by proving itself even less reconciled to it. What was the message it was seeking to send through such an appointment? Is there an implicit suggestion that terror pays? Perhaps most importantly of all, what does that say to dissidents?
There are also serious questions to be raised about the SDLP, without whose acquiescence the Mayoral appointment in Limavady could not have gone through. What kind of peace is it when terror continues to be rewarded?
We cannot go on sending out the message that a terrorist past is to be rewarded – forgiven arguably, but not rewarded. When we say it is “time we moved on” the implicit suggestion is that the victims should move on. In fact, it is time those who continue to justify past terrorist acts moved on and recognised the error of their ways, not least because we cannot afford to consign another generation to the notion that somehow conflict is “glorious”. It isn’t.