Honestly, I found it hard to disagree with Peter Robinson’s response to Declan Kearney’s Westminster comments in terms of what he said. However, I cannot help but think he has made a rare strategic error, at least in the long term.
Plainly, what Mr Kearney said had little to recommend it. His notion of “reconciliation” does seem to consist of setting all the terms of reference and then demanding everybody else abide by them – quite the reverse of the process required. What he said smacked of the same – “Here is a list of what everyone else did wrong, and once they have apologized we may consider moving on” would be a fair summary.
Yet it seems to me the First Minister somewhat missed the point too. Mr Kearney was setting off on a journey which, I suspect quite unwittingly, would ultimately have caused him great discomfort. The response from the rest of us should not be to put up a road block, as the First Minister is attempting to do, but rather to allow Mr Kearney to proceed. Where the First Minister said words to the effect of “That’s a load of utter nonsense, you were more to blame than everyone else, so we’re not speaking to you any more”, my own instinctive reaction would be more like “Well, I don’t agree with much of that, but let’s see where we can take this. But to be clear, I get a say on the terms of reference. And, by the way, we’re doing away with that loaded word ‘combatant’ for a start – nice try, but I’m not buying that one thanks”.
If the figures are as the First Minister presented them – and, in fact, they are – it would appear that “Republicans” (another loaded word) would have more to lose from investigating the past than Unionists. Even a cursory examination or our recent history would demonstrate that the IRA campaign was futile and pointless. So why put up road blocks to demonstrating this?