I can see arguments on both sides of Jim Allister’s private member’s bill, which is passing through the Assembly aimed at restricting the recruitment of Special Advisers to those without terrorist convictions.
However, what it does achieve is exposure of Sinn Féin’s doublespeak on “political prisoners”. Specifically, it has sought to equate terrorists with the security forces.
No such equation is possible. We had an inquiry into Bloody Sunday because it was carried out by the security forces, i.e. the only authority permitted to use force in certain circumstances. Where that permission is abused, particularly with fatal consequences, it is right that inquiries follow and apologies are delivered. I support the same (though at much lower cost) for Ballymurphy for that specific reason.
There will, however, never be inquiries into Enniskillen, Teebane or Deal. These were similar atrocities, with similar consequences and similar suffering. There will be no reports or inquiries into “what went wrong” with such IRA operations precisely because the IRA – in common with its modern “dissident” versions – was illegitimate to start with.
To be clear, therefore – any member of the IRA was engaged in illegitimate terrorist activity. Most members of the security forces, on the other hand, acted entirely professionally and legitimately. That is a difference Sinn Féin accepts when it condemns the murder of security forces by modern incarnations of the IRA now. It was the same from 1969-94, whether it likes to admit it or not.