O'Donoghue's exercise in hypocrisy
BY MICHAEL PIERSE
The 26-County government's attitude towards the release of republican prisoners this week has shown the depths of hypocrisy and insincerity to which they are prepared to stoop.
Their claims that they had told Sinn Féin during the negotiation of the Good Friday Agreement that those convicted in relation to the killing of Garda Jerry McCabe would not be released under its terms have been rejected.
When questioned on the claims this week, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams stated that ``the government didn't and couldn't have'' made such a demand. ``These people weren't convicted at the time, but I made it clear that if they were convicted that they would be qualifying prisoners, if members of the IRA, under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, for early release along with all the other prisoners.
``There is nothing written down anywhere which says that these men are not qualifying prisoners,'' Adams said.
Progressive Democrats chairperson, John Minihan had earlier lambasted the republican POWs who still remain in Castlerea as ``a criminal gang, engaged in a criminal purpose and who committed a criminal act''. He went on to claim that Sinn Féin's call for the release of all IRA prisoners is ``callous political opportunism''.
Surely, if anyone stands accused of this it is the PD chair, whose stance is inimical to the letter and spirit of the Good Friday Agreement and probably designed to create some cheap, sensationalist media focus for his floundering political party.
Michael Kirby, a member of the National Council of the Garda Representative Association (GRA), claimed to have received assurances that the prisoners will not be released.
When asked by newscaster Brian Dobson if this stance was not forgetful of the pain which is shared by other victims of the conflict and against the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, he washed his hands of any responsibility for anybody except the GRA: ``We never supported the early release of these prisoners... We have absolute sympathy with the RUC members and their families who suffer grievance in this way.''
The 26-County government may yet try to shake any responsibility for the release of the remaining four prisoners by forcing a legal challenge to the decision not to release the Castlerea men.
In all of this, the McCabe family's suffering cannot be forgotten, but neither can we forget that they did not suffer in exclusion. Healing starts when we begin to understand that everybody on this island must be a party to the process of change.
Further evidence, if it was needed, of the hypocrisy of the Dublin government's position lies in the simple fact that they claim to have exempted the five IRA Volunteers from release yet they did not make this a condition of the Good Friday Agreement.
These frustratingly incoherent and emotive arguments for the continued detention of republican prisoners have deflected attention from the issues that should be commanding everyone's attention. As Gerry Adams stated earlier this week, ``the Policing Bill is, of course, the big issue and should be the focus on which all of the political parties put their interest.