It is victims of the IRA who need to be hugged

It is victims of the IRA who need to be hugged
News Letter
Published on Thursday 15 September 2011

The Rev David Latimer was used by Sinn Fein to assist republicans rewrite history, writes NORMAN BAXTER. The ex-RUC man says that instead of being praised, IRA leaders should be facing war crimes charges

I WOULD strongly defend the right of the Rev David Latimer to address the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis last weekend.

It was his right to free expression — a right that was secured by the deaths of 301 members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and 711 British service men and women. Over 1,000 members of the security forces murdered by an unrepentant Sinn Fein/IRA organisation; which the Rev Latimer so warmly embraced.

In his address the Rev Latimer degraded the sacrifice of the innocent victims of the IRA campaign to the level of the evil terrorists who murdered them. His message was the theology of terrorism — society is guilty of wrongdoing, therefore terrorism was justified.

The inaction of society in dealing with historical grievances warranted a response of violent terrorism. I am sure Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams could feel the ‘angelic halos’ float above their heads.

Unfortunately for republicans this message was delusional and contrary to the teaching of the scriptures — repentance precedes forgiveness. The Rev Latimer seems to have forgotten this very basic tenet of the Christian faith.

Rather he eulogised a member of one of the most ruthless terrorist groups the Western world has witnessed. There was no call for IRA members to repent and seek forgiveness.

A quick review of the historical record of the troubles in Northern Ireland would have conveyed to the Rev Latimer the nature of the leadership given by Martin McGuinness. For example, evidence to the Saville Inquiry indicating that he was in possession of weapons in Londonderry prior to violence breaking out. Lord Saville found that he had probably been armed with a Thompson sub-machine gun.

A trip to Claudy to visit the relatives of the young and old, Catholic and Protestant, who died in the 1972 IRA bombings, when McGuinness was a leading figure in the IRA, would provide heart wrenching testimony.

If the Rev Latimer needs someone to hug, then he should visit the family of Frank Hegarty. Martin McGuinness gave Rose Hegarty his word that her son would be safe if he returned home. He became another statistic — abducted, tortured and murdered. It is the victims of paramilitary violence who should receive encouragement and adoration for enduring pain and suffering, not those who encouraged destruction.

The fall of Gaddafi and the emergence of a new regime in Libya may herald a new opportunity to gain evidence to directly link the IRA with Libyan state-sponsored terrorism. Gaddafi claimed that every IRA bomb was a Libyan bomb. As agents of Libya, the IRA leadership could be brought to The Hague to answer their crimes.

Those who led and directed the IRA should be pursued under the Rome Treaty and brought to the International Court, for war crimes and crimes against humanity. What weight would the Rev Latimer’s words have in this arena?

The invitation to the Rev Latimer to attend the Ard Fheis is a subtle attempt by Sinn Fein to rewrite history and present themselves as a moderate, all-embracing political party. The Rev Latimer has been manoeuvred into a place where his witness as a Christian minister has been compromised. Regrettably he has added pain and suffering to the victims of IRA violence.

Norman Baxter is a retired RUC and PSNI chief superintendent who now works as a security consultant

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