Storey arrest shows that peace process now at risk
Published 10/09/2015 | 02:30
The arrest of Sinn Féin's Northern chairman Bobby Storey will do nothing to soothe nerves already frayed since the murder of Kevin McGuigan. The high-profile arrest comes against an already fragile political situation since questions first arose about the IRA, and possible links to the murder by former members of that organisation.
The PSNI has been working to ascertain the facts, but there is no denying that the future of Stormont and the status of the peace process itself has been adversely impacted by developments over recent weeks. Trust has been undermined, and the only way to restore it is by the fullest and frankest exposure of the truth.
The arrest of someone as senior as Mr Storey, a close ally of SF president Gerry Adams, has political reverberations. When Mr Adams was arrested just over a year ago in connection with the murder of Jean McConville, Mr Storey famously spoke at a rally in west Belfast. He declared: "We have a message for the British government, for the Irish Government, for the cabal that is out there - we haven't gone away, you know."
The PSNI chief constable George Hamilton gave a clear assessment of his understanding that some IRA members were involved in the death of Mr McGuigan.
With unionist politicians threatening to pull out of power-sharing, relationships are at a new low. Fears about republican commitments to strictly peaceful political aims are legitimate and must be addressed. Yesterday, the North's Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said he was surprised to hear of Mr Storey's arrest. "Bobby Storey is a valued member of Sinn Féin's core leadership," he said.
While no one is above the law, it is also true that the truth must be ascertained before there is any precipitate rush to action. The situation is critical, not just for Sinn Fein but for the entire peace process.