Tuesday 20 February 2018

Victims want peace but not at any price

Michael McHugh

A VICTIM of a republican bombing which killed 29 people in the North has insisted that it is possible to have both peace and justice.

Michael Gallagher, whose son Aidan died in the 1998 Real IRA bombing of Omagh, said the vast majority of people wanted an end to violence – but not at any price.

Gerry Adams was proclaimed a peacemaker by his supporters – but his arrest has exposed the deep divisions which still exist between some nationalist and unionist communities.

Mr Gallagher said: "Peace is getting stronger and I am very happy about that. Every sane person in Ireland and Britain wants peace – but that has to be built upon a firm foundation and we cannot forget the people who have paid the ultimate sacrifice, the victims.

"The police have to investigate and any possibility to prosecute should be taken but in some cases we have to recognise that prosecutions will not be a reality."

He was speaking after tension in recent days, when senior Sinn Fein figures indicated that their support for the police – a critical plank in the peace process – would be "reviewed" if Mr Adams was charged.

Democratic Unionist Stormont First Minister Peter Robinson denounced those remarks as "bully boy" tactics.

And divergent views were illustrated by the crowd of jeering loyalists outside Antrim police station –and the throngs of supporters cheering him as he arrived back in west Belfast.

Victims themselves are also divided, some overcoming bitterness against perpetrators while others are resolute in pursuing justice.

Victims' campaigner Kenny Donaldson said: "Northern Ireland has no future if terrorism continues to be placated, the moral compass of this place must be re-set."

Stormont's attorney general or top legal adviser to the devolved adminstration, John Larkin, has suggested an end to Troubles prosecutions, police investigations, inquests or inquiries involving paramilitaries, police officers and soldiers.

His comments came during months of talks led by former US diplomat Dr Richard Haass which failed to reach agreement between Northern Ireland's main parties on dealing with the past and victims.

Irish Independent

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