One IRA funeral, in Belfast, of a leading activist, flagrantly breaches the Covid rules and the authorities, to wit the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) office, decide there shall be no prosecutions.
A second funeral in Co Tyrone, also of a Republican activist, also flagrantly breaches the Covid rules and the DPP decides there shall be prosecutions and two men are charged.
On its face that looks like a double standard in action. So, why one rule in Tyrone and a different one in Belfast?
Silly question, really.
The Belfast funeral was that of Bobby Storey, an enforcer for the Gerry Adams’ leadership who more than any other individual ensured that the party line in relation to the peace process was implemented, often ruthlessly. Few men, for instance, delivered weapons from arms dumps for decommissioning with more ferocity and determination than he; few people were as unquestioningly loyal to the Adams’ leadership.
The Tyrone funeral was also of a republican activist, Francie McNally, whose mourners at his funeral reflected the deep doubts and reservations about the direction and purpose of the peace process strongly, in fact overwhelmingly felt by the IRA and its supporters in that county, especially around the Lough shore where McNally hailed from.
Put simply, one funeral was pro the Adams’ peace strategy, the other was ambivalent at best, against it at worst.
To prosecute those who attended the Storey funeral would mean bringing charges against the national leadership of Sinn Fein, from Mary Lou to Gerry Adams and on downwards.
Prosecuting those involved in the McNally funeral – and so far two former IRA prisoners have been singled out – would mean targeting people with no love or even affection for the peace process.
One set of prosecutions would pitch the peace process into crisis, the other would not.
And so the North’s Director of Public Prosecutions did what so many of his predecessors did in the past, and made a decision that, in appearance at least, has all the characteristics of being influenced by, and made for reasons of political expediency rather than because the law says so.
Isn’t that the sort of place where the Troubles came from, that was supposed to have been left behind?
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A very different set of circumstances, but a similar debacle has unfolded in Scotland. Under the devolution settlement the Advocate General both sits in Nicola Sturgeon’s cabinet and acts as chief prosecutor. A rash of malicious prosecutions have been launched – particularly of those alleging malfeasance by senior Scottish government officials in the Alex Salmond case.
Glasgow journalist Mark Hirst is currently bringing an action for malicious prosecution against the Crown, following the collapse of the case against him.
The former British diplomat and blogger, Craig Murray, has been successfully prosecuted for contempt of court in charges that could have been brought against dozens of journalists in Scotland, but tellingly were not.