LETTER:Sinn Fein and democracy

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The Independent Online
From Mr F. E. Crowe

Sir: The violence and destruction perpetrated in the name of justice in the wake of the release of Lee Clegg serves to underline the true nature of the process in which Sinn Fein is engaged. We have now been treated to the spectacle of those Sinn Fein leaders whose presence has graced inward investment conferences condone and orchestrate the chaos which has so often militated against the economic development of some of the most deprived parts of Northern Ireland. Sinn Fein would have the rest of us sit down with its leaders on the same basis as we would with those of a democratic political party, while its "military wing" maintains the weapons of coercion that are the very antithesis of democracy. The republican movement which is calling for the early release of prisoners at one and the same time is seen to oppose the decision of the Secretary of State to accept the recommendation of the Life Sentence Review Board in the case of Lee Clegg.

It is clearly in the interest of the whole community in Northern Ireland that the machinery of the criminal justice system is seen to operate equitably. The whole point of the existence of this machinery is to avoid the possibility of nakedly political decision-taking which must be to the detriment of public confidence. None of us has the benefit of the information upon which the Board made its recommendation and it cannot be in the interests of anyone for public figures to be commenting publicly on individual cases. Were the controversy engendered by Sinn Fein in the Clegg case to be replicated across the community for each prisoner to be considered for early release or home leave, all prisoners would be likely to forfeit the opportunity which may otherwise exist to be reintegrated into the community.

Ulster Unionists have long recognised the fundamentally reactionary nature of Sinn Fein, which clearly has more interest in punishment beatings and mob rule than in justice and the rule of law, more interest in confrontation than in conciliation and more interest in posturing than in political development.

It is my own hope that those who have been most vulnerable to manipulation by Sinn Fein in the past will be delivered from its machinations in the future. The further exposure of Sinn Fein's lack of commitment to the democratic process can only be to the benefit of all the people of Northern Ireland.

Yours faithfully,

Fred E. Crowe

Ulster Unionist Group Leader

Craigavon Borough Council

Craigavon, Co Armagh

5 July