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Attwood accuses Sinn Féin of blatant double standards over Exiles' amnesty

(by Allison Morris,

Sinn Féin’s call for an amnesty for IRA men and women still on the run has angered the SDLP who accuse republicans of “double think” when it comes to their own.

SDLP policing spokesman Alex Attwood said the anticipated amnesty for republicans will be a breach of the Good Friday Agreement and as such his party will not be supporting the move.

Launching a scathing attack on Sinn Féin’s calls for the unhindered return of prisoners, Cllr Attwood said: “It is self serving, inconsistent and serves only their own narrow needs.”

Many of those previously on the run have returned unhindered since the signing of the Agreement, but people like Ballymurphy man Tony McAllister are still in exile.

Glen Road woman Rita O'Hare, who has been on the run since the early Seventies, now works for Sinn Féin in Washington and has accompanied Gerry Adams on official visits to the White House.

Alex Attwood is adamant that a move on amnesty on the part of the British Government would fly in the face of the Belfast Agreement. “The issue of those on the run is outside the terms of the Good Friday Agreement,” said the West Belfast SDLP councillor.

“As such it is a matter between the British Government and the IRA, it was never part and parcel of the Agreement.”

Sinn Fein have argued that it would be a logical extension to lift the threat of arrest from over the heads of people who have not been tried yet.

None of the prisoners are being actively pursued, so they claim it is simply a matter of giving what has been already taking place official blessing.

However, Alex Attwood strongly disagrees with that line of thought. “This issue, more than any other, shows the double-think of Sinn Féin and the IRA,” said the SDLP councillor.

“On one hand they call for an amnesty for their people, but on the other call for the state to account for any and all of their Human Rights abuses.

“It is a classic example of one rule for themselves and a different rule for others.” And in reference to the ongoing call for death threats against those involved in the supergrass trials to be lifted, Alex Attwood said: “They call for the return of their own currently living in the South of Ireland, but then deny those that they have exiled out of Ireland completely the right to return home.

“What we need is to send out a message to all of those accused of human rights abuses, be they within the state or a member of an illegal organisation, that they will be held accountable for what they did and their victims acknowledged.”

March 1, 2002

This article appeared first on the web site on February 28, 2002.