Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Evidence and scapegoats

The police decision to blame the IRA for the recent multi-million pound bank raid in the North of Ireland has sparked a storm of protest. British MP Sarah Teather explains why she thinks the decision was wrong:

The Police Service of Northern Ireland's (PSNI) decision to point the finger of blame for the Northern Bank robbery at IRA paramilitaries has provoked a crisis in the peace process.

The truth of the claim is still a matter of heated debate - but the comments have left Liberal Democrat MP for Brent Sarah Teather was incensed. "I think it is quite unprecedented, nowhere else would a chief constable effectively appoint himself judge and jury and announce before something has gone to trial," said Teather. "It is hugely detrimental to the peace process. It is hugely detrimental to the normalisation process that needs to happen in Northern Ireland."

And the MP admits she is confused as to what PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde was trying to achieve with his comments." What are they actually saying by this - that everybody involved in that bank robbery will be proven to have direct links to the IRA. Surely we have a principle in this country of people being innocent until proven guilty and surely that must apply also to organisations?"

"The police need to prove both that the individuals they say were involved were involved and that there is a direct link between those individuals and the IRA. If they are confident that is the case why have they not put the evidence in the public domain?"

"The comments made were unacceptable as was the secretary of state for Northern Ireland Paul Murphy's actions in backing them up."

"I have no idea if the IRA were involved or not but I think the evidence should be brought before a court and tried. What happens if we find somebody else was involved - they can now say they have a cast iron alibi because the chief constable said in public that it was the IRA."

Sarah Teather is one of the youngest MPs in the House of Commons at 30. She was elected MP for Brent East in September 2003, defeating Labour candidate by a substantial margin. The unpopularity the Labour Government at the time and particularly its stance on the war in Iraq played an important part in her success.


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