SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell is one hundred per cent right in his protestations to Secretary of State Owen Paterson in regard to the cases of Marian Price and Gerry McGeough. Those who suggest that because the SDLP man is diametrically opposed to the politics of both Ms Price and Mr McGeough he shouldn't demand they be treated fairly don't understand the very concept of justice being blind. In fact, the courage to demand equal and fair treatment for those you disagree with is the mark of a true upholder of justice.
In Ms Price's case, the facts are clear. She is being held in effective solitary confinement in a Belfast detention centre without having being found guilty of any offence in a court of law. If that happened in North Korea, the Secretary of State's colleagues would be condemning it as internment without trial. Here they nod and wink and point to "intelligence sources", apparently unaware of how sullied that term has become after 30-plus years of our own dirty war.
Ms Price's support for republican militants is not in dispute. However, those in power who bend and break the law in the name of combating dissidents should note that they are only presenting a mirror image of the contempt for the rule of law and due process which the dissidents demonstrate by their armed actions. That’s why this newspaper would encourage support for public demonstrations of support for Ms Price – like this Sunday’s march and rally in West Belfast.Hopefully, the British Secetary of State will be moved by public pressure to release Marian Price.
Members of this community who have observed what passes for official regeneration policies will not be surprised by the latest debacle uncovered by the Public Accounts Committee at Stormont.
As PAC Chairman Paul Maskey revealed yesterday, £3m was poured down the drain on a Belfast bioscience centre which never got off the ground. The SF man has told Invest NI and the Department of Enterprise to have a long, hard chat with the PSNI about the missing and squandered millions. We hope they do so, promptly, but it would take more than the PSNI to undo decades of misguided economic policies.
During the years of conflict, economic policy was driven by trying to isolate and defeat republicans, not by trying to create jobs. Thus we have from Divis Street to Twinbrook a string of developments which are not fit for purpose.
It’s to be hoped that current policies will respond to economic needs — not political demands. For that’s the only way in which we can hope to change the indices of unemployment and poverty which have remained relatively unchanged across Belfast for 30 years.