Picture this. A man is walking along the Falls Road. It’s lunchtime and the place is busy with people shopping, chatting, working. Suddenly there’s mayhem – shots ring out and passsers-by see two men firing point-blank at a man already lying on the ground. The man is rushed to hospital where he dies a short time later. The gunmen are identified as members of the IRA and the killing is acknowledged as a revenge killing: the man in question had annoyed some senior IRA people.
Can you imagine the reaction? There’d be a crisis in Stormont, unionist parties would withdraw in protest, IRA acts of decommissioning would be declared bogus, there’d be a political crisis and the peace process would wobble and conceivably collapse.
Last Friday at lunch-time Robert Moffett was shot dead on the Shankill Road by members of the UVF because, it’s said, he annoyed some senior UVF figures. Has any politician – unionist, nationalist or republican – stood up and said UVF decommissioning was clearly a fraud? Has anyone expressed outrage that the UVF clearly still has its weaponry and infrastructure still in place? Why is there no talk of ejecting the PUP from Stormont, no declarations of support for the bereaved by prominent politicians, no high-profile trips to the US by grieving family members?
“Oh, but this is different. Sinn Fein are in government, the PUP isn’t” – that’s the justification for the contrasting response. And it’s a logical response, if you’re someone who believes that double standards help make sense of the moral terrain. If you’re agin double standards, you may find the calm acceptance of a UVF murder sickening.