Both the Government and IRA seem content to ignore due process of law, and both are wrong.Labour and the IRA have much in common We are so used to the wiliness of Sinn Fein/IRA that we forget their capacity to say and do things that are so gloriously stupid as to be almost touching. First, there was the robbery of the bank, in which IRA operatives swiped £26 million, and then discovered that a good deal of the notes would be taken out of circulation. Now that piece of boneheadedness has been triumphantly eclipsed. Without any sense of irony, and without any apparent awareness of the horror of what they were suggesting, the thugs and creeps of the IRA have proposed a new approach to criminal justice. You will remember the tragic case of Robert McCartney, the Belfast man killed by IRA supporters after a row in a city centre bar. You will have seen how Mr McCartney's sisters are causing Sinn Fein/IRA increasing embarrassment, and how they are rightly demanding punishment for those who slit their brother from navel to sternum, gouged out his eye and stamped on his head. Worse, from the point of view of Sinn Fein/IRA, the revulsion has spread to America, still the chief source of their funds. Armed republicanism is in crisis, and in desperation the IRA has made an offer that is as typical as it is surreal. "Tell you what," the gangsters have said to the bereaved family, "we'll sort it out for you. We'll shoot the people that did it!" Brilliant, eh? That's the IRA solution for murder, folks. More murder. Is there anybody who could excuse this kind of barbarity? But of course there is. There is good old Martin McGuinness of Sinn Fein. Was he appalled, was he horrified, was he disgusted by this offer to liquidate another human being - or several - without trial? Oh no, he was merely "surprised". Was it nauseating that these people were prepared to kill members of their own community, even though we are constantly told that they are on a "ceasefire"? Well, said Mr McGuinness, with a lifetime's experience of apologising for terror, let us look on the bright side. "I think the difficulty about this particular sentence in the statement is that it takes away from an awful lot of the positive stuff," he said. The positive stuff, Martin? Remind me, what positive stuff can we thank the IRA for these days? You mean the drugs running and the cretinous bank robberies and the punishment beatings and the continual refusal to hand over IRA weapons? Listening to Sinn Fein, as it struggles to put the best gloss on IRA actions, one is struck by the amazing irony of the Government's current "war on terror". Westminster has been convulsed in the past few days by a Bill whose central provision is that the state should be able to detain, without trial, anyone whom the Home Secretary "has reasonable grounds for suspecting of being involved in a terrorism-related activity". And if we study article eight of the Bill, we find that a "terrorism-related activity" is very widely drawn. It can be nothing more than "conduct that gives support or assistance to individuals who are known or believed to be involved in terrorism-related activity". Now, we do not have to make any extreme claims for the activities of Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness to see how they are perfectly captured by this description. Not even their dearest friends would deny - not even they themselves would deny - that they have spent 30 years engaged in exactly that "terrorism-related" conduct, and giving exactly that kind of support or assistance. In all logic, therefore, they ought to be the first people to be banged up by Charles Clarke, if and when he gets his monstrous Bill through. If anyone appeared to deserve a control order, it is the high command of Sinn Fein/IRA; and in a way it would be rather wonderful to see Gerry, Martin and the whole flaming lot of them locked up in their homes, stripped of their mobiles, and prevented from going to be lionised at Guardian literary festivals. Of course, it won't happen; and, much as I might be sentimentally attracted to the idea, I would of course oppose it, because I believe the control order - the suspension of habeas corpus - to be wrong in principle; and the same rule must apply to every person in this country, that if the authorities have enough evidence against him or her to incarcerate him or her, then they must have enough evidence to put that person on trial. Yesterday Tony Blair repeated his claim that this measure was no more than the "advice" of the security services. Well, I don't think that is a good enough reason for suspending habeas corpus; and if we are seriously being asked to lock people up on the say-so of the intelligence services, then I feel obliged to remind you that it was the intelligence services who brought us the WMD fiasco. The more I listen to Labour ministers on this subject, the more I suspect that control orders have been pushed to the fore as an electoral device, to neutralise the advantage the Tories have claimed on asylum. It is a cynical attempt to pander to the many who think the world would be a better place if dangerous folk with dusky skins were just slammed away, and never mind a judicial proceeding; and, given the strength of this belief among good Tory folk, it is heroic of the Tories to oppose the Bill. We do so because the removal of this ancient freedom is not only unnecessary, but it is also a victory for terror. It is an erosion of the very rights that we are struggling to promulgate in Iraq and elsewhere; and, in a key sense, it puts the Government on a par with the idiot IRA men who offer to shoot murderers. Both the Government and IRA seem content to ignore due process of law, and both are wrong.
Boris Johnson puts the Government on a par with the IRA: