MLAs almost united on Fr Alec Reid and Victoria Square bomb

Bomb car at Victoria Square
Image caption A bomb partially exploded inside a car outside Victoria Square in Belfast

Monday's Stormont proceedings began with two examples of near unanimity.

There was praise for the Redemptorist priest Fr Alec Reid's tireless work for peace, followed by condemnation of the masked men who hijacked a car, put a bomb inside, and ordered the driver to take it to Belfast's Victoria Square shopping centre.

I say near unanimity because, whilst all sides paid tribute to Fr Reid who died last week, unionists could not let his comment to the Irish broadcaster TV3 that Gerry Adams was "a man sent by God" go without any comment.

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt said most unionists would find that observation "utterly unacceptable".

But Mr Nesbitt went on to say that the abiding image of Fr Reid would remain the picture of him kneeling down in prayer beside the bodies of the Army corporals Derek Wood and David Howes who were murdered in Andersonstown in 1988.

Image caption Brendan Hughes was one of the former IRA men who took part in the project

Gerry Adams has faced some acute difficulties recently, in part because of the allegations about his involvement in the murder of Jean McConville from his former comrade Brendan Hughes.

Hughes's taped recording was released after his death, so it is perhaps strangely fitting that Fr Reid's defence of the Sinn Féin president has also come from "beyond the grave".

Deadly know-how

Whilst Fr Reid witnessed the IRA's final act of decommissioning, the ability of dissidents to assemble the Victoria Square bomb raises questions about the effectiveness of the disarmament process.

It was often argued, when decommissioning was the number one item on the political agenda, that you could not decommission the knowledge inside a bomber's brain.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Loyalist flag protests began on 3 December last year

It is clear that some republicans disenchanted with the direction of the political process have retained that deadly know-how, even if they have far less capability to maintain a sustained campaign than the Provisional IRA.

Belfast's traders are hoping that a mixture of dissident disruption and loyalist protest does not make the pre-Christmas period as difficult as last year's.

Richard Haass's efforts will not make much difference as far as the dissidents are concerned, but he could change the context within which any flag or parade related protests take place.

With that in mind, I am publishing a few more links to written submissions to the Haass talks which have either been supplied to me or have already been published elsewhere.

First of all is the Labour Party's submission building on the long-established Day of Reflection and calling for a new public holiday in Northern Ireland. Thanks to Alan Meban for this link to the full submission.

Then there's a call from the Arkiv group of academics for a "Commission for Historical Clarification" of the Troubles.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Paul Quinn was lured to farm buildings in County Monaghan and beaten to death

The Workers Party want a bill of rights and the reinstatement of the Civic Forum.

The party warns in its submission that "it is unwise to assume that the past and all its consequences can be dealt with satisfactorily in a limited time frame.

"This is not the international experience".

Over the weekend the family of Paul Quinn, beaten to death in 2007, sent me a brief submission to the Haass talks in which they argued that "the voices of those killed after the conclusion of large-scale or widespread violence.... should be heard along with those of all other victims".

"There is a particular concern that they should not be silenced or ignored because what they have to say may be politically awkward for some," they said.

Then there is the human rights group, the Committee on the Administration of Justice, which wants a single body set up to investigate all Troubles-related deaths.

We will try to keep linking to your published submissions. Keep me informed on Twitter @markdevenport or via

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