Slugger O'Toole

Conversation, politics and stray insights

How the system of “comfort letters” developed. Secrecy was important, Hain admits

Thu 27 February 2014, 3:36pm

Much of the ammunition Peter Robinson needs is already in Mr Justice Sweeney’s lengthy judgment in the Downey case. Key points in this Belfast Telegraph summary.

The administrative scheme began in 2000 to rectify the anomaly because as on the runs, they weren’t eligible for the early release scheme. The overall picture is of Gerry Kelly as Sinn Fein’s point man  with the British government on the issue,   coming forward regularly with new names and the legal authorities  led by successive UK Attorneys General refusing a collective approach more appropriate  for a legal  amnesty and insisting on a laborious case by case approach. That is why the system dragged on to 2007 . Clearly the process is initially  driven personally by Tony Blair and his chief of staff Jonathan Powell, with the lawyers dragging their feet. Powell   now claims that unionist rage is “completely misplaced.”

I don’t see why a letter to someone telling them they are not wanted for a crime is something relevant for anyone to know apart the police and the people they are writing to,” said Mr Powell.

“Again we are missing the point between an agreement on On the Runs which was very public – we were negotiating about it and failed to reach agreement on it – and factual letters saying you are not wanted.

But why were OTRs who for example  had escaped  from jail ” not wanted? ” You can hardly argue for lack of evidence there. And even if individual letters were  to be confidential, should not the  system  have been openly declared?

With all the to -ing and fro -ing  you can just about follow how such a catastrophic error as omitting that Downey was wanted by the Met even from the length of email chains. However for the wider purpose the judgment gives insight into how the system was supposed to operate. These extracts from the full judgment give a flavour.

Also on 2 May 2000 there were meetings at the Irish Embassy in London between officials from both governments and Sinn Fein. The Minutes of those meetings record that Jonathan Powell (the Government’s Chief Negotiator) indicated that the Government was prepared to operate a similar system in relation to OTRs to the one then being operated by the Irish Government. He indicated that if the Government was given a list of names, it would clarify with the police and the prosecuting authorities the position of those individuals and, where appropriate, would review whether it remained in the public interest to pursue a prosecution. He further indicated that it was thought that the Government could deal with, say, 12 names in a month– but no guarantee could be given on the outcome of any review, because that was an independent decision for the prosecuting authorities under the Attorney General.

It was against that background that on 5 May 2000, following negotiations at Hillsborough Castle which resulted in agreement as to a process for disarmament (and during which private assurances were again given to Sinn Fein that, one way or another, the OTR issue would be sorted out), and in the continuing absence of a legislative solution, the Prime Minister wrote to Mr Adams, as follows: “I can confirm that, if you can provide details of a number of cases involving people ‘on the run’ we will arrange for them to be considered by the Attorney General, consulting the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Police, as appropriate with a view to giving a response within a month if at all possible. You have also questioned whether it would be in the public interest to mount any prosecutions after 28 July for offences alleged to have been committed before the Good Friday Agreement, since by then all remaining eligible prisoners will have been released, and have raised other related issues around the 28 July date. I would be willing to have these matters considered rapidly, with the aim of deciding the way forward before 28 July. Prosecution decisions are, of course, a matter for the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Attorney General…..”.

 

From Peter Hain’s written  statement about how the failed  OTR legislation in 2005 was designed  to supersede the  administrative system  that  legal officers plainly disliked.. An amnesty is always on the list but quickly discarded. Invariably they revert  to the administrative system.  

  I was involved in the extensive discussions that surrounded attempts to bring legislation and/or to consider alternative mechanisms. When these could not be achieved, it was the administrative scheme that persisted. There were a number of exceptional features to the scheme. The first, of course, involved Sinn Fein being formally put on notice; individuals who otherwise might not know with any certainty that they could be subject to arrest were alerted. The second was that the scheme progressed in a non public manner. Confidentiality was maintained for the individuals who submitted their names to the scheme; neither the names of the applicants nor the outcome of the applications were subjected to publicity. There was in consequence an enhanced reliance upon internal checks being correctly done and correctly notified as the recipient was dependent upon and trusting in the sole evidence of an assurance, namely the letter he/she (or on his/her behalf Sinn Fein) received from the Northern Ireland Office. I am informed that the Court has been provided with internal documents that show that at a number of junctures discussion took place with a view to reducing to burden of verification that rested upon the departments concerned, but this was rejected on the basis that corners could not be cut.

 

In his first witness statement Mr Kevin McGinty ( civil servant adviser in NI matters to the Attorney General).

 I believe it was understood by all that at best this administrative scheme would identify those cases where individuals were not in fact wanted or where the evidential test could no longer ever be met. The prosecuting authorities accepted the administrative scheme with some reluctance. In part this was because the actual and perceived impartiality of the prosecution authority was of crucial importance to the maintenance of public confidence and the administrative scheme would only benefit one side of a divided community.

The letters made clear that the assessment was based on the evidence then available. That position could change. It was to the forefront of the minds of the prosecutors that if an individual who had received such a letter returned to the jurisdiction and started commenting publicly through the authorship of books, articles or appearance on television that they had in fact been involved in terrorist activity (which was not as farfetched as it may seem) public confidence in the criminal justice system would require the authorities to be able to act. It followed that the letter sent could never amount to an amnesty of absolute and final promise not to prosecute.

Peter Hain commenting  on the care taken by the NIO, ironically interesting in the  light of the error over the Downey letter for which  the PSNI was responsible      

… the British government did not intend individuals to be misled into believing they were safe to return to the jurisdiction and then be arrested. The opposite was the case; it was intended at all times that they should know with accuracy their position; hence the exceptional step taken from that time of the Weston Park talks and thereafter, of positively notifying Sinn Fein that particular individuals who had put their names forward were liable to arrest, an indication that no doubt allowed each to decide whether or not they might enter the jurisdiction in full knowledge of the risks if they did so. If despite what had been said in a letter to the contrary, Sinn Fein was thereafter informed that the individual concerned was still “wanted” he or she would have no doubt immediately been told; a transparent precautionary step would have in these exceptional circumstances been appropriately taken that would have allowed for the individual as well as the well being of the process as a whole to be protected from unintended risk, consistently with both the letter and spirit in which this unique scheme had been constructed.

 

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Comments (44)

  1. cynic2 (profile) says:

    Strange …but then why does it look like:

    “Am. I wanted?”

    “No. Here’s a letter old chum saying we will never bother you”

    “Yes…you little scamp. Let me see. How many bodies was it? Here ………. have a Pardon”

    By the way I would trust Mc Guinness’s word more than Hains!!!!!!

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  2. Morpheus (profile) says:

    Right so things are exactly how the SoS said they were in her Ministerial Statement a few days ago as highlighted in Pete’s thread which got exactly 4 comments.

    Letters = admin
    Downey Letter = error
    Get-out-of-jail-free-cards = bullshit
    Amnesty/Immunity = Bullshit
    ‘Resignation’ = cry for votes

    All we need now is confirmation on why the Downey case collapsed because something doesn’t add up – where do Royal Pardons fit in?

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  3. Barnshee (profile) says:

    The slime from Powell and Bliar are all over it

    ” The second was that the scheme progressed in a non public manner. Confidentiality was maintained for the individuals who submitted their names to the scheme; neither the names of the applicants nor the outcome of the applications were subjected to publicity”

    Hide it—if the truth gets out the house of cards will fall down

    Scum never let you down -just when you think they have reached rock bottom they slide further.

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  4. sherdy (profile) says:

    Hain says secrecy was important.

    Then how come the OTR deal was discussed at the policing board in ’07, and again in ’10, and was also discussed in Jonathan Powell’s book in ’09?

    I can’t say when the dogs in the street were discussing it, but I’m sure they were on to the story for some years now.

    Peter Hain has no credibility. He will say anything to get a headline.

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  5. sherdy,
    Is that a mistype? Surely you meant Peter Robinson?

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  6. Brian Walker (profile) says:

    sherdy, as far as I can make out from the minutes extracted by the BBC, the Board was notified of the review of OTR cases in general terms without mentioning results but no mention was made of letters.
    Hardly a full account I would say. Of course somebody could have press the police for more answers but nobody did so, it seems. Even so I don’t think it can be dismissed as wholly a made up issue.

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  7. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    I keep hearing unionists saying that the problem is that they didn’t know about the letters. This isn’t much of a get-out. If they were being told that the OTR issue was being “dealt with” what exactly did they think this meant and why didn’t they ask further questions about the manner within which this was happening ?

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  8. sherdy (profile) says:

    MrJoe, – See top line in my post. I was talking about Hain, But don’t take that as me having a fondness for Robbo, the boy who cries wolf.

    Brian, – Is mention of the word ‘letters’ all that significant? In the real world would it not have been surprising had crucial communication with so many people had not been by letter?

    Surely written confirmation of your ‘comfort’ was essential!

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  9. Neil (profile) says:

    This isn’t much of a get-out. If they were being told that the OTR issue was being “dealt with” what exactly did they think this meant and why didn’t they ask further questions about the manner within which this was happening ?

    We’re also to believe no one’s read Powell’s book, where the letters get a specific mention, should the medium of communication between the cops and OTRs be the issue.

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  10. Morpheus (profile) says:

    OK,on one hand we have people requesting if they are wanted or not and on the other we have the police who want to confirm/deny if they are wanted – how did the unionists who ‘didn’t know’ expect the police to carry out this simple piece of administration, smoke signals? Pigeon?

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  11. aquifer (profile) says:

    HT Mick ‘the only supporting party, Sinn Féin, could not accept certain aspects of the proposed legislation’
    (to deal with On The Runs)

    I remember that. Sinn Fein failed to conclude an OTR deal, and at the time it sounded like they were trying to deny they even wanted a deal, which was deeply weird.

    So this comes back to haunt us, or taunt us.

    Did SF leave this unexploded political ordinance lying around deliberately?

    Or did the deal on offer threaten to sink the good ship ongoing victimhood by letting state actors off the hook too?

    Everyone has their part to play, some to get lifted on their way to holiday?

    But to have red beret paramilitary strutting Robinson trying to assume some high moral ground on this is crass. The Paisleyites did nothing and paid nothing for peace.

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  12. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    I remember that. Sinn Fein failed to conclude an OTR deal, and at the time it sounded like they were trying to deny they even wanted a deal, which was deeply weird.

    This may have been because the legislation being proposed by the British added provision for granting an amnesty to soldiers in the British army who were at risk of prosecution. SF balked at this.

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  13. IanR (profile) says:

    CS:
    “This may have been because the legislation being proposed by the British added provision for granting an amnesty to soldiers in the British army who were at risk of prosecution. SF balked at this.”

    So did the then Conservative opposition at the time, IIRC – on the basis that to do so would ‘besmirch’ the reputation of the British Army by suggesting an ‘equivalence’ between them and the IRA.

    Now Tory MPs are demanding amnesty from prosecution e.g. for the Paras in relation to Bloody Sunday, because “if the Provos aren’t going to be prosecuted for crimes committed then neither should British soldiers”.

    Somewhat inconsistent, you might say.

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  14. Granni Trixie (profile) says:

    Interesting that Alex Maskey sounded agitated in response to DUP say g that the enquiry will name those who are on the list. JA says data protection will trump other considerations.my point is why us it important to SF that this list is secret? Is it that it would cause dissent in the ranks from those not on the list?

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  15. Son of Strongbow (profile) says:

    Poor Alex. He had a meltdown on the Nolan radio show this morning. Why is this less than stellar performer being put up to be mauled by all and sundry? Who’s got it in for him up at Connolly House?

    But back to the letters. If the authorities are giving out letters to the ‘innocents’ of the world everyone should write to the Chief Constable and ask for their very own ‘comfort’ missive for their personal files.

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  16. Morpheus (profile) says:

    GT

    If those people are not wanted for anything then why should their names be made public?

    SoS

    Go for it…there’s nothing stopping anyone asking if they are wanted or not.

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  17. Mainland Ulsterman (profile) says:

    How anyone can try to defend this disgrace is beyond me. What is worse is the attempt to glide past the outrage of a deceived public by intimating that unionist leaders knew about it (e.g. not just SF but the likes of Bradley on the Today programme yesterday, etc). A few points on that:
    - Hain has admitted the deal with SF was done in secret
    - the SoS has now apologised for the secret nature of it
    - as Brian points out above, Bradley’s point about this having been made public through discussions at the Policing Board – which would be an odd way to disseminate such an important move anyway – is bogus, as this deal was not revealed there
    - it’s not just Robinson, or even the DUP, but UUP leaders past and present who say they knew nothing about it (Trimble has confirmed he was not told)
    - the f***ing Minister of Justice – Alliance, not DUP or UUP – didn’t even know about it and is furious. The one genuinely cross-community party has been made a fool of and we have a situation where the Minister of Justice was unaware his own national government was making private arrangements about terror prosecutions with terrorist organisations.
    Are we really saying all these people are making it up?
    Needless to say, had this been put to the people, it would have been rejected – THEREFORE THE GOVERNMENT DECIDES TO HIDE IT FROM THE PEOPLE. If anyone is still struggling what the fuss is about, maybe it’s time to take the anti-unionist blinkers off. And they’ll try and wriggle off with the whole ‘sacrifices for peace’ thing again. Well guess what, we made the sacrifices and they were in the GFA 1998, the document we agreed and voted on.
    We need big resignations over this – which ought to include any government minister who knew about this and kept the cover up going. The SoS for starters and if Cameron knew, he should go. This could not be more serious.

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  18. Mainland Ulsterman (profile) says:

    … and let this be a test of where we are as a society. If we’re in good health we’ll be angry about this, whatever ‘side’ we’re on; if we’ve lost our moral bearings, then I’m sure we’ll find a way of telling ourselves a secret deal with one party without the others knowing is somehow just part of life. How beaten down are we?

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  19. Son of Strongbow (profile) says:

    Morpheus,

    Well thanks for your thumbs up. However on a minuscule amount of reflection I don’t think I’ll bother.

    I mean why would I? I could only rationalise doing so if I had, on trawling through my memories, come up with even a vague notion that I might have broken the law at some point in the past.

    I’d come up empty handed in that regard (save for tweaking the tail of terrorist sympathisers and their fellow travellers on the likes of Slugger and elsewhere, as yet, happily, not a crime in this part the world).

    So all in all it would be a bit of a waste of my time.

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  20. Morpheus (profile) says:

    T’as you who brought it up sunshine, I am simply saying that if anyone wants such a letter then they can get one. You don’t need one? Great, neither do I but 187 people asked for confirmation and 187 got confirmation.

    One was given confirmation in error and it had disastrous consequences. Case closed. Let’s move on to the next ‘crisis’ and Peter Robinson’s next ‘Resignation’

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  21. Mainland Ulsterman (profile) says:

    Meanwhile, where’s Keith Gillespie’s letter?

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  22. sherdy (profile) says:

    MU, Keith Gillespie only warrants a red card.

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  23. IanR (profile) says:

    Unionists should be made up with the OTR letters scheme. Check out the comments from ACC Drew Harris on page 46 of the minutes from the April 2010 meeting of the Policing Board:

    http://www.nipolicingboard.org.uk/1_april_2010_meeting_in_public.pdf

    According to Harris a “sizeable group of people” came forward declaring themselves as ‘on-the-runs’ whom the PSNI had previously had no knowledge of. Whilst they won’t be prosecuted as a result (prosecute for what?), the spooks can add their names to their list of ‘ones to keep an eye on’ as a result of them coming forward for ‘comfort letters’ when they had previously remained ‘under the radar’. So that’s several dozen fewer potential unknown but ‘battle-hardened’ recruits for the dissidents.

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  24. Morpheus (profile) says:

    MU: what exactly are you so upset about?

    If it’s the Royal Pardons then I totally, 100% completely agree with you. To me they are the epitome of cowardice and they should never have been granted. In fact the request for a Royal Pardon should have been laughed out of the door in the first place.

    It it’s the administration scheme whereby OTRs could confirm their status then information seems to be coming out all the time about it. Alex Attwood denied all knowledge of the meeting until the minutes were produced showing that he was among the list of those present. Denis Bradley said he briefed the police board. There are minutes of not 1 but 2 PB meetings where the OTRs scheme was mentioned. Basil McCrea said he knew about the scheme. The DUP said they didn’t know even though it was their own Tom Buchanan who asked the questions at the PB meeting. It was mentioned in Eames Bradley. It looks like people knew about the scheme but not about the confirmation letters but I ask you – how else where the police supposed to respond to those who requested confirmation? “Come into our police station and we’ll tell you if you are going to be arrested or not”?

    If it’s the confirmation letters then we all need to take a step back from the DUP bullshit about ‘amnesty’, ‘immunity’ and ‘get-out-of-jail-free-cards’ because none of it is true. The SoS in her Ministerial Statement made the wording of the letters very clear – they were factual statements confirming if recipients were wanted or not and letting them know that of new evidence came up then they would be prosecuted. That’s it. One was issued in error and it caused monumental problems but that is a different issue. For ease of reference here is what the SoS confirmed was the contents of the letters:

    “The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has been informed by the Attorney General that on the basis of the information currently available, there is no outstanding direction for prosecution in Northern Ireland, there are no warrants in existence nor are you wanted in Northern Ireland for arrest, questioning or charge by the police. The Police Service of Northern Ireland are not aware of any interest in you from any other police force in the United Kingdom. If any other outstanding offence or offences came to light, or if any request for extradition were to be received, these would have to be dealt with in the usual way.”

    No mention of amnesty, immunity or ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ cards, nothing even close.

    PR has obviously used this issue in order to win votes. Funny how he has made a massive climb down and is pacified by a judge lead inquiry which reports back after the Local and European elections

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  25. Mainland Ulsterman (profile) says:

    Morpheus,
    The content of the letters is not the point. They seem innocuous enough, some would say worthless. We have a crisis because the government, having consulted the parties on this and seen the democratically voiced opposition to what was proposed on OTRs, decided to simply duck under the radar and do a secret deal with one party, not telling anyone else. A deal that, had it been made public, would have caused outrage. It’s a deception on a massive scale, it has gone on for years and successive SoS’s have known and failed to stand up for the public interest. We need resignations – big time.

    Frank Underwood’s self-justification springs to mind: “Bad – for the greater good.” It’s bullish*t in his case and the same applies to Hain et al. Duping the NI people “for our own good” was supposed to have been buried as a modus operandi with the AIA. The government’s desire to appease the Republican Movement’s implied threat in the years after 1998 undermined the chances of the GFA really being the new start we all wanted. Now the likes of Hain laud themselves at their success. At least you’re not being killed, they say. Well, excuse me for not bending over in gratitude. We should expect more than that. Some honesty, for starters.

    I’ve been a consistent supporter of the GFA and I’m a Labour voter but I can’t defend either just now.

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  26. Son of Strongbow (profile) says:

    Morpheus,

    You’re a star. Ever thought of standup?

    You’d go down a storm at the Donegal party. I I believe there’s a bus leaving from Connolly House. If you’re quick they might be able to squeeze you on.

    If you prefer to drive down yourself it’s easy to find. The pub is called The Lagoon, it’s at Termon, about 10k outside Letterkenny on the N56. Just head towards Dunfanaghy and you’ll not go wrong.

    Here’s an opener you might want to consider:

    Knock, knock.
    Who’s there?
    OTR.
    OTR from what?
    Gimme my letter!

    Case closed.

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  27. Morpheus (profile) says:

    SoS, is there a point in there somewhere? Is that the level of debate on Slugger these days? Is it a case that I put something across that you disagree with so I must obviously be a mass-going, GAA playing, Celtic-supporting, SF-voting, Irish-speaking IRA apologist?

    Grow up man. If you disagree with what I said then debate it – put your point across in an adult, coherent fashion instead of that schoolyard bollix. It’s demeaning.

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  28. Mainland Ulsterman (profile) says:

    Morpheus,
    To quote the BBC website report on the deal in May 2000, “This was not made public”. The AG knew about it and didn’t like it, objecting to the SoS at the time that “the scheme could severely undermine confidence in the criminal justice system.” He wasn’t wrong there.
    The report goes on to say that in 2007, when Operation Rapid began, “The then Secretary of State, Peter Hain, wanted the scheme to be run in secret. The PSNI had prepared a statement for journalists, should the scheme get into the public domain, but the work was never disclosed.” I mean, Jesus.
    The BBC report goes on, under the heading “Why are we only finding out about this now?”: “None of this was made public, and details of the assurances only emerged when the deal was brought before an Old Bailey judge.”
    Does it not bother you that the Alliance Minister of Justice was not informed about this (whatever you think of its merits)? And First Ministers past and present? And that clearly the decision not to inform them was taken to avoid political opposition to what was being done? This is profoundly troubling for anyone who cares about democracy and the public right to know what is being done in our name.

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  29. Morpheus (profile) says:

    MU

    So the letters are not the issue. Thank goodness we can rule those out because people have their collective knickers in a knot about them when, as you say, they are innocuous at best – just a simple statement of fact from a certain point in time.

    If I am reading your response correctly you seem to be more upset that people didn’t know about the scheme rather than the scheme actually existing in the first place. I can understand that but after 2 policing board meetings, the Eames Bradley report, the Powell diaries, the fact that Denis Bradley personally briefed the policing board, the fact that Tom Buchanan asked the questions about the OTRs, Basil McCrea saying he knew as a member of the policing board etc. can they really claim that they didn’t know about the scheme? Fair enough they may not have known about the practicalities of the scheme but again I have to ask, how else did they expect the police is issue their confirmations?

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  30. babyface finlayson (profile) says:

    Morpheus
    “but 187 people asked for confirmation and 187 got confirmation.” Seems a bit odd don’t you think?
    Not one rejected?
    Or perhaps SF provided a longer list, some of whom received a letter saying
    “Keep running mate”.?

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  31. Mainland Ulsterman (profile) says:

    Morpheus,
    No, that’s not what I’m saying. The scheme should not have existed. So the letters are the issue, just that it matters less what’s in them than the fact they were issued as part of a scheme kept secret from the Assembly, Stormont ministers and the people. It is the scheme existing that is Problem 1 – as it was set-up through a secret deal with a single party and not by a democratic process. None of the examples you mention are people knowing about the scheme as such. Yes OTRs were discussed and it was said “something must be done” – but as far as our elected leaders went, nothing did get agreed. As many have stated – do you not believe David Ford even on this? – they DID NOT KNOW THESE LETTERS WERE GOING OUT.

    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like the content of the scheme or the letters much either, for the same reasons as the Attorney-General – but that is irrelevant. It’s the *deception* that is the big issue. And you can’t seriously think that goes away because of we all heard a few vague mutterings about OTRs. Yes it was kicking around as an issue but nothing like this had been agreed -and I challenge you to point to where unionists, or Alliance, signed up to this remarkable scheme. Teresa Villiers has already come out and apologised for not telling people – to quote the BBC, “none of this was made public”. Stop dodging the issue with innuendo that some politicians “should have known” – they didn’t know and it was because the government, as it has already admitted, didn’t tell them. End of – now get angry about it, because this affects everyone.

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  32. IanR (profile) says:

    Some republicans got ‘letters of discomfort’:

    http://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/some-republicans-on-the-run-warned-never-to-return-1.1707476

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  33. tacapall (profile) says:

    ““Bad – for the greater good.”

    MU I seem to remember you justifying members of the security forces being complicit in the murders of innocent civilians, the ends justifying the means and all that.

    “Duping the NI people “for our own good” was supposed to have been buried as a modus operandi with the AIA”

    Its nice to see Unionists and the British Prime Minister talk publicly about integrity and the rights of victims perhaps they can understand now the feelings and anger by those victims families of the Ormeau Road bookies shooting or the victims families of the Mount Vernon UVF. How it feels about the lack of prosecution or even the public exposure of all those police officers who directed, protected and give weapons that were in police custody to loyalist terrorists that were later were used in the murder of seven of their innocent loved ones. Perhaps Peter Robinson can now see the merits and the necessity of demanding a full public inquiry into the death of Patrick Finucane. The victims families and the public have a right to know the names of all those police officers and members of the security forces who were involved in allowing agents of the state to murder with impunity. If all agreements privately or otherwise are now off surely the floodgates are now going to open a can of worms that unionism is going to find difficult to stomach.

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  34. IanR (profile) says:

    The fact that Rita O’Hare can’t return to her native Belfast without fear of arrest categorically proves that SF haven’t had their way on the issue in some ‘secret deal’.

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  35. Neil (profile) says:

    Or perhaps SF provided a longer list, some of whom received a letter saying
    “Keep running mate”.?

    That’s correct, as memor serves 37 (or 38) people were informed they were being investigated. That came from Gerry K. on Wendy Austin’ radio programme on Wednesday I think it was. It really is quite simple, those who are innocent and not being sought were informed, those who are suspected of something and being sought were informed. One letter was sent in error that one individual was not being sought, current at the time of the letter, when in fact he was. A mistake. That’s what we’re being told, but then as Unionists well know, trusting the British government can be a mugs game.

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  36. IanR (profile) says:

    Hence why Robinson wants a judge to confirm that the Downes case was the only one where such a mistake was made, I guess.

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  37. Son of Strongbow (profile) says:

    Information was provided to those wanted by the police to alert them to the fact that they were being sought by the police and thus thwart their arrest.

    Attempting to pervert the course of Justice is a criminal offence.

    Where did Postman Kelly deliver these “letters of discomfort”? Do their recipients reside in the Republic of Ireland? What is the southern Government doing about these fugitives from Justice (assuming that they do not reside within the fiefdom of Dundalk Gardai and therefore already quite comfortably situated).

    Morpheus,

    Best to ignore your linking of a number of disparate groups with “IRA apologists”. Are you posting from a caravan on Twaddle Avenue?

    Should I chose to interact with you in the future I’ll first explain my points to my seven year old and ask him to couch it in terms that a moderately intelligent contemporary of his could understand. Then I’ll post it to you.

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  38. babyface finlayson (profile) says:

    Neil
    “That’s correct, as memor serves 37 (or 38) people were informed they were being investigated.”
    Thanks for that. I assume that would include any who escaped from prison.
    It would be interesting to know how SF compiled that list. Were they all soldiers of the RA who had engaged in active service, but who hoped there was no evidence against them,or were some just civilians afraid of being wrongly accused?
    If the former, then they would self evidently have committed crimes, though not convicted of course so technically innocent..
    If the latter,one wonders why SF would even bother with them.

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  39. Neil (profile) says:

    Again paraphrasing from Gerry K., some people who had had their homes raided may have been under the impression that they were being sought and so approached SF or their own solicitors to seek clarity. He referenced the Guildford Four, Birmingham Seven and so on, I assume to say that some people may have worried that they were being sought though innocent because their house got raided. Again it’s just what we’re told, how much that relates to reality, who knows.

    There’s then the seperate matter of royal pardons that around a dozen people got, I don’t know who, but that’s been in the public domain for a while.

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  40. Morpheus (profile) says:

    MU

    Apologies if I picked you up wrong.

    Absolutely The Justice Minister should have known about the ins and outs of this scheme from day one. I am still not clear why he didn’t but I don’t think the DUP have that on their side because it was Tom Buchanan himself who asked the questions at the policing board meeting in April 2010 when ACC Drew Harris talked about the scheme. Letters were not mentioned but I ask again, how else were the police supposed to issue their confirmations? Surely you are not saying that the police should not have answered a request for confirmation?

    The fact that others on the board confirm that they were briefed, along with Denis Bradley’s claim that he did the briefing – plus the minutes – tells me that the truth has still not come out about how knew what and when.

    But I refuse to get angry about letters that even you agreed were innocuous. They were mere statements of fact from the police from a particular point in time confirming that these guys were not being pursued. That’s it. Nothing more and nothing less.

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  41. Morpheus (profile) says:

    SoS

    “Information was provided to those wanted by the police to alert them to the fact that they were being sought by the police and thus thwart their arrest. Attempting to pervert the course of Justice is a criminal offence.”

    It was the police who provided the information Einstein. Should they provide the information and then arrest themselves for proving the information? Seems like a bit of a waste of time to me.

    C’mon big man – show us what you have, show us your skills. Join in the debate instead of standing on the sidelines saying ‘Yay my team’ and ‘boo your team” because at the minute you offer nothing that a decent cheerleader couldn’t.

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  42. Son of Strongbow (profile) says:

    Were the police not asked to provide the information to the NIO? How could they refuse?

    (PS police officers can, and sometimes do commit crime, their colleagues then arrest them for it)

    Who signed and sent out the letters? Who ‘administered’ the process?

    As for “cheerleading”, you have parroted the Sinn Fein position with multiple posts from the moment the story broke.

    “Case closed”; along with your mind.

    You find nothing that discomforts you in a secret deal, your Three Monkeys approach is evident. The only aspect of the mantra that you have dropped is your nonsense assertion that Downey would be tried again. Something that was obvious from day one.

    There is no “debate” to be had. You are a peace at any price kind of guy. I prefer to see terrorists, of whatever hue, arrested, investigated and put before a court, sans any behind doors special pleadings.

    Btw, enjoy the party.

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  43. Morpheus (profile) says:

    Gimme a ‘C’ – C
    Gimme a ‘L’ – L
    Gimme a ‘U’ – U
    Gimme a ‘E’ – E
    What have you got that you didn’t have before? :)

    Firstly, I have consistently said that I think anyone who was ‘man’ enough to commit a crime should be ‘man’ enough to accept the consequences of their actions. That includes any Republican, any Loyalist, any police officer, any soldier, any farmer, any postman, any housewife and so on.

    Secondly, I think we ALL know that police officers commit crimes as well but in this case your laughable assertion that the police should be charge themselves with attempting to pervert the course of justice by supplying the information after they were the ones who supplied it…well…it’s weird.

    Thirdly, actually there is no thirdly You are boring me and life is too short. Join the debate or cheerlead, I don’t care

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  44. babyface finlayson (profile) says:

    Neil
    “I assume to say that some people may have worried that they were being sought though innocent because their house got raided.”
    I realise we are all speculating here, but it seems more likely that the majority on the list would have been active or formerly active members of the IRA.
    Why would SF be negotiating over people who wrongly had their houses raided rather than trying to ‘bring our boys home’. When did they turn into Amnesty International?
    So to my mind it seems logical they would,in the main, have some good reason to be on the run. No doubt Gerry would prefer now to put the emphasis on those on the runs who were wholly innocent.

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