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David Ford: #ShinnersList letters are not now and never have been a devolved matter…

Fri 28 February 2014, 11:03am

So in all the obfuscating fog of war, a little more clarity. It seems the Secretary of State was not correct to suggest this had something to do with the devolved institutions:

Stormont Justice Minister David Ford said government officials told him five cases were currently being considered under the scheme, and the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) had accepted responsibility for this.

“Now I don’t like the scheme at all – it’s not open, it’s not transparent, it’s not something that the people supported – but at least we now have established that the scheme, if it is in the process of winding up, is the responsibility of the NIO that set it up,” he said.

“It is not a devolved matter and as long as I am the minister of justice, there will be no such scheme within the department.” [Emphasis added]

So there. Some justification for Robinson’s ultimatum. And even more credit to Ford for playing a straight bat on all of this.

Despite all the spin to the opposite, this process was designed to be invisible (even from the Irish government), and now, increasingly, it is not. Expect corollaries to emerge from that. Expect also that various of those adversely affected to want them studiously ignored.

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Comments (29)

  1. Tir Chonaill Gael (profile) says:

    On Nolan this morning, Forde effectively stated that Downey was guilty of the Hyde Park atrocity. Utterly reprehensible behaviour from a ‘Justice Minister’, even if he may be a social worker promoted – as a SF/DUP stooge – way, way beyond his actual talents.

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  2. IanR (profile) says:

    “It seems the Secretary of State was not correct to suggest this had something to do with the devolved institutions”.

    Not necessarily true to say she was not correct. All Villiers said is that “As policing and justice have been devolved issues in Northern Ireland since 2010, any further requests for the scheme, or clarifications on whether particular individuals remain wanted for arrest, should be directed to the PSNI and devolved prosecuting authorities.”

    If no fresh cases have in fact come forward since devolution of justice occurred, then Ford is getting his knickers in a twist over nothing.

    The five cases that Ford referred to could be hangovers from 2010 – the subject of ongoing lengthy investigation that started prior to devolution of justice.

    And the fact that Ford as Justice Minister might refuse to deal with any further cases, should they hypothetically come forward, doesn’t gainsay what Villiers said as quoted above.

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  3. IanR (profile) says:

    [cont]

    The chances are that SF would have made damn sure that any likely requests for ‘comfort letters’ were instigated before justice was devolved.

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  4. IanR (profile) says:

    From the Guardian story (about the Irish Government’s ignorance of the scheme) which Mick linked to:

    “The existence of the letters from the British government to 187 IRA members assuring them they would be immune from prosecution emerged on Tuesday after the collapse of the trial of John Downey, the suspect in the 1982 Hyde Park bombing.”

    That is inaccurate and misleading with its reference to ‘immunity from prosecution’. Although further down the article quotes Villiers who puts the record straight.

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  5. Mainland Ulsterman (profile) says:

    but you can’t write this off as just DUP or even UUP politicking now, can you?

    The failure to share the May 2000 Irish embassy meeting with the public was an appalling error and the subsequent cover-ups embarrassing and disgraceful.

    Of course, with NI they can use Hain’s constant get-out: implying that we’d still be killing each other if it wasn’t for this kind of deal. It’s patronising nonsense – the fact we were terrorised for 30 years does not give the government carte blanche to do whatever it likes to get them to stop. In this case it was clear the public would not wear Operation Rapid – so they simply covered it up. What they don’t know won’t hurt them. Except now we do know.

    To people seeing unionist anger at this as “ersatz” – I can tell you it’s not – can I just ask, is this how you want government to be run? Are you really happy for both the public and our elected representatives to be kept in the dark – for years – like this? Be careful what you wish for.

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  6. Barney (profile) says:

    IanR wrote
    “That is inaccurate and misleading with its reference to ‘immunity from prosecution’. ”

    You have to remember that it is a piece by Henry so its not going to be accurate.

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  7. tacapall (profile) says:

    “To people seeing unionist anger at this as “ersatz” – I can tell you it’s not – can I just ask, is this how you want government to be run? Are you really happy for both the public and our elected representatives to be kept in the dark – for years – like this”

    Perhaps you should look up the Sammy Devenny case, beaten to death by RUC officers in 1969 yet no prosecutions and the report carried out by London Metropolitan superintendent Kenneth Drury, re classified not to be released until 2022 who publicly stated – “I am satisfied that amongst those officers, who possess this guilty knowledge, there is a conspiracy of silence motivated by a misconceived and improper sense of loyalty to their guilty comrades” .

    When are unionists and British politicians going to start rescinding the get out of jail free cards or promise of non prosecution issued to RUC officers and those members of the security forces who took the lives of innocent civilians for no justifiable reason.

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  8. Barnshee (profile) says:

    “When are unionists and British politicians going to start rescinding the get out of jail free cards or promise of non prosecution issued to RUC officers and those members of the security forces who took the lives of innocent civilians for no justifiable reason.”

    Its never too late –get it ALL– out name and shame – and prosecute -taake a leaf from the Israelis -pursue to the end

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  9. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    Tac,

    I think one of the interesting by products of this story is the sight we are getting of just who has been campaigning for a blanket amnesty. It would appear that it’s not the SDLP, and not the Unionists.

    It’s always been my view that individual victims should have the final say on what they want to do. But they should also be given truthful and realistic advice of the likelihood of getting a safe conviction.

    My fear is not that victims groups will grind the state down, but rather the opposite. Not least when we see how their own public advocates have been privately pleading for a deal that would knock their already slim chance at justice out of the park for good.

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  10. tacapall (profile) says:

    I dont disagree with any of what you say Mick and the same goes to Barnshee. Its the “fk your victims” even though they are just as innocent as ours we only care about our own tribes victims thats sickening about unionist politicians. If your going to pretend to act with integrity and be all moral and all then at least be honest and say you dont consider any Catholics who died as a result of being murdered with the help of the RUC as being a victim.

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  11. Granni Trixie (profile) says:

    TC Gael

    I listened to DF on many programmes today and yesterday and thought the opposite: he kept his cool, exercised sound judgement and ability in a difficult situation. He is right to refuse to accept responsibility as minister for mistakes and deals over which he had no say or knowledge whilst at the same time calling for some agreed solutions to leftover problems such as the OTRs.
    For the record
    I certainly did not hear DF state that Downey was a murderer.

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  12. streetlegal (profile) says:

    One possible explanation for Peter Robinson’s extraordinary climb down is that Sammy Wilson may have told him to ‘catch himself on’ and to ‘stop acting like a big girl’s blouse…’

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  13. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    Maybe, but it all has a certain polish to it that makes me think this eventuality was not exactly unexpected. There was four days between the judgement being made and its official publication.

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  14. Tir Chonaill Gael (profile) says:

    granni

    On Nolan, he said the following:

    “Yes, I can accept that John Downey may wish to have some form of celebration with his friends that he is home: whatever we think of what he did, that is understandable.

    …it’s a sickening way of treating not just the four victims of that particular incident and their families, but all of those who suffered – the relatives of those who were killed, those who were injured…”

    The implication is clear: “whatever we think of what he did”.

    It’s pretty astounding that the Justice Minister in this jurisdiction can’t grasp the concept of the presumption of innocence. Then again, what else would we expect from the SF/DUP’s placeman? Totally out of his depth.

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  15. Granni Trixie (profile) says:

    Downeys fingerprints were found on a ticket in the car which blew up so I think that it is reasonable for anybody to think whatever they like about that established fact.

    Whilst on facts – DF became Minister when SF and DUP couldn’t agree to let the other take on such a sensitive post and I imagine they found an Alliance person the lessor of two evils.
    It was the largest Ministry in need of major reforms and joined up thinking. I think he has delivered even if you don’t.

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  16. Tir Chonaill Gael (profile) says:

    Given the history of that type of evidence before the courts – one only has to look at Colin Duffy’s recent successful appeal – it is, frankly, despicable that you and Ford continue to smear the guy before he’s had his day in court.

    DNA evidence from the 1980s is far from incontrovertible.

    Alliance and Lord Denning: strange bedfellows.

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  17. notimetoshine (profile) says:

    I wonder where all the victims are on this?

    I have to say that much of the coverage in the media has focused on the politicians, and I was wondering should we not really be focused on the response from victims groups etc.

    The comment made by Mick Fealty ‘It’s always been my view that individual victims should have the final say on what they want to do.’ has a lot to commend it, and maybe this philosophy should govern our opinions and decisions regarding on the runs.

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  18. notimetoshine,

    Somewhat impractical. Some of of the accused/suspects may well have been involved in more than one dirty deed. What if some victims say “Let him go” and others say the opposite?

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  19. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    Victims should of course be included in any decisions about any amnesty.

    I am not sure what victims could have to do with people who want to establish whether or not they are wanted by the police.

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  20. Charles_Gould (profile) says:

    I don’t agree with the idea that victims should have a say on whether their case should be granted immunity, amnesty or anything of this kind.

    I think though that it is good to hear from victims. I think we all need to hear their stories, and we should all try to listen with impartiality to all victims.

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  21. notimetoshine (profile) says:

    @ Comrade Stalin

    I was thinking that victims groups could provide a welcome opinion away from party political wrangling as to the whole issue of OTRs and these letters.

    Just an idea, anything to solve yet another opening sore on our political landscape.

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  22. babyface finlayson (profile) says:

    notimetoshine
    The victims could not have any say in this instance regarding people not even charged. That would not be right.
    They could have expected though to be kept informed about aspects of an investigation. For instance if a suspect is no longer being actively pursued. We seem to have a situation where the suspects were informed, but the victims were not.

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  23. Neil (profile) says:

    Being informed you’re not being sought in connection with any crime, by definition means there was not victim to inform. C’mon now.

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  24. Granni Trixie (profile) says:

    Fir

    But surely The Duffy case makes the point about a proper system of Justice…he got off?

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  25. Tir Chonaill Gael (profile) says:

    As a result of due process, which, in Downey’s case, Ford seems to have chosen to circumvent based on his own prejudices or lack of intellect.

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  26. lamhdearg (profile) says:

    The “Brits” sure are good at saying one thing and it meaning completely different things to different peoples, robbo and marty and the english lady must be grateful for such good wordsmiths.
    I also notice (or maybe missed) our local journos did not think/dare to ask any of the shinners (to their faces) had they received said letters, or Queens pardons.
    last up, “who knew” one suspects someone at the HET thus explaining their interest in concentrating on cases likley to end in conviction i.e Loyalist cases.

    2

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  27. babyface finlayson (profile) says:

    Neil
    “Being informed you’re not being sought in connection with any crime, by definition means there was not victim to inform. C’mon now.”
    There is a crime, then there is a victim. There is a suspect for that crime who is on the run. It seems likely to me that they would be on the run regarding specific matters rather than a vague sense of persecution.
    So when that suspect is no longer being investigated and that avenue in the case is closed,it might be reasonable to inform that victim.

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  28. lamhdearg (profile) says:

    David may have played this one with a straight bat, he is still staying in and by default supporting a crooked game, he admits he does not think the issue is a matter of national security and therfore should fall under his remit, and then washes his hands of the matter, a person wanting my (a voter) admiration wood play with a straight back and demand control of the remaining cases, that of course would then probably mean him administering them in the same way and would alienate him and his party from some more sections of electorate, so its more expedient for him to do as he doing.

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  29. Granni Trixie (profile) says:

    How on earth could DF stand over such a scheme? Everything about it is below standard,not least a reliance on SF to “choose” which OTRs to put forward and that there is no right of appeal. I think that some new,transparent scheme will have to be devised.

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