Ivan Lewis on the OTR Letters

0 views

In today’s Belfast Telegraph, Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary, Ivan Lewis attempts to straddle the line between preserving the Labour legacy of peace here and distancing himself from Blair and Peter Hain.

In his opening paragraphs Lewis attempts to chart a middle course saying

Some have suggested the UK Government and more specifically my party should recant for the introduction of the so called “on the run” administrative scheme. I cannot accept this despite the understandable anger some have expressed.

It would be a failure of leadership and integrity to be retrospectively selective about key elements of a historic peace process which ended 30 years of violence and terror.

He then moved on to set out that peace is not always an easy thing to achieve

Peace processes by their nature are never perfect or easy. They require all participants to take a deep breath swallow hard and not allow any moment or issue in time to circumvent the big prize of an end to violence and the chance for a new beginning.

That is what people like Tony Blair, Mo Mowlam and Jonathan Powell did and I’m proud they did so under the banner of a Labour Government.

It is what successive Irish government leaders did and why John Major deserves credit for his role in laying the foundations for the peace process.

This is the key part;

However, in defending the peace process we owe the families of the victims of the Hyde park bombings both answers and an unequivocal apology.

Of course, for the catastrophic error which has once again accentuated the pain which for them never goes away and lessens the likelihood of them ever getting truth or justice. But also for the crass insensitivity of those who chose to focus on the perceived wrong Mr Downey suffered.

Is it any wonder people feel angry when the rights of an individual, who is innocent until proven guilty, but who faced sufficient evidence to justify his arrest, appear to be more important than the soldiers brutally murdered on that day?

Knocking back NI21s amnesty proposals he says

I do not agree that peace would be best served now and in the future by denying victim’s families any right to seek answers and accountability for the loss of loved ones.

Whether those concerned are the vast majority who were killed by IRA or loyalist paramilitaries or others who are alleged to have been killed unlawfully by military personnel, supposedly “drawing a line” with an across the board amnesty would do nothing to heal wounds or help create a better environment for reconciliation.

Overall it was an interesting op-ed from Lewis and bares all the hallmarks of a shadow SOS actually saying more insight comments than his counterpart in the House of Commons. But no doubt this saga will go on and Lewis appears to be ready to defend his party’s past while distancing himself from the action itself.

, ,

  • cynic2

    “It would be a failure of leadership and integrity to be retrospectively selective about key elements of a historic peace process which ended 30 years of violence and terror.”

    This was all post peace process proper and almost 12 years after the end of the IRA Violence

    ” That is what people like Tony Blair, Mo Mowlam and Jonathan Powell did ” ….after they picked it up from John Major

    ” not allow any moment or issue in time to circumvent the big prize”

    Dissembling nonsense that suggests the only way is to grant every concession

    “Of course, for the catastrophic error” – which one? Sending the letters in the first place? Agreeing the deal? Lying to Parliament, Unionists and , above all, the Victims and their families?

    ” the rights of an individual, who is innocent until proven guilty, ………………, appear to be more important than the soldiers brutally murdered ”

    But that is just what your party did when your granted Pardons. Those who were not listed as wanted got letters. Others who were wanted got pardons

    “all the hallmarks of a shadow SOS “….didn’t you mean shallow? He’s just trying to ride two horses. The only thing this article recognizes is that he realizes how exposed they are

  • Mick Fealty

    Pardons, no. Co-operation with SF in the public interest, yes. The real challenge ahead for the DUP is:

    How deep can you go with the scrutiny thing? And who, if anyone, is ‘too big to prosecute’? This time, as a confidence building measure, I think we should be told.

  • cynic2

    MIck

    I am referring to the RPMs. We don’t totally know but it looks like there were two classes of OTRs. Those who weren’t wanted got a letter saying that. Fair enough but why did it come from the NIO and not the Police?

    Then it seems clear that a % – we don’t know how large – who WERE wanted got an RPM.

    A few others seem to have got them too on grounds of being ill or best mates of the leadership (all pigs remain equal)

    If an RPM isn’t a pardon how do we describe it? There are three stories here, i suggest. The letters. The Secret Pardons for murderers and the cover up.

    As usual it will be the latter that catches them up> If it wasn’t so dodgy why lie about it and mislead parliament

  • Mick Fealty

    Ah, Royal Prerogative of Mercy Well, we’ll have to see what turns up.

  • Morpheus

    RPOMs are given to those who have already been convicted so in theory none of those who received a ‘comfort’ letter should not have also got a RPOM. Open to correction though

  • Morpheus

    That should read that those who got a letter should not need a RPOM

  • cynic2

    Sorry Morpheus…you are right.

    So for all those who did get an RPM we should be told why they needed one if they had done their time. What was the point in each case?

  • Morpheus

    No idea cynic. I find the whole concept of pardons nauseating. The application for a Royal Pardon for terrorist offense should have been laughed out the door never mind granted

  • Charles_Gould

    I have been impressed by Ivan Lewis so far. Good values.

  • cynic2

    Sorry Charles

    I think he is a lightweight. When he was a minister he achieved little

    Lets face it, if he was seen as any good would he be here?

  • http://gravatar.com/joeharron Mister_Joe

    Right up there with awarding Queen’s Honours to those who planned and ordered the execution of the Bloody Sunday massacre.

  • aquifer

    NI21 taking difficult political decisions, backing an amnesty.

    They are the ones to watch when 15% of first preferences can get you a seat.

    Polarising the electorate but in new ways, these people know what they are doing, which is not the impression you get listening to predictable waffle from the SDLP or UUP.

  • cynic2

    ” the ones to watch ”

    ….I wish it were otherwise but must say – watch away

  • http://alaninbelfast.blogspot.com Alan in Belfast

    Absolutely no mention of “Peter Hain” by name in Ivan’s oped. Ex-secretaries (and ministers) of state have such a habit of reaching back into Northern Ireland’s political narrative after they have moved on.

  • IrelandNorth

    Letters-of-comfort (LOCs) for on-the-runs (OTRs) were issued by the N Ireland Office, as distinct from the S Scotland, W Wales or E England Offices. Therefore, a certain degree of intra-national or intra-regional duplication of effort was likely to occur across the four nations of the British and/or Irish Isles, (aka the Celtic or Brythonic Isles). Surprising things is that people are actually surprised at this. Have they not seen Yes Minister, a TV series some may have mistaken for a sit com rather than the accurate depiction of parliamentary reality that it was.