Durkan: Sinn Fein knew about legislation

From today’s Irish News (subs needed):

SDLP leader Mark Durkan last night claimed that Sinn Fein had previously known that the on the runs legislation would extend to killers within the security forces. “This legislation doesn’t just deny victims justice … it will deny victims and all of us truth,” Mr Durkan said. “Gerry Adams claims Sinn Fein didn’t know this legislation was going to extend to killers and other criminals who were inside crown forces,” Mr Durkan said. “Sinn Fein did know. They did a calculated trade off. They sold out the relatives that they claimed to be championing.”


    Noel Thompson: Let’s start with OTR’s first. Mark Durkan says you entered into an alliance of sleaze with the government which has delivered, secured, an amnesty for the security forces. Are you proud of that?

    Martin McGuinness: I think that’s a silly comment.

    When this began its life it was on basis of On the Runs and On the Runs specifically referred to nationalist and republicans who found themselves in difficult circumstances for over 30 years.

    How many RUC men /UDR men of British soldiers could have been described as On the Runs? None. Why was that? Simply because they were fortunate in having an undeclared amnesty bestowed upon them by successive British Governments.

    Noel Thompson: And now you have that written on paper

    McGuinness: Well how many of them will come forward to avail of that situation? The people who will gain most advantage from this are those nationalists and republicans who are on the run for over 30 years.

    I don’t envisage that any people who were involved in the murders of nationalists, and Mark knows this better than I do, is ever going to be brought before a court in this day and age.

    Noel Thompson: But you’ve taken that possibility away from victims?

    McGuinness: Victims and relatives of victims know, for example in the case of the Bloody Sunday families, the British Army was effectively marched up to Buckingham Palace and were decorated by the British Queen for their activities in Derry on that day. So what’s the like hood of those people being brought before court.

    People out there in our community have a good sense what this is all about. People know this is about resolving an anomaly which flows from the GFA, prisoner releases. The fact that there were people found themselves in this almost limbo situation.

    SF has has spoken today to a number of victims groups. There is a lot of anger within victim groups about the way which this situation is being reported and the fact that relatives of victims of state violence are being virtually being ignored in the course of this debate.

    Noel Thompson: Mark Durkan is pointing out that it is you who are putting them in that position by giving an amnesty to security forces. He wants their voices to be heard

    McGuinness: Well Mark is very naïve then if that is the case. Because these people have effectively had an undeclared amnesty for over 30 years. Successive British Governments have stood over murderous activities of some elements of British intelligence services UDR, RUC, and British Army and that’s a fact and people in nationalist and republican areas know that.

    Noel Thompson: But they also know there have been inquiries and more inquiries planned?

    McGuinness: How many soldiers or how many RUC men have appeared before court for murders of 100s of Catholics and nationalists that have taken place over the years – few and far between

    Noel Thompson: And now they never will?

    McGuinness: They never would in my opinion. Anyone from the broad nationalist/republican constituency knows that the state always defends its service people. Those people who were involved, even in the importation of arms from S Africa, – what possibility is there that these people would ever stand before a court -I think there is no possibility whatsoever. I am not as naïve as Mark appears to be.

  • “It has taken Gerry Adams a full two weeks to deny that the price that Sinn Fein was willing to pay for getting their On the Runs back to the North was protecting state killers from prison. It is not just that his denial is late. It has no credibility.

    “The fact is that Sinn Fein’s Conor Murphy flew to Westminister to welcome this legislation – even though Peter Hain had already made public that it would apply to the security forces. And when the SDLP criticised the legislation for letting state killers off the hook, Martin McGuinness said that he did “not envisage that any people who were involved in the murders of nationalists … is ever going to be brought before a court in this day and age.”

    “He called me “naive” for saying that the legislation had let state killers off the hook – even though the Police Ombudsman is investigating past collusion right now. And he admitted that state killers would be able to get the benefit of the legislation but said that the people who would “gain most advantage from this are those nationalists and republicans who are on the run for over 30 years.”

    “The fact is that the British Government has admitted that it was negotiating these plans with Sinn Fein over the summer. The fact is that Sinn Fein is the party that claims never to sign off on anything until it sees the legislation. The fact is that we warned them about the danger of this side deal. They knew.

    “I say again Sinn Fein do not negotiate for the Irish people. They do not negotiate for the Agreement or the common good. They negotiate for themselves. So much for their Ireland of equals.”

  • Adrian

    Sounds to me that the Durk has them bang to rights. McGuiness’s words don’t even make it as a non-denial denial

  • Trevor Ross

    Gerry Adams knew the legislation would let state killers off the hook It’s there for all eyes to see. Gerry sold out. SF supporters wake up and smell the coffee!

  • Scotsman

    Isn’t the GFA meant to let everyone off the hook? It’s a peace deal!

  • Betty Boo

    How realistic is the expectation that government involvement into collusion and therefore crime and loss of life will result in being held responsible by the government?

  • What was the point of all the victims groups then, Betty Boo? What is the point of RFJ, An Fhirinne, support for a Finucane Inquiry, a Rosemary Nelson inquiry, the picket this weekend for Pearse Jordan, why bother? Why did anyone bother, given SF’s attitude?

  • Betty Boo

    I didn’t say that it is not worth trying to get some light shed on what really happened. I only question the commitment of any government to be held responsible by itself.
    It seems illogical and defeats the purpose of a perceived integrity of a nation when such government as the head of this nation is deemed to be as involved in criminal acts as those charged with committing offences by it’s justice system.

  • Conor

    I think Martin is right actually. We would never have seen members of the security forces in court anyway. If we ever have, they have been convicted and then had these convictions overturned under pressure from the government. Take the case of Paratrooper Lee Clegg for example. Convicted of killing Karen Reilly, 18 and Martin Peake, 17 by firing through the back window of their stolen car in Belfast 1990. Freed in 1995 after the Conservatives and the Daily Mail pressurised the Northern Ireland secretary Patrick Mayhew to let him go. Now he’s back in the army.

  • bigwhitedove

    I must say i find Marks concerns( new found) for the victims of state violence touching,
    The OTR legislation does not in any way detract from the need to establish a truth recovery process in Ireland, that deals with the legacy of the war,
    While Mark has a point, SF obviously knew the outplaying of the OTR legislation, he (Durkan) is clearly posturing on the issue. His concerns about this caveat were not voiced prelegislation and even the amendments proposed by his party would have allowed for the states criminals to get off the hook.
    What this whole debate, and the previous one about the appointment of the Victims commissioner highlights is the need for a an all embracing structure to deal with the past
    I have grown weary of the victims industry which is developing in the north and feel the time is now right to start exploring the conflict in a way that is sensitive to the needs of all victims.
    Sinn Fein bashing or Brit bashing does not help this process, old animosities must go and bitter pills must be swallowed by all, the truth will not out in this place!!!!

  • Of couse Sinn Fein knew. Peter Hain briefed them before they dispatched Conor Murphy to London.

  • I don’t know why anyone is surprised that Gerry and the boys would sell out victims of British violence.

    They have done this so the OTR’s can return to very lucrative home coming parties, (mucho dinero to be made for $inn F€in), and they can make some half arsed claim to be continuing ‘the struggle’ against the Brits/Loyalists/imperialism/etc.

    I think that to say to these people ok your loved ones died so did many others get over it is an insult, I know I love my family and would not want to see people who harmed them being let off, especially so as to pacify the likes of Provisional $inn F€in.

  • Isn’t the GFA meant to let everyone off the hook? It’s a peace deal!

    The GFA was never about ‘letting anyone off the hook’- it was about establishing a set of circumstances whereby no organisation could justify engaging in violence ever again.

    As regards this legislation, either (a) Spin Féin negotiated a deal which would have seen not only Provo and Loyalist killers get away with not appearing in court, but also security force killers, or (b) they were idiotically incompetent when negotiating for failing to realise that of course the British would have wanted security forces to come within the remit of the OTR legislation- there is no hierarchy of victims, so why would the government wish to elevate victims of security force murders above those victims of provo killers? If SF said that this is what they believed was going to happen, they’re thicker than they appear.

    This has shown how the Provos are only interested in looking after themselves- it pays no heed to victims’ needs, and shows utter contempt for democracy, justice, and the people who elected them.

  • headmelter

    Yet another concession loyalists/unionist and the british govt.

  • Betty Boo

    It seems to be a bit off the track shouting sell out about something that wasn’t agreed upon in the first place and accusing someone for looking after there own if this is exactly what everyone is doing.
    Never mind the thought of British military personnel falling under the on the run legislation makes any German’s day.

  • Alan

    As a sideline on all of this, does anyone know if the GFA and other legislation would prevent families taking civil action against perpetrators?

  • finn69

    as this act only applies pre GFA the SDLP can ensure that the British soldiers involved in the theft of files from castlereagh are arrested, charged and sent to prison, although surprisingly they sit on the policing board they seem to have taken no action against the flawed police investigation.

  • slug

    “As a sideline on all of this, does anyone know if the GFA and other legislation would prevent families taking civil action against perpetrators?”

    Good question – and if not then lets set up an appeal fund for the Eniskillen one and any of the others.

  • Conor

    “I think Martin is right actually. We would never have seen members of the security forces in court anyway.”

    LOL. If Durkan had come out with comments like that Shinners would be calling him a sell-out. When Martin says it, of course he’s right!

    You Shinners need to open your eyes. Think for yourselves once in a while if you can.

  • Brendan, Belfast

    United Ireland wrote:

    ‘You Shinners need to open your eyes. Think for yourselves once in a while if you can.’

    thats a dangerous prospect UI – look at what happened to poor Francie! having an independent thought in SF is bad for your political career.

  • CS Parnell

    The SF propaganda machine grinds on – love the smears: Mark Durkan’s new found interest in the victims of state killing. Is that the best you fellas can do? £20 million in the bank from one job alone and your greatest hit is to tell a member of the Derry SDLP that they have no record of concern for the victims of state terror? Get some new PR advisers – you can afford it ffs.

    For the record – which Shinner was it who was on the platform of the NICRA march on Bloody Sunday?

  • “which Shinner was it who was on the platform of the NICRA march on Bloody Sunday?”

    The relevance of that would be what?

    This is about the SDLP’s new found interest in British State collusion.

    Your attempt at whataboutery is noted!

  • Conor

    yes parnell, what the hell has that to do with anything.

  • bigwhitedove

    I wasnt born when when Bloody Sunday happened, so I can recall who was there and I dont really see its relevance to the issue, I have marched in Derry since supporting the famiies demands for truth and justice and these rallies were SDLP lite.In saying that I do not dispute that some members of the SDLP have supported victims of state violence in a dignified and constructive manner, I just cant square in my own mind how they, the SDLP, were at the same time able to attend tea parties in barracks, making merry with those who carried out the violence and indeed their political masters, take note of the recent obituaries to Gerry Flitt( about his jollies with the Brits while SDLP leader).
    To compound this confusion, how does the SDLP defend its welcoming of some of the actions of the state. Does the SDLP now support the familie of Collie Marks in their quest for truth or do they still believe his murder was a job well done?
    Is the SDLP for or against the use of plastic bullets?, did they or do they adequatley address the needs and concerns of those who have found themselves on hitlists created by state forces and supplied to unionist murder gangs?,
    I suppose the question for me would be around their (SDLP) consistency and hypocrisy in dealing with these issues.
    In responding, I would be grateful if you answer the questions I posed about the SDLP rather than Sinn Fein bashing, but then I suppose that is all you SDLP types have left.

  • The SDLP has said that is concerned for victims in the round. Mark Durkan’s speech was about this legislation being for victim makers not victims.

  • finn69

    CS, and after bloody sunday John Hume said “United Ireland or nothing”. the post nationalist, nationalist, republican, ever changing SDLP of later years was and is a different party.
    In answer to your question i’m not sure which SDLP member was on the stage at bloody sunday was it Lord Gerry Fitt

  • CS Parnell

    The point is that there is nothing new about the SDLP’s concern for victims of violence in Norrthern Ireland.

    As for consistency, supporters of Sinn “not a bullet, not an once” Fein have some quality brass in their necks.

    While we’re at it – a few other slices of humble pie the Shinners have had to eat:

    * No return to Stormont
    * Principle of consent is a unionist veto
    * Leinster House is a partitionist parliament

    And coming soon:

    * Join the police os Gerry says so

  • Belfast Gonzo

    The fact that the Finucanes seem to be looking to the SDLP instead of SF these days is perhaps indicative of something…

    Anyway, SF knew that the Government was going to do this. They have known it since Weston Park, where, coincidentally, they failed to obtain a full inquiry into Fincance’s death. They seemed wrong-footed by the Inquiries Bill too.

    But for SF, negotiating full and open inquiries into State violence was never a ‘dealbreaker’. Despite the rhetoric, I never got the impression it was high on their agenda.

    Perhaps SF were worried that such inquiries might open a Pandora’s box on the past activities of some of its leading negotiators.

    I get the feeling that SF simply didn’t deal with the issue of State violence in negotiations, in order to more plausibly deny that ‘we know naaathing’.

    It’s not an uncommon practice for parties – the UUP washed its hand of OTRs by getting that section of the Joint Declaration stuck in an appendix, then claiming it wasn’t part of the political deal they struck.

    Pontius Pilate Politics, if you like.

    I’d be interested to know what groups like An Firinne and Relatives for Justice think of the legislation. Not happy, I’d imagine, and their anger would predictably be aimed at the Brits.

    But perhaps they also need to ask SF why it was unable to negotiate a deal that ensured that British soldiers or police weren’t held accountable to British law.

    That’s why the legislation is as embarrassing to Blair and Hain as it is to McGuinness and Adams. The British Government, through this legislation, has basically admitted the State will not be held accountable under the rule of law for illegal State activity.

    In essence, it is an admission by the British State that it engaged in terrorism, since it clearly expects soldiers and police to avail of the legislation. (It should be noted that the Tories have also been guilty of hypocrisy on the issue, having argued that convicted killers should remain in the Army in the past.)

    Blair has thus created a moral, political and legal equivalence between State violence and paramilitary terrorism.

    By failing to meet their own standards, Blair and Hain could be accused of diminishing democracy. Some people, from republicans seeking justice through the courts right through to the Tories, might well argue that the State should be held accountable to a higher standard than a paramilitary group.

    Well, not any more, as Blair has lowered the bar.

    From a British point of view, this entire issue has been handled stupidly, insensitively and even though it’s been in the pipeline for years, it looks as though they didn’t think about it for 5 minutes. Maybe they wanted to rush it through before Blair steps down.

    There is a reasonable case for allowing OTRs to return, but the way the Government has dealt with the issue has been disastrous.

    Incompetency doesn’t even come close.

  • Zorro

    Belfast Gonzo:

    You make a number of interesting points which raise a number of questions.

    I wasn’t aware that the Finucanes are looking towards the SDLP for support at the expense of SF but if this indeed the case; I hazard to suggest that this may be because they see SF as a double edged sword. Though their popularity on the ground has been much lauded (mostly by themselves!), they stand alone politically – North and South. Apart from their own die-hard supporters I don’t think anyone really doubts that they were aware of what the full implications of the OTR legislation would be.

    SF were accused of raising the Finucane matter at Weston Park but, when told the price they (SF) would have to pay, they abandoned that strand of negotiation.. At the point in time, they could not sell such a deal to the Bhoys in South Armagh.

    You are correct in what you say relating to the UUP response to the OTRs. However in washing their hands then, it did let them live to fight another day. Intransigence on the part of the Republican movement at this time surely forced David Trimble in to this corner.

    While Gerry et al were looking after their own selfish interests; SF failed to notice that the British government was admitting to involvement with state sponsored terrorism. Why did Gerry allow this to go unchallenged? For the OTR issue to be effective, the Westminster legislation had to be written properly, (and from the point of view of the British Government – it is). Sadly as it stands at the moment it is nothing more than a sham which will allow the government of the hook and SF allowed this to happen.

  • Zorro

    long time no see.

    I wonder if the IRA/UVF/UFF otrs will club together for the welcome home party, like they co-operated before in terms of passing guns between themselves.

  • aquifer

    This legislation benefits members of Sinn Fein with a public profile who do not wish to account for their past actions as members of the IRA.

    It benefits huge numbers of IRA activists and supporters who carried out terrorist and preparitory acts without being brought to account. The ‘on the runs’ are only a tiny fragment of this large group.

    It also benefits members of the security forces, who, with or without orders, acted outside the letter of the law.

    Presumably a smaller number of protestant terrorists also benefit.

    Is there much more than this?

    It is hard to see victims getting anything out of this process in the short term, and maybe they cannot publicly without arousing all the wrong passions. Should we put the truth in a vault marked ‘closed until 2205’?

  • Zorro

    Bertie –I’m never to far from the Slug!

    I wonder if the legislation will let us to see a white flag flying over no-mans land when the Brits and the Provos come together for a game of football. Who wind and how many goals are scored won’t really matter but will there be any points….?

    The OTR legislation fails because it is not proportionate. In itself, it would not allow for such a game. Anyone for cricket?