McGuinness: we did not negotiate state immunity

Martin McGuinness has an op ed in the Irish News and uses it to hit back at Mark Durkan’s claim Sinn Fein negotiated a deal that will let the British forces off from the consequences of improper actions during the troubles. He categorically denies that that element was ever a part of his party’s negotiations from Weston Park in 2001, until the present day.And he is clear for his part:

Sinn F�in did not support, propose, discuss, or accept that members of the British state forces should be part of this process nor did we argue for a blanket amnesty. On the contrary we sought to ensure the scheme would not provide an amnesty to members of British state forces who carried out or were responsible for state killings or collusion and whose activities have always been covered up by the British government. The scheme published by the two governments at Weston Park in 2003 related only to OTRs.

Our position on collusion and state violence is clear. We support the families of the victims in their pursuit of truth and justice. The British state has always protected members of its forces against prosecution and in the small number of unavoidable convictions, the perpetrators have enjoyed minimum prison sentences, early releases, readmission to the British army and subsequent promotion.

The difficulty for Sinn Fein on this issue is that it was a billateral negotiation. No other parties were involved, so politically they ‘own’ the outcome – good and bad. Even if the bill is amended in some of its detail, it may de facto curtail Sinn Fein from further effective negotiations on the issue of collusion. Though it would be unwise to underestimate the capacity of Sinn Fein to take such set backs in its considerable stride, it also indicates the SDLP has been much quicker to sieze on the embarassment of its opponents that it has been in the past.

  • Henry94

    RDE in the Sindo suggests the European court will overturn this.

    It is hard to see what legal basis there can be for a state to declare an end to investigations of its own misdeads.

  • Mike

    “Sinn Féin did not support, propose, discuss, or accept that members of the British state forces should be part of this process”

    So much for the bullsh*t about not wanting a ‘heirarchy of victims’, eh Martin?

  • slug

    Someone was asking if the Eniskillen ones could be tried by civil action as the Omagh ones are being. This requires a lower burden of proof, too and would necessitate the usual appearance before a court. Perhaps that would be a way forward for the victims? Unfortunately it is rather expensive but I would have thought there is a level of anger re: the Eniskillen one that a joint appeal fund could be successful in raising enough money to try these?

  • TAFKABO

    It is hard to see what legal basis there can be for a state to declare an end to investigations of its own misdeads.

    The trouble comes when trying to decide whether or not the actions of a person who may or may not have committed murder as part of his or her rolein a paramilitary organisation should be pardoned for being a member of that organisation, or continue to be investigated because he or she was also acting as a double agent for the state.

    Let’s take a hypothetical situation.

    Say you have a high ranking member of the IRA who was in charge of internal security and carried out a few executions fully sanctioned by the IRA.
    If it transpires that this person was also an informer for the Brits do we continue to investigate him whilst granting an amnesty to any persons who aided and abbetted him , but were not British agents?

    Sinn Fein said that an amnesty for OTRs was just the logical outworking of the agreement.
    Is it not just as logical to grant an amnesty to all actors in the conflict?

    Sinn Fein can argue that they did not want amnesties for the Brits, but they have done more than anyone else to allow the Brits to slip in an amnesty for their agents with minimum fuss.

  • slug

    I doubt if nationalists are that keen to grant an amnesty to the Eniskillen bombers. This is not a popular measure in the sense that it revolts far more people than support it.

    Even Peter Hain interviewed last night on “The Westminster Hour” was unenthusiastic. His main argument was that the leglslation was needed beacuse it was part of an agreement between SF and the Government. (Some reason). And that sometimes endgames are painful as in South Africa. But then he had no answer to the fact that in South Africa there was a truth process rather than a process of hiding the truth.

  • Betty Boo

    As mentioned in a thread earlier there is and should be a difference between offences committed by the state or by one of its citizens since the state is supposed to be the guardian of the law applied to its citizen and therefore can be expected to uphold it.
    Concerns of victims and the loss of friends and family should have been addressed maybe more detailed and simultaneously with the early release scheme and the otr legislation. The question still remains. Has this been done at all for the early release scheme or not.

    Members of the British forces are being put by their own government under a on the run legislation???
    I wish my grandfather would be still alive. He would have had a right laugh.

  • crow

    This is a case of one side of the conflict wanting things its own way.Like a child who gets presents but does not want to share them or for anyone else to have the same.

    Laugh? I allmost did.

  • Mickhall

    Mr McGuinness own words are of interest as he is all but admitting the British had SF over on this issue, something that is dealt with in an article in the latest Blanket. The British State sadly has a bit of a history as far as having Republicans over is concerned, including the Provos, I doubt few who were party to it will forget the double dealing that went on from the British during the first Maze hunger strike. But here we have Martin bright eyed and bushy tailed complaining it weren’t me gov, it were the Brits [again]

    Of course the problem is not with the British but the sheer stupidity of the SF leadership in negotiating privately with them. No radical political party should ever these days negotiate private deals behind the backs of both their membership and electorate. If they do they will be deceived and whilst perhaps not intentionally, betray all they believe in.

    Look at this deal, whilst McGuinness may disclaim ownership of the security force aspect he presumably claims credit for the section which allows OTRs to return home. What McGuinness is asking of Republicans is if they wish to take up the British offer, they must first recognize the legitimacy of the British legal system in Ireland. Something 10 republicans lost their lives over whilst on Hunger Strike, plus countless more spent many wretched years on the blanket. Still times change, but what does not is if radicals enter into private deals with the brits, they will be bested. It is not because the British are more clever or brighter than the Provo leadership, it is just they have enormous resources and centuries of doubly dealing to draw from.

    The mistake the Provos are making is they feel they have done well out of such deals of late, without understanding why, what they are over-looking is all of the agreements leading up to the GFA where also in the British governments interest, thus the Provo negotiators were pushing against an open door. Having members of the security forces dragged through the courts is clearly not in their interest, thus on this issue one cannot help wondering what McGuinness expected of the British.

    Andre Waja made a wonderful documentary about how Lech Walensa when he was leader of Solidarity negotiated publicly with the Stalinist leaders of Poland in Gdansk. All radical democrats would do well to watch it. Then again some see Martin these days as more of a Pinocet figure. Old soldiers and political power do not often make a decent brew.

  • Henry94

    Mick Hall

    What McGuinness is asking of Republicans is if they wish to take up the British offer, they must first recognize the legitimacy of the British legal system in Ireland. Something 10 republicans lost their lives over whilst on Hunger Strike, plus countless more spent many wretched years on the blanket

    That is absurd. Republicans stopped not recognising the court years ago and it had nothing to do with the five demands. In fact one of the demands was for full remission which could also be construed as a recognition of the British legal system if one was to be as utterly pedantic about it as you are.

  • Mike

    “Look at this deal, whilst McGuinness may disclaim ownership of the security force aspect he presumably claims credit for the section which allows OTRs to return home. What McGuinness is asking of Republicans is if they wish to take up the British offer, they must first recognize the legitimacy of the British legal system in Ireland. Something 10 republicans lost their lives over whilst on Hunger Strike, plus countless more spent many wretched years on the blanket.”

    And something which Sinn Féin, including several PIRA leaders, conceded back in 1998 when they supported the Belfast Agreement.

    “All radical democrats would do well to watch it.”

    Radical democrats? I hope that’s not a description of the people behind the atrocities at Enniskillen, La Mon, Coshquin, Kingsmills, or the murder of Edgar Graham, Ian Gow and Jeffery Agate?

  • Oilbhear Chromaill

    <i>Radical democrats? I hope that’s not a description of the people behind the atrocities at Enniskillen, La Mon, Coshquin, Kingsmills, or the murder of Edgar Graham, Ian Gow and Jeffery Agate?

  • slug

    OC: neither.

    Thats the point: we need a truthful process, not IRA/Brit process of hiding the truth.

  • Shore Road Resident

    …and the descent into whataboutery begins.

  • seabhac siulach

    I do not understand peoples difficulties with this subject.

    On the one hand we have members of a supposed ‘terrorist’ group, whose legitimacy is scarcely recognised by most people, and, on the other, servants (soldiers, etc.) of a sovereign state (which is a signatory of countless UN human rights conventions, etc.) Are we to judge the actions of the two as the same? Of course not. (I am sure, however, that the IRA are very flattered to be continuously elevated to the same level as the Brit. govt. in these pages; usually, ironically enough, by unionist contributors mentioning Enniskillen, etc., etc. as a counter-argument to claims of Brit. collusion.)
    If a state is instructing its soldiers/agents to knock-off its own (6 county & therefore UK) citizens through collusion with loyalist gangs and otherwise, then that is a matter of the upmost seriousness. It is dangerously fascist in nature and unworthy of an EU state. Is the UK to play fast and loose with its own laws and stated standards of democratic behaviour when it suits? No, and it should not be allowed to; no more than the state of Syria in Lebanon, for example, was allowed to with the killing of PM Hariri recently.
    We cannot have one law for the arabs, and another for Europeans. This is, therefore, a matter for a higher extra-national court…
    In that sense, any ‘grubby’ deal put together by Sinn Fein and the Irish/Brit. govts. will not prevent further judicial investigation. An investigation into state crime cannot be prevented (as the Brits are attempting to do) by passing some law in their own parliament. You cannot declare yourself innocent and hope to wash your hands of your guilt! Ridiculous. This is a matter for the European court of justice…and hopefully we (the nationalists of the 6 counties) will soon have our day in court.

  • Shore Road Resident

    And you think the victims of the IRA on-the-runs won’t want a trip to Strasbourg as well?

    We’re all quite clear on the provo position on this – i.e. they want to get off, but they don’t want the state to. Not quite so clear on how you can have IRA apologists arguing that this should be because the provos were terrorists while the state should be held to higher standards (isn’t that a unionist argument?)

    Only the SDLP has been consistent on this – and it’s beginning to show.

  • seabhac siulach

    Shore Road Resident:

    “And you think the victims of the IRA on-the-runs won’t want a trip to Strasbourg as well?”

    Yeah, and what state would you suggest they put on trial there? Or are you suggesting that they bring some small group of middle-aged individuals over there to somehow stand trial for attacks that took place on UK territory as much as 20 years ago…and which are therefore solely a matter for the UK judicial system? Ridiculous. Your argument and point are fatuous in the extreme…
    You do not directly refer to any point I make and instead choose (as many unionist commentators habitually do on this site) to make fatuous and basically irrelevant comments that have nothing to do with the point at hand. Tiresome in the extreme.

    AND a prime and wilful example of whataboutery, I should add.

    You STILL do not see the difference between STATE violence and that carried out by ‘terrorist’ groups, acting on their own initiative and not in the name of a democratically elected state.
    Amazing. You are truly worryingly blind.

    I suppose in your eyes the state can do no wrong. The ‘bad men’ are all on the one side. The victims must not be forgotten. Ever forgotten. Let us wear their deaths on us like a black anchor to prevent any progress. Forever. And in not forgetting them let us hold up all progress to a new beginning and a fresh start for the 6 counties. Ah yes, those victims can be damn useful, especially to unionist politicians cynical enough to use any ploy to prevent a discussion on the real issues at hand in the 6 counties (schools, roads, water charges, rates, etc.)…
    Unionists politicians are also using these victims in a cynical, self-serving way to hold up progress on returning to Stormont. The insincere guff coming from these usual suspects about the victims of the OTRs is truly amazing…can insincere opportunism be taken to a higher level than this?

    Any action against the Brit. govt. is a separate issue to the OTRs as it is a matter not just for the parochial politics of the 6 counties. It is a matter for potentially the EU as a whole and has nothing whatsoever to do with victim’s families in the 6 counties, nothing…as they are not even related issues. To link them is to engage in the ultimate whataboutery.
    It would be different if it had been the Irish govt., or something, planting the bombs through proxies. But it was not. It was a relatively small group of Irishmen/women following a revolutionary ideology…

    “Not quite so clear on how you can have IRA apologists arguing that this should be because the provos were terrorists while the state should be held to higher standards”

    What? You are saying that the state should NOT be held to higher standards than the provos?
    Amazing. And yet I am sure you would call the provos terrorists. Therefore, by your logic, Brit. govt. = terrorist

    Doesn’t matter what tag you give these OTRs, freedom fighters, terrorists, men-on-the-moon, the fact is these people (individual citizens who are still innocent until proven guilty, I would remind you) are being compared with a state govt. that has acted against INTERNATIONAL LAW (if the allegations of collusion are correct).

    Yes, the SDLP is consistent, consistently dire and opportunistic…
    It’s a very low thing they are doing, attempting to beat Sinn Fein with the stick of condoning collusion. I don’t think ordinary nationalists are likely to approve of the actions of the Stoops on this one…

  • Shore Road Resident

    errr, I certainly do see the difference between state and terrorist violence – I’m just surprised that all of a sudden, after 30 years of claiming that the British did not have a monopoly on legitimate force, suddenly the Shinners are saying that *only* the British had a monopoly on legitimate force – so only they should be held to account for misusing that power.

    As for this comment:

    “Yeah, and what state would you suggest they put on trial there? Or are you suggesting that they bring some small group of middle-aged individuals over there to somehow stand trial for attacks that took place on UK territory as much as 20 years ago…and which are therefore solely a matter for the UK judicial system?”

    Well for a start that’s exactly what you’re proposing the victims of state violence do to the perpetrators. Secondly, the difference between Strasbourg and ‘UK territory’ is irrelevant as the UK has ratified the European Convention on Human Rights into the 1998 Human Rights Act – so it applies to UK territory. In fact it will only be necessary to go to Strasbourg if all judicial human rights avenues within the UK have been exhausted.)

    So I’ll ask again – how can IRA apologists suddenly claim that state and republican violence are morally different? Their argument throughout the troubles was that they were the same. It was everyone else that tried to argue there was a difference.

    Are you saying that Ireland’s fight was merely a crime all along?

  • Shore Road Resident

    PS: As I apparently have to spell out the obvious, the state I’m suggesting IRA victims may put on trial is the British state – for passing legislation contrary to the European Convention.
    Comprende?

  • Colm

    Let’s put everything Seabhac is saying in a nutshell, despite all the rhetorical flourish.

    The families of victims of The UK security forces must have justice.There can be no deviation from this.

    It is not necessary for the The families of the victims of terrorists to achieve the same.

    Hypocrisy wrapped in a legalistic foil.

  • seabhac siulach

    I appreciate your comments on the Strasbourg court…

    “So I’ll ask again – how can IRA apologists suddenly claim that state and republican violence are morally different?”

    The IRA based(bases?) its legitimacy on the 1921 second Dail (and so its right to act as the govt. of Ireland). The Brit. govt. based its legitimacy on the most recent election in the UK. The IRA was not a signatory to countless EU/UN, etc. human rights conventions unlike the Brit. govt. The IRA, therefore, unlike the Brit. govt., has no legal responsibilities, not being a signatory to anything. That does not mean that (in its own mind) it could not claim to be using legitimate force when carrying out attacks. The second Dail gave them that legitimacy.
    The Brit. govt. has legal obligations (by international law) to protect its own citizens (i.e., not to go around killing them). The IRA is not bound by these legal conditions. You can argue that the IRA actions are/were not moral if you like (revolutionary groups are like that, end justifying the means, etc.), however, the fact remains that the alleged actions of the Brit. govt., in comparison, were illegal by international law (irrespective of their morality). Therefore, it is a whole different ballgame when discussing crimes by the state.

    Morality and legitimacy and legal responsibility are three different thing…only the Brit. govt. is constrained by all three

  • Joe

    Interesting that Jeffrey Agate should be mentioned in a thread which has the name of Martin McGuinness at its start. Mr. Agate was killed by the Derry IRA in 1977 at a time when presumably Martin McGuinness was a leading member of same.

  • seabhac siulach

    Colm:

    “The families of victims of The UK security forces must have justice.There can be no deviation from this.

    It is not necessary for the The families of the victims of terrorists to achieve the same. ”

    Who mentioned families? In relation to the alleged collusion of the Brit. govt., I personally (and many like me) do not want to see them escape censure over alleged state crimes against its own citizens. This is an issue that goes beyond just the families themselves, it is a broader issue that is of interest to all citizens of the 6 counties and beyond…

    About the families of victims of IRA violence, well, there was a vote in 1999 to approve the Good Friday Agreement. Hard as it is to accept, part of this (International) Agreement, that was passed democratically by a majority North and South (including the victims’ families), was that the prisoners on both sides should be released. Hard as that might be for the families of the victims to swallow, it is what the unionist parties (those that is that didn’t walk out and deny their responsibilities, i.e., the DUP) and their own govt. negotiated.
    That is, it was something that was voted on and the parties agreed on.
    It was thought necessary to enable the peace process to continue.
    Thousands of ‘criminals’ on both sides were released…which was surely hard for the victims on both sides to bear…
    However, now, 5 years after all these prisoners were released, we suddenly return to this topic…
    These few dozen men (and their victims) are no different than the many thousands of others who were released. So, why are unionists making a big song-and-dance about these men? Do they not want the peace process to continue? They will be ‘charged’ and released on licence like all the others, after all.

    A more fitting tribute to the victims of all the violence would surely be to set up a peaceful society in the 6 counties and not to use their memories for cheap political sideshows…

  • Colm

    seabhac

    I accept what you are saying about this being a logical conclusion to the process that included prisoner releases, and I am not arguing about that point. I am dissagreeing about the point that this amnesty should only apply to members of illegal organisations and not to members of the police or armed forces. Whether you agree or disagree with the proposals I cannot see how some individuals should face punishment and others not for commiting the same acts of murder and other violent offences.

  • Mickhall

    It still amazes me that people will accept the state doing something they find abhorrent when done by individual citizens or paramilitary groups. When this happens I always think of the poem made famous by the German theologian Martin Niemoller.

    seabhac slulach is correct about UK State collusion in criminality going before an international court, [the same should have happened with the current Saddam trial/farce]. Although I doubt it will happen in either case. The problems with any state ‘getting away’ with such behavior is more often than not, some time in the future, it will repeat it. It is in the nature of State bureaucrats.

    When a similar problem arises down the road, the civil servants will search the archive to find out how it was dealt with in the past. If they find an example, which proved successful and which had no come backs for those state employees who practiced it. then out it will come.

  • “It still amazes me that people will accept the state doing something they find abhorrent when done by individual citizens or paramilitary groups.”

    It may be the very definition of whataboutery, but:

    It amazes me that people will accept paramilitary groups doing something they find abhorrent when done by the state.

  • heck

    The issue is not to charge state agents with crimes. That would be unfair given that the other side in the conflict, the IRA, has all their members released. To suggest otherwise is just silly

    Surely the issue is to have a resolution where the British government, and British media accept the fact that their government was running death squads in Northern Ireland and to find out how far into the government murder was tolerated.

    Governments, in a war, try to convince their publics that they a good and law abiding while their opponents are mindless killers. The South African truth process showed that the government was equally guilty of crimes. That is what I want to see in Northern Ireland. We all know and accept what the provies and the loyalists did. The majority of the population is in denial about what the government did. (Including a lot of posters on this site.)

    How else can one explain the nauseating case of Jack Straw lecturing the Syrians at the UN about covering up state involvement in murder? The Syrians are allowing their agents to be questioned about the killing of Mr Hariri in Lebanon and are cooperating with the UN inquiry. What does it say about the Labour government when they make brutal, middle east dictators look good.?

    When we accept that nobody has clean hands and stop the moral outrage at the other guy then Northern Ireland can move forward.

    PS does anyone know if jack Straw is still hiding Brigadier General Kerr in his embassy in Beijing ?

  • Lots of people have clean hands. Two wrongs don’t make a right and these things do not cancel each other out.

    Everyone who has broken the law should be accountable to it.

  • Robert Keogh

    Sinn Fein conceeded the demands for investigations into collusion because the british were never, ever going to yield to them. Dross into gold just like they did with the useless IRA weapons. And this is the gift that will keep on giving.

    Remember how in Germany for about 25 years there was complete denial/silence about what had happened during the war? When the children of the perpetrators grew up they felt extremely guilty for what their parents had done and had completely failed to admit or atone for. This translated into massive economic and political support for Israel. I see the same trend happening with the children of unionism and the only thing they will be able to do to atone for the unadmitted sins of their parents is to vote for re-unification.

    The jig is up, the british are leaving and so long as unionism fails to see this their efforts to prevent it will continue to be futile.

  • Shore Road Resident

    No, I don’t remember that – in fact I recall the Germans post-war being contrite to the point of an obsession.
    Your idea that unionists will vote for Irish unity out of guilt for the crimes of their forbears is about as realistic as the idea that the republicans will vote for partition out of guilt for the crimes of their forebears i.e. ridiculous.
    If this is the best you can come up with Robert then you are truly clutching at straws.

  • Betty Boo

    At the end of the second world war one of my grandfathers was dead, the other a prisoner of war in France. None of them should have ever left to follow the call of their government to take by force what was neither rightfully theirs nor possible for them to take by other means.

    Occupation can never be justified, not for my grandfathers, blindly stepping into the brown trap towards a rising from the ashes, nor for anyone else.
    Murder sanctioned by your state still inflicts the pain of loss and it doesn’t matter if you are left in the believe, that you only killed an enemy. Because under changed circumstances it could be you contemplating that loss. And the victor always writes the history books and rebells are only mentioned pleasantly if the win and get the pen into their own hands.
    All the suffering caused on this island stems from occupation. I’m quite sure that there would have been plenty of suffering if history would have taken a different turn. But it still would have been caused by the forceful overtaking by an elected elite, driven by this deep rooted the strongest will survive instinct.

    Reading through the posts of this thread and others it reminds me of my grandfathers and their indisputable believe in their own government. They went to war for it. To kill or to get killed.
    I still haven’t forgiven them for it. And I don’t accuse anyone of murdering my grandfather as he took part in the siege of Stalingrad.

    Robert,
    you are only right if you keep in mind, that if anyone German even breezes a word of criticism toward Israel and therefore against the Jewish people has his/her head on the chopping block. I hope that it will fade and that I can speak out if I believe I have something to say without getting eaten by the wrongs of my grandfather’s generation. But we are not there yet. And I do not intend to change the subject of this thread too much.

  • Reader

    The legislation covers three cases – not two.

    On the Run Republicans (I don’t think there is an equivalent set of Loyalist OTRs). There are a known number of these. Let’s be quite clear – when I voted for the GFA it did not cover these guys. I was glad of it at the time. So OTR legislation is a re-negotiation.

    Security force redneck collusion. Constable Sammy gave a set of pictures to UDA Billy in the pub. Colin was in the UDR and the UVF at the same time. No-one knows how many, if any, of these guys will try to benefit from the legislation. But that isn’t state collusion – so is this part of the legislation contentious?

    Intelligence Operations – infiltration, breaking eggs to make omelettes. None of these cases will show up following the OTR legislation. So is the whole thing just a hypothetical argument?

  • DK

    Someone earlier had given the British Government more credit than they deserve and suggested that perhaps this deal was a trap that Sinn Fein have fallen into – and are now trying to claw their way out of while trying to maintain some sort of Republican dignity?

    It is more likely that the Government simply saw a possibility to save money on more enquiries and the rest was just good fortune.

  • Elvis

    Is it just me or is this contradictory hypocritical rubbish
    “Sinn Féin did not support, propose, discuss, or accept that members of the British state forces should be part of this process nor did we argue for a blanket amnesty. On the contrary we sought to ensure the scheme would not provide an amnesty to members of British state forces who carried out or were responsible for state killings or collusion and whose activities have always been covered up by the British government”
    If SF did not discuss it how they seek to ensure it would not be used to provide an amnesty for security forces!!

  • Gonzo

    It’s the politics of Pilate. By refusing to discuss an issue, parties believe they are absolved of responsibilty when an outcome emerges.

    But since the only real parties to the OTR talks were the British, Irish and Sinn Fein, it happened on SF’s watch and they’re going to get it in the neck for not negotiating something better for republicans.