PPS should lift the veil

The Irish Times Northern Editor, Gerry Moriarty, has an excellent assessment of yesterday’s move by the Public Prosecution Service [subs req] and, with the PPS refusing to elaborate on their statement in court that “prosecutions for the offences in relation to the accused are no longer in the public interest”, he reviews the various conspiracy theories. Unless the PPS reveals more [and Chris Thornton has a related report] – “There are other conspiracy theories out there but no definitive explanations. It all rather reeks to high heaven, doesn’t it? Lots of questions, no real answers. People will believe whom they want to believe.”Some of the conspiracy theories from the Irish Times article

Unionist parties and the SDLP have the strong suspicion that this somehow was part of an NIO deal to get the IRA to end its armed campaign and decommission. The prosecution service spokesman said neither would he be commenting on this suggestion. Yet if these parties made such a direct charge against the Public Prosecution Service they would be likely to receive a response that this office was independent of the NIO. “I can say absolutely there was no deal,” said an NIO spokesman yesterday.

One possible reason relates to security source claims shortly after the arrests that the breaking of the alleged spy ring was assisted by a police agent operating “deep within the IRA”, and that proceeding with the case would compromise the agent.

Another curious element in the case is that the then Northern secretary, John Reid, was informed by MI5 of the alleged IRA spy ring months before police Special Branch so cack-handedly raided the Sinn F�in offices at Stormont in October 2002.

It was explained by well-placed sources that the MI5 and Special Branch reason for not immediately cracking down on the IRA spy ring at the time was because there was more to be gained by allowing the IRA to continue its operations.

MI5 and the RUC were also hoping that in this manner they could nab the IRA’s Belfast-based head of intelligence, it was claimed. They didn’t. Sources said the police moved only when it was learned that the IRA was aware it was observed and that the IRA was planning to destroy the stolen documents.

Another deeper conspiracy theory is that MI5 took it upon itself to move against the IRA to try to protect David Trimble. Shortly before the raids, Mr Trimble, on the instructions of the Ulster Unionist Council, signalled that he would collapse the Northern Executive and Assembly in January 2003. This theory runs that by making the arrests, the “spooks” were shifting the blame for the Executive’s collapse on to the IRA rather than the former UUP leader.

There are other conspiracy theories out there but no definitive explanations. It all rather reeks to high heaven, doesn’t it? Lots of questions, no real answers. People will believe whom they want to believe. The Public Prosecution Service talks about its version of the public interest but here it would seem genuinely in the public interest that the service should lift the veil and reveal more.