Stormontgate collapse reaction

Dan McGinn with a run down of the reactions to yesterday’s bizarre events when the British pulled out of a case against the so-called Stormont spy ring which ostensibly brought local government to an end in Northern Ireland in October 2002. Nothing yet from the government. Ian Paisley thinks it’s the result of political expediency. Regardless of the actual truth of the matter, The Examiner believes that’s it regarding allegations to do with spying. With no explanation forthcoming from the government, there’s space for everyone to write into their own prefered scenario. Another act of completion before the next IMC report perhaps?

  • Crataegus

    This highlights the need for truth and openness. Secret backroom deals and sleazy agreements, if they exist, make others victims. Lack of candidness casts doubt and leads to assumptions and accusations. It corrodes support. You cannot build a peace process on a pack of lies and half truths, especially if you are Tony Blair.

    We have had the proposals for Local Government reorganisation, OTR, etc and now this, what conclusion should one draw?

    On one hand is it dark doings by the government or are the PSNI incompetent or a force with political inclinations. If it is a political decision someone should own up. If it is the police we need an independent investigation into this and similar and sort the matter out properly.

  • It’s important to take an overview of all of this. It is most likely the case that the PSNI (on current ‘form’ at least) didnt accumulate enough ‘hard’ evidence to proceed with any prosecutions. The government may have then used the situation to propel forward the prospects of a return to devolution. i.e. asking SF to ‘moderate’ their outcry at the announcement in return for not pursuing the enquiry any further. It was interesting that nobody within the Shinners called for any resignations yesterday. At the very least, a scandal which they were blamed on, and which resulted in the collapse of a government, would surely have prompted a call for the resignation of the Chief Constable. But hey, thats politics…

  • MS

    It is just as likely that the hard details of what Sinn Fein was up to would be something that the British government could not explain away, hence the court case not being in the National Interest.

    The point is, we don’t know, and are unlikely to ever know. Which is wrong. This case brought down the local government and on that alone the public is owed more than this.

    Many people were also informed of a threat to their lives because of this case, some having to move house as a result, and on that level the public is owed more than this; are these people really in danger, or did the public exchequer waste money in providing new housing? Are these people still in danger?

    Whoever is pulling the strings in regards to the PSNI is doing everyone a disservice – except for, of course those being “protected”. From here those protected does not appear to be the public.

  • spartacus

    macswiney:

    i don’t understand your point, or the conspiracy theories that, if donaldson’s appearance on ‘let’s talk’ last night are to believed, are swirling throughout the unionist psyche over this. why would the governmnet need to entice sf into restoring the assembly by going this route? they have been begging for it for months–indeed appear to be the only ones doing so. if the case was to be manipulated at all in the interest of getting the overpaid talkshop up and running, don’t you think it would have made more sense to make the dup happy by stringing the suspects up by their toenails? i just don’t get why the nio, others would feel any need to pull sf into the assembly–they’ are banging at the door, and will be for a very long time.

  • TAFKABO

    I don’t know what’s going on, but i’m keeping an eye out to see how Sinn Fein deal with the issue of policing.
    If we see a newfound enthusiasm for the police within the next month or two, then I’m bound to conclude that dropping the case has been a sweetner to the shinners.

  • mnob

    Spartacus,

    Even if SF are banging on the door, nobody is naive enough to believe that this is not a negotiation. SF have shown themselves to be pragmatic enough to avail of every negotiating opportunity and technique going up until now – why lose this opportunity ?

    As part of a negotiation there is give and take by all sides. If SF have ‘lost’ or ‘won’ on this one then I’m sure there is an equal and opposite outcome for them in there somewhere.

  • Betty Boo

    It doesn’t really make much sense to me that people’s lives were under threat and therefore had to be moved. Those people would be civil servants or under the employment of the state. I might remember wrongly but I don’t recall that in the last 10 years they were targeted and had to fear for their lives.
    Has anyone more information shed some light on it?

  • TAFKABO

    If your details have been obtained by an illegal organisation, then you have been targeted.
    it’s easy to say that there hasn’t been an attack for ten years, but I know that I would consider moving house if I found out that my address had been compiled during an intelligence gathering operation.

  • MS

    Perhaps I am confusing cases, but did not a number of prison service officers have to move house as a result of this?

  • John East Belfast

    MS

    “The point is, we don’t know, and are unlikely to ever know. Which is wrong. This case brought down the local government and on that alone the public is owed more than this”.

    I agree entirely.

    I am not that ready to buy the DUP line that this is a sop to Republicans as I have major concerns about certain people in our own security services who could be operating their own agenda.

    The whole Michael Copeland issue has left me very disillusined when our East Belfast Constituency Office was raided, in full show of the media, two days prior to the UUP Election Manifesto release.

    Not one shred of evidence has been put before Michael and he hasn’t even been interviewed. His complaints hit a brick wall.

    The PSNI need to come clean on this issue and stop hiding behind ‘national security’ or whatever excuse they use.

    In both these incidents Police actions have influenced the democratic process.

    They are either wreckless or incompetent or worse – either way the public deserve an explanation.

    Otherwise this might as well be Zimbabwe.

  • Ian

    “why would the government need to entice sf into restoring the assembly by going this route? they have been begging for it for months–indeed appear to be the only ones doing so. if the case was to be manipulated at all in the interest of getting the overpaid talkshop up and running, don’t you think it would have made more sense to make the dup happy by stringing the suspects up by their toenails?”

    Logic might suggest so, but this is the Unionist psyche we’re talking about here.

    Quite the opposite, a future court case arising from a historic incident could be used by the DUP as an excuse to pull the structures down again. Last autumn, they tried to stall negotiations because two Republicans in the Republic were convicted of similar offences (holding documents/info ‘likely to be of use to terrorists’). What was underplayed in media coverage of the trial was the fact that the arrests were originally made in the same week that the Stormont raids took place.

    So yesterday’s acquittals remove a potential excuse to avoid powersharing that could have in future been exploited by the hardline wing of the DUP.

    It’s a bit like the UUP belatedly using the conviction of the Columbia Three as a reason not to share power with Sinn Fein, even though they last freely entered government with them (following the first IRA decommissioning), AFTER the Columbia allegations came to light.

  • Betty Boo

    Tafkabo,

    But as it turned out, your personal details are not save either left in the hands of a legal organisation. And I don’t mean only the last leaking of such information.
    Intelligence gathering goes on all the time and you usually won’t know in whose possession your private details are until you are unexpectedly approached.

    I suppose everyone is trying to make some sense of it, hence all those theories, which in this case seems to be a resigning realisation that questions will stay unanswered.

  • belfastwhite

    John from East Belfast

    So you’ll be supporting changes to policing that would entail full disclosure of evidence when these kind of charges are made.

  • Fraggle

    Funny to see how little unionists think of british justice.

  • TAFKABO

    You think that’s funny ?, then you should hear what irish republicans say about justice minister Michael McDowell.

  • Betty Boo

    Good point!

  • Bearing in mind that the total cost of the Stormongate enquiry is estimated at £30 million pounds (BBC’s Mark Devenport) then surely the Chief Contstable is obliged to (at the very least)issue a statement on this matter. Does anyone know if there has been any official statement from Hugh Orde on this matter?)

  • Fraggle

    The justice minister is a politician, not a judge.

  • heck

    Is is possible that the charges were dropped because the accused were innocent?

    The assumption in the above comments is that they are members of SF -therefore they must be guilty-therefore there must be some political motive for dropping the charges.

    This seems to me to be line of reasoning which says more about the biggotry of the people making it than about the guilt or otherwise of the accused.

  • Betty Boo

    That’s a wee bit too picky, Fraggle, even it is correct.
    Besides you don’t have to be a republican to dislike him.

    And I haven’t heard or seen anything of this Chief Contstable either recently. Maybe he came down with one of those bugs you get this time of year.

  • Wheels of Ire

    Stormontgate, Castlereagh, Colombia Three, Northern Ireland Bank Job.
    What have all these in common?
    Well, they have all the curious commonality of happening in full media glare – which doesn’t occur by magic- at times ideally calculated to enable ‘outrage’ from unionists, always useful cover for yet another delay to the implementation of the GFA.
    Political policing is not confined to the North.
    But when major events can be manipulated on the basis of arrests and allegations, which if true would be serious, but almost inevitabably ending in few convictions.
    The curious coincidences would seem to suggest certain elements in the security services are subverting the democratic wishes of the people.
    They don’t trust the people.
    Farfetched? Remember Spycatcher?
    I’m only asking.

  • Fra

    It’s all bull. Fact that the case was dropped = there was no case to begin with. It’s politics as usual. All you have to do is make the accussation, whether it’s true or not matters none, the damage is done and the objective achieved, that is to dismantle the stormont government, as we know the unionist view home rule as the last step to an all ireland government. Secondly, all this quibble about moving etc.is nonsense also, all real estate transactions are subject to the public record, as you sell the buyers name becomes public etc.

  • Henry94

    b TAFKABO

    If we see a newfound enthusiasm for the police within the next month or two, then I’m bound to conclude that dropping the case has been a sweetner to the shinners.

    And if Chelsea win the league I’m going to conclude that it was all done to protect the Russian mafia.

  • Let’s bring this nonsense to an end

    Let’s bring al this nonsense to an end. For those of you still staggering about in the darkness – here goes. The Defendants advisers had sought disclosure of any and all documentation relating to any surveillance and/or informer information used in the build-up to their arrest. The ‘disclosure judge’ (ask a legally qualified friend – I can’t be arsed explaining) ordered the PPS to disclose such information – they immediately pulled the plug. The factual case against the three boyos was very strong – i.e. thousands of documents found in one of their bedrooms, fingerprints galore etc. etc. Short form – all of the Shinner waffling about there never having been a case against the three chaps concerned is utter opportunistic bollocks.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    LBTNTAE: “#

    Let’s bring al this nonsense to an end. For those of you still staggering about in the darkness – here goes. The Defendants advisers had sought disclosure of any and all documentation relating to any surveillance and/or informer information used in the build-up to their arrest. The ‘disclosure judge’ (ask a legally qualified friend – I can’t be arsed explaining) ordered the PPS to disclose such information – they immediately pulled the plug. The factual case against the three boyos was very strong – i.e. thousands of documents found in one of their bedrooms, fingerprints galore etc. etc. Short form – all of the Shinner waffling about there never having been a case against the three chaps concerned is utter opportunistic bollocks. ”

    Uh-huh… your say so and a fistful of change will get you coffee and a paper in the morning. Facts, without provenence, is not evidence. The source of the information is always to be challenged at trial by the defense — it is the foundation of a trial — to confront the witnesses against the accused.

    If the case was so “air-tight,” why roll over and submit? I admit, in the shadow of Castlereagh, I would think there is a legitimate question as to the integrity of the security apparatus, I would think they could stir themselves to protect their own.

  • Henry94

    The Defendants advisers had sought disclosure of any and all documentation relating to any surveillance and/or informer information used in the build-up to their arrest.

    That would be normal. If a defence failed to do that it would be gross incompetence.

    The ‘disclosure judge’ (ask a legally qualified friend – I can’t be arsed explaining) ordered the PPS to disclose such information

    Also normal

    The factual case against the three boyos was very strong – i.e. thousands of documents found in one of their bedrooms, fingerprints galore etc. etc.

    We have your word for that do we? That’s grand so.

    As Colombo would sy there’s one thing bothering me. If you are right the PNSI would have known that the defence would seek disclosure so they shold have known from day one that their case would not stand up. So even using your claims the raids had to be political.

    For someone who appears to know a little bit about the law you have overlooked some important concepts. Like due process and the presumption of innocence.

  • TAFKABO

    presumption of innocence is for the purposes of a trial.

    People not involved in the trial, or indeed, people mounting a case to be presented at a trial are perfectly entitled to assume the men to be guilty.

  • Henry94

    b TAFKABO

    People not involved in the trial are bound by the presumption of innocence too. In particular the media and government minister have to be careful because they can prejudice a trial.

    A guy on a talkboard can probably assume whatever he likes. But he might be asked to back it up.

  • TAFKABO

    Henry

    No offence mate, but being told by a shinner to respect the convention of innocent until proven guilty is like being told to sit up straight by the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

    When you produce evidence that this affair was politically motivated, come back and ask me to produce evidence that the guys were guilty

  • Henry94

    b TAFKABO

    How straight did you sit as a PUP member?

  • TAFKABO

    Ah Henry.

    Don’t be like that, it’s nearly christmas ferfuxsake.

    anyway, at least I left when I realised they were a bunch of irredeemable gangsters, what’s your excuse?

    😉

  • Henry94

    TAFKABO

    I left when I realised they were a bunch of irredeemable gangsters, what’s your excuse?

    I don’t think anyone is irredeemable 🙂

  • Dread Cthulhu

    TAFKABO: “When you produce evidence that this affair was politically motivated, come back and ask me to produce evidence that the guys were guilty”

    Seeing as the whole thing is gonna be round-filed so fast and so deep they’ll have to wire the sunlight in, I’d say fast chance.

    That said, the matters that supposedly derailed this case would be de rigeur and simple due diligence on the part of the defense’s trial preparations. Why pull the plug on the case, unless there is *something* in the accumulated intelligence evidence that would, as a minimum, embaress the PSNI / security apparatus.