There are known knowns and there are known unknowns?

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said, “I think it is all very interesting and I don’t quite understand.”, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and Wales, Peter Hain was “preposterous” and Sinn Féin’s Gerry Adams was for moving on [nothing to see here? – Ed].. And at Prime Ministers Questions today, as reported here by the BBC, Tony Blair said “I don’t know myself the reasons for that, I simply know that is what is decided.” The full transcript will be available, in time, at the 10 Downing St website Update The transcript by Hansard is upMeanwhile here’s what the BBC reported –

He said the decision was made by the Director of Public Prosecutions alone.

Mr Blair said no government minister had anything to do with the decision not to proceed with the prosecution.

Mr Robinson had said there were three theories as to why the case against the men had not gone ahead.

He said these were: That there was insufficient evidence against the men; that the government had done a deal with the IRA; or that the government was protecting sensitive, if not embarrassing, evidence and agents.

Mr Blair said that the conspiracy theories owed very little to the facts and a lot to the desire of people to stir up difficulty.

He added that while he could not comment on two of the theories put forward by Mr Robinson, it was completely untrue to say that there had been a deal done with the IRA.

Earlier quotes in response to a question from the DUP’s Ian Paisley, are also reported –

“This was not a decision taken by any minister, neither was there any political interference in that decision,” Mr Blair told the Commons on Wednesday.

“The decision to prosecute is taken by the DPP and the DPP has decided not to proceed with it.

“I don’t know myself the reasons for that, I simply know that is what is decided.

“I will, however, look and see whether, consistent with the proper legal procedures, we are able to give more information.

“But it was a decision taken solely on the authority of the prosecuting authorities.”

Update The transcript by Hansard is up and here are some of the questions and answers..

Dr. Alasdair McDonnell (Belfast, South) (SDLP): May I ask the Prime Minister a question about an item of national importance and public interest? Last week we saw the collapse of charges arising from the IRA spy ring in Stormont that brought down the devolved Assembly. We were told by the Attorney-General that those charges collapsed in the public interest. On the basis of that alleged public interest, of which absolutely no detail has been provided, would it be possible to make a statement or share some information with us on why the charges were preferred, lasted for three years, then suddenly evaporated at the last minute?

The Prime Minister: I entirely understand my hon. Friend’s concern. I have to say, however, that the decision whether to proceed with a prosecution is made by the Director of Public Prosecutions. It is not, and cannot be, made by Ministers. Obviously, we were not consulted about this matter; it has to be a decision taken by the independent prosecuting authorities.[added emphasis]

and another Q&A

Rev. Ian Paisley (North Antrim) (DUP): Is the Prime Minister aware of the serious matter that has just been raised by the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Dr. McDonnell)? Does he realise that the people of Northern Ireland, in both sections of the community, are angry that a serious matter has taken place, and all that we receive from the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is the response that no questions will be answered in Parliament? The Northern Ireland people have a right to be heard in this place, and the Prime Minister has a responsibility in this place in relation to the safety of many hundreds of people who were visited by the police and told that they were in danger and the £3 million that has been lost down the drain on the issue. Will he see that the rights of the people of Northern Ireland are defended, and that there will be some place where public representatives can ask those questions and get answers to them?

The Prime Minister: I am certainly happy to see how much more information can be put in the public domain, consistent with the proper legal procedures. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will accept from me, however, that the decision was not taken by any Minister, and neither was there any political interference in that decision. The decision to prosecute is taken by the DPP, and he has decided not to proceed with it. I do not know the reasons for that; I simply know that that is what he has decided. I will, however, examine whether, consistent with the proper legal procedures, we are able to give more information, but the decision was taken solely on the authority of the prosecuting authorities.

And the final question, for today’s PMQs –

Q4. [37182] Mr. Peter Robinson (Belfast, East) (DUP): May I return the Prime Minister to the issue of the Stormont spy ring? He says that the decision was made by the Director of Public Prosecutions. Can he say whether the DPP sought or received advice from the Attorney-General, or whether there was any consultation with any other Minister?

Is the Prime Minister aware that three possible reasons for the DPP’s decision are being canvassed in Northern Ireland? One is that there was not enough evidence to secure a prosecution; another is that the Government have done a deal with the Provisional IRA; and the third is that they were protecting sensitive, if not embarrassing, evidence and agents. Will the Prime Minister tell us which it was?

The Prime Minister: I do not know whether the DPP was in consultation with the Attorney-General or not, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that no Minister had anything whatever to do with the decision. I hope he accepts that. If he actually wants to create a stable atmosphere in Northern Ireland, he should bear in mind that it is helpful not to end up with conspiracy theories that owe very little to the facts and a great deal to the desire of people to stir up difficulty.

As for the three points that the hon. Gentleman presented as reasons for the action, I cannot comment on the first or the third, but I can say of the second that it is completely untrue.

  • Ostrichfeathers

    This case brought down the Stormont government and no one knows anything?

  • Betty Boo

    More you know you know, you know nothing???

  • heck

    “Mr Robinson had said there were three theories as to why the case against the men had not gone ahead.

    He said these were: That there was insufficient evidence against the men; that the government had done a deal with the IRA; or that the government was protecting sensitive, if not embarrassing, evidence and agents”.

    No Mr Robinson –there is a fourth theory. THEY WERE INNOCENT TO BEGIN WITH AND THIS WAS A POLITICALLY MOTIVATED RAID TO SAVE PRIVATE DAVID.

    behind robinson’s statement is the assumption –they are fenians -they must have done something

  • Oilbhear Chromaill

    It was a coup d’etat- a change of government engineered by military/police intervention – and it happened before our eyes, on tv.
    Yet not one tv presenter or political correspondent has described it in the terms of what it was.
    The focus by the DUP on a ‘deal’ done by the British with SF is self serving, as usual, as it ignores the possiblity that the evidence was fabricated in the first place in order to bring about the desired result, the end of devolution and the return to Direct Rule, the least worst option favoured by unionists whose only watchword seems to be: keep SF out of government.

    They also spoke about sordid political deals being done over Sean Kelly. I agree with them though my feeling is that the sordid deal was between the DUP and the Brits. His inevitable subsequent release was greeted by complaints, unionism’s natural disposition, and it gave them grist for their ‘save Ulster from Sinn Fein’ mill.

    This is the genius behind ‘Love Ulster’ – which should be titled ‘Loathe Ulster’ – because this DUP bandwagon, led by the bould Willie, is playing the same old familiar party tunes. Oh bring us back to the days of Unionist One Party Dictatorship and Misrule…..
    They couldn’t very well go down to Dublin and have nothing to complain about could they…

  • seannaboy

    Let me see now. DUP had been trying their damndest to pull down the duly elected Government sitting in the White House up on the hill. The raid on Stormont (i.e the duly elected Government sitting in the White House on the hill) was led/ ordered/authorised by Bill Lowry, head of Special Branch. After the raid, Bill Lowry got his collar felt by his boss, Hugh Orde, OC of the PSNI and was either sacked or felt that he had to resign.( remind me.)Some speculation in papers about role of either M15 or M16 in the entire affair.Hey presto, a couple of weeks later Bill Lowry (ex head of Special Branch) appears as guest speaker at annual meeting of the DUP. A very British coup or wha’? You couldn’t invent it if you tried.

  • Shore Road Resident

    Is that why Gerry Adams is asking everyone “to move on” then?
    Very unlike him, don’t you think?

  • seannaboy

    Gerry Adams is probably as keen as anyone else to find out if the OUP wield as much power within the Special Branch as the DUP.

  • Shore Road Resident

    No he isn’t.
    He’s asking everyone “to move on”.

  • Crataegus

    Where is a whiff coming from this no matter what way you look at it and the one body you can be sure has a case to answer is the British Government.
    If deal with SF:- British Government hiding truth.
    If PSNI and dark deeds:- British Government and need for an investigation.
    If wrongful arrests:-As above
    And on it goes.

    The very manner by which the government is acting suggests there is something to hide and if you look at the answers like, “it was completely untrue to say that there had been a deal done with the IRA.” Yes fine but was the deal done with SF? One can get bogged down in this sort of debate and minor points and argue one way or the other.

    We should stay focussed and all be asking for an enquiry, this was far too serious to ignore, and because the government is ignoring it we can be sure they are up to their necks in something.

  • Gonzo

    Crataegus

    The whole thing stinks, and you are right to be wary of the PM’s choice of phrases.

    He might sound definitive, but I think Blair’s words allow for a certain amount of wriggle room.

    No-one in their right mind believes a word he says any more anyway.

  • Henry94

    We should stay focussed and all be asking for an enquiry

    That will be tricky for a lot of people who are on the record as believing enquiries are just a waste of taxpayers money

    I found what Gerry Adams had to say very interesting. A lot of people are assuming that if a deal was done it was to get the accused off the hook in exchange for some concession by the IRA.

    But it could be the other way around. Maybe it was the British who wanted out of the case and in exchange for republicans not making too much of a fuss they will be making some other concession.

    I suppose we’ll never know now.

  • Aidan

    All we know is, that any party who is making less of a fuss over it than we might expect, is getting something out of it.

  • Compared to the apolexy over McDowell, you may have a point, Aidan.

  • headmelter

    Maybe it was the British who wanted out of the case and in exchange for republicans not making too much of a fuss they will be making some other concession.

    Good point Henry but what compromises are left for the govt to offer?