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.  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.