On the run from the truth…

Henry McDonald argues that as the legislation was the product of secret negotiations between Sinn Fein and Number Ten, the broadly held perception that that party’s concerns are also the British Government’s prime concern will stymy the governments’ efforts to get an Assembly back up and running.

  • Gerry Lvs Castro

    ”Speaking in the House of Commons, the Northern Ireland secretary told MPs that once Sinn Féin rejected the bill there was no point carrying on as now all the Ulster parties opposed it.”

    This is fascinating stuff — following this logic, if all the parties oppose water charges, Hain will be forced to scrap this legislation also.

  • JD

    This is nonsense, there is no ‘side deal’ on devolution of policing and justice powers, it was flagged up as being necessary as early as Patton and all parties have accepted the need for it. This is blatant scaremongering where unionists are given all the media cover they want for doing nothing and denying the rest of us the right to democratic structures were we can make politics work. McDonald pathetic as ever.

  • This is not aimed specificly at you JD, but I’m getting fed up with digs at newspapers and journalists. Can people just have a go at what they see as the weakness in the argument and leave it at that?

  • Warm Storage

    His recent oeuvre appears to be based solely on the belief that nothing will happen here until Blair hands over the reins to Brown. See columns passim.

  • Warm Storage

    Guess I’d better change “solely” to largely” (post 4) to avoid any ambiguity over whether I’m attacking the argument or the scribe.

  • Looks like a valid critique to me.

  • Crataegus

    The problem with negotiations, and always has been, is the misplaced faith in the Government’s neutrality. It’s not a neutral facilitator, and never has been. OTRs is but the tip of an iceberg. The difference now is few are willing to trust Blair or his government.

  • Henry94


    I’m getting fed up with digs at newspapers and journalists

    Almost every topic here originates as a piece of journalism. If it is not possible to offer criticism of the methods and agendas of the journalists then you will be in a unique situation in the blogsphere. Of course the man and ball rule applies but are you suggesting that we should be less critical of journalists than of politicans for example?

  • Plum Duff


    ‘I’m getting fed up with digs at newspapers and journalists.’

    There are a number of journalists who continually spew out a stream of allegations without offering an iota of evidence. In many instances it is clear that they have accepted PSNI/Gardai or Government leaks without the necessary follow-up. There are also several newspapers which constantly take a line which is neither truthful nor objective. Are you saying none of these should be ‘dug’? Personally, I’d prefer the word ‘challenged’ but, with respect, I do think you’re skating on thin ice on this one, Mick.

  • Tai

    If anything the deal struck at Weston Park, namely that OTRs should hand themselves over to an arm of the British State, was anathema to traditional republican thinking.

    Moreover, the outcome of the “secret” talks, saw the British Government attempt to pull a fast one on Sinn Fein by including members of the armed forces in the Bill.

    This inclusion left Sinn Fein open to ridicule by both their political opponents and members within their own community. Accordingly, the Bill can hardly be presented as a sop to Republicans.

    Indeed, one could argue that the Bill if implemented (with or without the inclusion of the armed forces)would have constituted a further dilution of core Republican principles.

  • martin ingram


    You are wrong mate! and whats more you are a good example of what Sinn Fein are good at lying?

    Sinn Fein argued for a while that this agreement was struck at Weston Park. It was not. Thanks to the SDLP we know the truth. Please see below.

    A Better Way to a Better Ireland


    Immediate release – Immediate Release – Immediate Release


    The SDLP has uncovered final proof that Sinn Fein accepted state killers getting away with it – and has accused the British Government of blatant double standards on loyalism.

    Speaking at the launch of an SDLP briefing document “12 things they don’t want you to know about the NI Offences Bill”, the SDLP’s Alex Attwood stated:

    “Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams have both said publicly that “Sinn Féin did not … accept that members of the British state forces should be part of this process.”

    “They did accept it – and we have final proof. We have gone back to the Sinn Fein/British Government side deal of April 2003. It states that “a qualifying offence would be any scheduled offence … committed before 10 April 1998.”

    “Scheduled offences are offences like murder, bomb making, possession of weapons and are always tried in Diplock Courts.

    “State killings in Northern Ireland are scheduled offences. That’s why people like Guardsmen Fisher and Wright and Lee Clegg were tried in Diplock Courts.

    “So when Sinn Fein signed up to anybody who committed any scheduled offence before 1998 being able to skip jail, they accepted state killers getting away with it – now and in the future. They accepted this in black and white in the Hillsborough side deal.”

    Turning to other defects in the proposals, Mr Attwood stated:

    “The IRA had to decommission and commit to end all activity before the Government would even introduce this legislation.

    “But loyalists will be able to benefit even if they do not decommission a single bullet. Even if they do not end their drug dealing, intimidation, “punishment” shootings and crime. If this legislation is passed, the UDA will be able to benefit right away.

    “For thirty years the British Government has failed to take loyalist violence seriously – even though loyalists have been responsible for over 800 murders – most of them sectarian. So the blatant double standard applied to loyalist violence, while appalling, is not new.

    “What is new is that Sinn Fein is complicit in this too. Their side deal only required loyalist organisations to have a ceasefire. Even though the IRA had to decommission, Sinn Fein did not insist that loyalists should have to do likewise – or commit to end their crime.”

    “The British Government has said that it does not like this legislation – but has to introduce it to honour the deal done with Sinn Fein. The way out of this mess is simple. Sinn Fein should call on Tony Blair to withdraw this legislation. Let’s go back to the drawing board and devise a proper process that deals with OTRs proportionately while getting truth and justice for victims.”



    Paragraph 4 of the British Government/Sinn Fein side deal states that:

    “Legislation would set out who and what offences qualified for the scheme. A
    qualifying offence would be any scheduled or equivalent offence committed before 10
    April 1998. It would include offences committed by, or in the course of, escaping, or
    committed as part of an incident involving a scheduled offence. A qualifying person
    would be someone:
    • who was not a supporter of a specified organisation;
    • who was not currently involved in acts of terrorism; and
    • who had not been convicted of a serious offence committed after 10 April 1998
    for which he had received a sentence of five years or more.

    State killings are scheduled offences. Therefore Sinn Fein signed up to this. Nowhere in the deal is it mentioned that state killers are not covered.

    The only condition required for organisations to benefit is that they are not specified (ie. the Secretary of State recognises their ceasefires). The Secretary of State recognises the UDA ceasefire.

    There is no condition requiring decommissioning or an end to all activity by loyalists in paragraph 4 or anywhere else.


    Further information: Alex Attwood: 07801882458
    SDLP Press Officer Sharon Haughey: 028 90521 385

    Hope this helps in your education.


  • harpo

    Sorry for doing this for the umpteenth time, but could someone explain why the OTR issue is said to be an issue?

    HMG keeps on telling us that it is an issue that has to be resolved, as of course do Provo OTRs and Provo SF representatives, but other than the fact that the Provos want something and HMG seems to be willing to give it to them, why is it an issue that ‘has to be resolved’ from the point of view of the rest of us?

    From the point of view of the rest of NI society other than the Provos, no one is interested in this. It isn’t an issue for SDLP, UUP, DUP or Alliance supporters no matter how long the Provos and HMG bang on about it. In fact to most democrats the current situation is a little bit of justice – the fact that these OTR terrorists are being punished to some degree by not being allowed to return to NI is more just than some scheme of letting them back into NI scot free.

    Let’s face it – this is a side deal between HMG and the Provos that was designed as a sweetener for the Provos as HMG tried to get them to disarm. It wasn’t mentioned in the GFA, so the people of NI never voted for it. And no matter how often some people say it is some logical extension of what IS in the GFA, it clearly wasn’t in the GFA.

    So a post-GFA side deal was made between HMG and the Provos. But now HMG can’t get it legislated. Or don’t want to get it legislated. In the meantime the Provos have supposedly disarmed, but HMG weon’t hold up its part of the side deal. That’s really too bad for the Provos who see it as an issue but the rest of us – aka democrats – don’t.

    Having screwed the Provos on this one I don’t see the point of Hain saying that the issue has to be resolved and will be looked at again in the autumn. Unless he is still messing with them. Pretending that he intends doing something in the future when he has no such intention.

    In the meantime I don’t think democrats care if this supposed issue ever comes up again. Let the OTRs rot in the USA or Donegal or wherever. They are the only ones who care about returning to what they see as an occupied country. And that’s the oddest thing, isn’t it? Supposed freedom fighters demanding the occupier bring in legislation to allow them to re-enter the occupied territory again. That’s the extent of thinking in Provoworld.

  • martin ingram


    The sad facts are the Brits need an agreement as much if not more than the shinners. The Govt have been buying time for years,for example Lord Stevens inquiries, and of course the Finucane File in particular has been sat on the DPPs desk awaiting his decision for nearly two years whether he will authorise any charges to be laid against soldiers and or policemen .

    The Govt hoped this legislation would make this and other decisions of a similar ilk to be redundant.

    This problem for the Brits remains and clearly needs to be resolved . The Shinners will jump and down but many of the OTRs come North now and have been doing for years knowing full well the police will not arrest them.Ask Mooch Blair or PJ Branley? We are playing charades here lads.


  • Ben A

    The issue can be resolved. Sinn Féin need to stop pretending their shit doesn’t stink, and the UK government needs to apply equality of justice to all cases. The PSNI needs to investigate each case according to its merits, some people need to go to jail.

    Stop playing politics with established principles of justice, for everyone’s sake.

  • Plum Duff

    Ben A

    I admire your optimism – and naivety. Sorry, but I’m not being glib here.

  • pakman

    Ben A

    some people should have stayed in jail. This, like so much that has gone tits up here, can be traced back beyond Weston Park to Castle Buildings. OTR as an issue is not an anomoly from the Argeement it is symptomatic of the Agreement.

  • Ben A

    Plum Duff,

    Thanks for the attempt at a stance close to patronising. I’m not given to optimism or naivety, I’m simply stating an immovable position of ethical rectitude, which we might have been better adhering to in the past rather than throwing the baby out with the bathwater when it came to dealing with terrorists. I’m stating the way I believe things should be, and I’m not stupid enough to believe that this is a situation that ever did exist or will exist in future.

    It’s reasonable to establish a bourne by which one judges the actions of one’s government. The government has, for once, accidentally and despite its own best efforts, acted in the interests of justice. Still not good enough.

  • Ben A


    Agreed. The agreement was a useful sticking plaster, though. I think more and more that history will judge it the false summit of political deliberation in Northern Ireland.

  • martin ingram

    Ben A.

    You make good points, I too would like genuine Police Inquiries into these murders.If that is expecting too much as Plum Duff would argue, then I will join you in the Naive queue.


  • Plum Duff

    Ben A

    To be perfectly honest, I was trying not to be patronising – that’s why I put the apology in first, in case you thought I was – but if you seriously think (and also Martin I.) that you’ll get a *genuine* police inquiry into any but the most selective of murders, I’ll join you in the First Flying Pig Squadron. Don’t forget the manner in which the Brits have bent, broken and twisted the rules of judicial inquiries since the Cory Report exposed their murky machinations in the first place.

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    One wonders why the legislation was not called the ‘Scheduled Offences’ legislation instead of referring to ‘On The Runs’? Could it be that every single commentator and politician assumed that it referred to those who were actually on the run and not those who killed with impunity?

    So apparently the SDLP knew for the best part of 3 years that any proposed legisaltion would cover Crown Force killers. Now here was a party that has taken a good political pummelling in that period yet we are supposed to believe that they let this brilliant opportunity to attack SF go to the wall.
    Why if the SDLP were so interested in collusion did they not bring this fact to the attention of the victims of that collusion? Why didn’t they seek too embarrass SF from every rooftop?

    The simple fact is that they were caught on the hop by the inclusion of Crown Force killers just the same as everyone else. It is all right trying to be smart after the event, but their inertia in the period since April 2003 is a telltale sign that they hadn’t a clue.

  • Ben A

    Touchingly honest, how you failed to achieve a non-patronising tone. Mildly tragic, also. 😉

  • Plum Duff

    Ben A
    Point of information, does the abbreviation stand for ASSHOLE?

  • martin ingram

    Pat Mc.

    You make a very good observation in regards to the OTR legislation. Yes it should have been titled scheduled offences bill.

    The title was in my opinion deliberate, it allowed Sinn Fein to sell this to its electorate on the basis that this was a major concession. Knowing full well that it should have been titled. The Horse of Troy legislation.

    Your points re: SDLP are fair ones. That said the logical argument now in respect to Sinn Fein is either .

    A. Sinn Fein had the wool pulled over their eyes and failed to negotiate an agreement which you could not drive a Army four ton truck through it.

    B. Or Sinn Fein knew the Brits would be included and was prepared to pay that price to get their long suffering OTRs home ( Sick)

    C. Or It was a deliberate strategy to allow the Brits to get something in return for the OTRs and it was agreed with the full knowledge and that explains why the bill was titled OTRs.

    Look forward to your response, your inside view of Sinn Fein/ RM is valued , maybe you should consult with JD before responding. We would not want a duplicate post.


  • Ben A

    Well, Plum Duff, sometimes the truth hurts, as any avid observer of the peace/appeasement/unity process would know.

    I agree, however, that the UK government has been rather profligate with the cause of justice in recent years, as I expressed a few posts ago. There is a stunning difference there, between an organisation bound by and accountable to a legal and judicial process determined by elected representatives and organisations acting outwith the bounds of state.

    The idea of allowing UK forces access to a judicial process is surely better than establishing a ‘securocracy’ whereby their identities are concealed and their crimes go unpunished? Perhaps you won’t agree, but I feel this is an eminently sensible assessment of the choice Sinn Féin were faced with. Or could it be that many within the republican movement aren’t too keen to have their new lives after escaping the surly bonds of Ireland interrupted with tiresome and damaging court procedings.

    The A stands for ‘Another Job Done’