Hain: “I make no apology to you or the people of Northern Ireland”

Peter Hain was unapologetic this morning about his role in the appointment of the Victims Commissioner: noting that already she had done important work and, significantly, that victims were the one issue that had effectively been ignored in this process. Even though the Historic Enquiry Team was set up to investigate 3000 unsolved cases, it seems unlikely that 30 years on that a relatively passive re-examination of either witnesses or evidence will provide any tangible justice for the broad sweep of victims. Outside, that is, a tiny handful of cases being pushed assiduously by a single political interest – and almost all of them nationalist. Some Westminster insiders Slugger has spoken to take the view that if this was a political decision, the Secretary of State was perfectly entitled to use his prerogative to break a deadlock that would almost certainly ensued.

  • Yer Woman

    Quote: “Outside, that is, a tiny handful of cases being pushed assiduously by a single political interest – and almost all of them nationalist.”

    Shout lould enough, and you will be heard. Protestant victims groups should learn from these ‘Nationalist cases’ and start shouting a bit loulder themselves. Maybe that’s why the outside world only tends to see the Nationalist community as the victim – they’re the only ones that have been shouting for the past 20-odd years (if you catch my drift?)

  • fmk

    interesting to see hain in one of the uk dailies today licking up to gordon brown. while the uk media may have mostly over-looked hain’s recent problems, he clearly isn’t taking any chances that his leader-in-waiting has failed to notice them.

  • Yokel

    As this enquiry gets underway I think it will dawn on the Westminster types that the allegtions are serious. I would estimate they are enough to put a halt to his deputy leadership chances.

    I think Peter has a bit of a cheek talking about victims having been forgotten. Yes they have but part of that is the governments willingness to forget them. Side deals, whether with the DUP or the Shinners are not good idea.

  • seabhac siúlach

    “…a tiny handful of cases being pushed assiduously by a single political interest – and almost all of them nationalist. ”

    What is this about being pushed by a single political interest? Is this not an unfair thing to say, e.g., about the Finucane family, etc.?
    What political interest is at play there, merely an attempt to get justice…
    What political interest is being pushed by the family of Billy Wright, as another example from the loyalist side?
    I suggest that the reason nationalists are the main ones seeking justice, is that they were generally on the receiving end of alleged collusion between the British govt. and loyalists, an unrecognised injustice and a crime still not officially acknowledged. There is the sense, therefore, that an injustice was done, not by paramilitaries alone, but by the government to its own citizens. Unionists may also attempt to seek justice for any perceived injustices, of course, but as, in their cases, many of these were due to republican paramilitaries (considered illegal under British law) acting independently then where is the injustice that can be investigated under law? The actions of the paramilitaries were already considered to be a crime…and many individuals spent time in prison as a result, etc…

  • Pete Baker

    Hmmm

    Hain’s still unapologetic and pointiing to the victims..

    He hasn’t read that memo yet, has he?

    Perhaps he will before the inquiry’s finished

  • Jocky

    Seabhac the key phrase is “relatively passive re-examination of either witnesses or evidence will provide any tangible justice for the broad sweep of victims”

    You quite stunning logic of “many of these were due to republican paramilitaries (considered illegal under British law) acting independently then where is the injustice that can be investigated under law?”

    The point is that there are many victims that have not recieved any justice. There a lot of people walking round N.I. that have comitted an awful lot of heinous crimes.

    It is not a matter of what you percieve as injustice. Was the implication intentional on your part or just a poor chice of wording?

  • Pete Baker

    One other thing, Mick

    “Some Westminster insiders Slugger has spoken to take the view that if this was a political decision, the Secretary of State was perfectly entitled to use his prerogative to break a deadlock that would almost certainly ensued.”

    Westminster insiders making excuses for the Secretary of State? Whatever next?

    But there’s no ‘if’ about his decision, the High Court ruling made that clear. There was no ‘deadlock’, because no procedure was followed.

    The High Court ruling, which has not be challenged, was that Peter Hain breached his Ministerial Code of Practice – ie whatever Westminster insiders might wish it to have said, the ruling is that he was not entitled to make the decision he made.

    The inquiry is into the attempt to cover it up, not that original breach.

  • Rory

    Seabhac Siulach well adresses the issues that arise from the, probably well founded perception, that these murders and their contrivance are largely pursued by voices from within the nationalist community. His point about the existing recognition of gullt, where the deaths were caused by paramilitaries from either side, is well taken and it seems to me only right that the emphasis for seeking the truth and eventually justice (though that hope must be small, UK governments are not known to be very big on justice) must concentrate on those murders were state collusion and/or participation is strongly suspected.

    In this regard it is clear that the majority of such victims were from the nationalist community but there are also cases from within the unionist community where this also applies – the case of Billy Wright to which he draws attention is perhaps the most glareing example. That said, it strikes me that, in this matter at least, there is a ground for co-operation and unity of purpose between those from both communities who wish the truth of state compliance in the murder of their family members to be uncovered and a reckoning to be made.

  • seabhac siúlach

    Jocky:
    “The point is that there are many victims that have not recieved any justice. There a lot of people walking round N.I. that have comitted an awful lot of heinous crimes. ”

    I am aware of this. However, I was answering specifically to Mick’s assertion that the majority of cases being persued are by nationalists. I see this as being due to a difference in the nature of the offence being investigated and the meaning of the word justice (or injustice). On the nationalist side there are strong suspicions of grave injustices being perpetrated by the British govt., either directly or by using loyalist proxies. This is an injustice as it was not acknowledged nor was there a police investigation or court case to assign guilt, etc. This is orders of magnitude greater in importance (dealing with a govt. acting outside its own laws to murder its own citizens) than the fact that republicans, already acknowledged to be illegal under British law, committed ‘crimes’. If these republicans were not caught, convicted for the actions it is the fault of the police, possibly due to a lack of evidence, etc. However, if the police attempted to obtain a conviction, opened a case, then justice was attempted and was seen to be done. To prove injustice in the cases would be to show that the cases had not been investigated, no cases opened, or a block was put on investigating them (as in the cases of collusion that nationalist families want investigated). Is there evidence of deliberate police inaction in investigating the majority of the incidents in which republicans were involved? If so, there was injustice, if not, merely police incompetence/inability to obtain a prosecution…

  • Jocky

    Rory “seems to me only right that the emphasis for seeking the truth and eventually justice (though that hope must be small, UK governments are not known to be very big on justice) must concentrate on those murders were state collusion and/or participation is strongly suspected”

    Is that cause you have an axe to grind with the government? Is this the new hierachy of victims then?

    So what happens to all the other victims, they get lumped into the “not important cursor glance file” so is this about truth and justic for all or what?

    In a perfect world there would be a crack CSI team pouring over each and ever case, new evidence, reinterviewing suspects, hell maybe a few folk might actually find a conscience and fess up. But that aint going to happen.

    So what do you do? waste a whole load of time, money and effort on more Bloody Sunday enquires, 300m here and billion there, that might cover it and what do you get for that money?

    Read an article on Vietnam the other day, where they said basically anyone under the age of 30 doesn’t want to even talk about the war, they are not interested in the who, what, why, where’s, all they want is get on with their lives. Which, to me, looks like the best option for them and possibly N.I. too.

  • heck

    given that “westminster insiders” have not held Honest Tony to account for his lies to parliament which lead to the deaths of 650000 people the hope that “westminster insiders” will hold Hain to account for his lies to a paddy court is a joke.

    Jockey

    The 300m spent on the bloody sunday inquiry is a red herring. (And I think you know it!) If Honest Tony wanted to find out about collusion he could call General Gordon Kerr, along with the head of british intelligence, into his office and ask them. They work for him!! And if they refuse to tell him sack them. Then he can make a statement to parliament.

    If you are worried about the cost I will pay the taxi fare from MOD to Downing Street.

  • The fresh air at Bawdsey’s jolly bracing at this time of year – all those artic winds sweeping straight over the North Sea.

  • idunnomeself

    SS

    You said that nationalists rather than unionists were on the receiving end of most injustice due to State collusion.

    I wouldn’t agree

    Take Mount Vernon UVF. They were allowed to commit whatever fraud and crimes they wanted, including beatings, robbery, extortion and goodness knows what else on that community. Many of them were untouchable because they provided intelligence.

    And who did that intelligence benefit? Not the loyalists residents of Mount Vernon, rather the Nationalist communities when loyalist attacks were frustrated because of the information they supplied

    Would you agree?

  • aquifer

    The central point is that militant irish separatists highlight notable examples of their victimhood to extend their historic narrative of being oppressed into the present, obliging the major power, the UK, to compensate them with more power today. It is also done as a way of excusing a murderous and actually futile campaign of militarist avant-gardism.

    Other innocent victims lived outside a political narrative and feel no need to bring their suffering into a politicised public domain, where their human suffering would be devalued as being politically irrelevant, or else used for political purposes beyond their control.

    Unionists are uncomfortable with victimhood as demonstrating loss of supremacy and as showing weakness in the face of attack, and disregard its media value in challenging the prevailing irish separatist narrative.

    After all, collusion, or illegal conspiracy to murder, was the IRA’s rule, not the exception.

  • kemsei

    I’m sorry, the IRA colluded with the government? I must have misse that one, where is your evidence?

    And surely, surely you aren’t pursing the argument of the IRA did, so it was ok for the British Government to?

    Oh, and drop the “separatist” nonsense. Othwerwise we’ll have to label you all “colonists” and really we’ll get nowhere.

  • Binman

    The word VICTIM has many percieved meanings. dependiong on what side of the community you come from and how you percieve this word or how well the political representatives see this. I know Sinn Fein always come up with the There is no heirarcy of Victims etc, but what do they mean by this rather brash statement as this has never been explained fully. Does this mean that any terrorist who waas killed while going about an act of terrorism. Is this what Sinn Fein see as a Victim. We are all Victims in one way or another, but some have been more a Victim than orters and the sooner a defination for THE INNOCENT vICTIMS OF THE TROUBLES regardless of who the perpatrators were (republican, loyalist, police / army) then the sooner Victims will maybe begin to move on.

    I dissagree with this rather brash statement How cant a terrorist who was killed while out to take innocent lives be termed a Victim, and yet the Innocent people who were killed or injured due to terrorist activity being ignored by Sinn Fein. Sinn Fein refused to endorse the Rights, Equality, Safeguards and Victims proposals in The Programme for Government see http://www.niassembly.gov.uk/theassembly/CPFG/CPFG_Reports/report_rights_safes_equalissues_victims.pdf
    Is this what Sinn Fein mean that there should be no heirarcy of Victims?

    Mr Hain (Peter the Arrogant Pain) is right in one thing he said and that was that The British Government had ignored Victims Issues.

    Victims Issues should be fully dealt with now as soon as The Intrim Victims Commissions Report is published, as these people have suffered enough through out the years.

  • Greenflag

    In World War 1 10% of those who died were civilians . In World War 2 it was 50% civilians who died . In Vietnam it was 80% civilian deaths . I don’t know the percentage in NI civilians probably account for 50% ?

    In Iraq it’s again 80% civilian deaths. Of those deaths one third are children .

    When a modern nation goes to war civilians are killed in large numbers . Maybe the answer is to have no war or if we are to have wars ask the generals, politicians, Paisley’s , Adams and paramilitary leaders to go to the front line .

    The rest of meanwhile can sit back in our armchairs and watch the bastards kill each other for whatever cock eyed gobshittery they believe in ?

    Sorry it was just a dream .

    When everybody is a victim nobody is a victim . In NI everybody is a victim sooner or later. The very State itself is a victim of the decline of and fall of the British Empire and perhaps in the not too distant future the break up of the British State such as it is .

  • Garcia

    Think a lot of people are getting their knickers a bit too twisted about this victims commissioner carry on.

    Fact is, she was appointed as ‘Interim Victims Commissioner’ ahead of legislation to actually creat the post proper. It was not a formal public appointment, no such position of Victims Commissioner actually exists, or exisited, in legislation at the time she was appointed. Rather, she was appointed ahead of the formal creation & appointment of’Victims Commissioner’. She was to and is, reviewing the role of what the full-time incumbant will be while looking after some victims issues in the meantime. See the not-so-subtle difference there? Perhaps those with an axe to grind don’t want to. ALL quarters were demanding such a person / post, now the post has been created, all those with a political agenda sh*t themselves because they believe some rules havent been followed in the appointment of someone to see that it becomes a reality. It happens all the time, Patten? Quigley? Burns? Lyons? All political appointments. We know the real motives here so dry them…please.

    And to those using their ‘victimhood’ status to make political points? Cut it out, we’re not that thick. Some 1980’s provo rioter getting a baton round in the nut does not inspire any sympathy on my part. Nor does any other active terrorist unexpectedly meeting the end he intended for many others. Sorry.

    The Sec of State for Wales etc says he has nothing to fear from the inquiry, I suspect, for once, he is right on this occasion.

  • Mick Fealty

    That’s very interesting Garcia. If you are right, do Mr Jusice Girvan’s 67 questions still stand? And where would it leave the alleged irregularity of the letter of 5 January 2006?

  • Pete Baker

    The inquiry, as you imply, Mick, isn’t into the appointment, which the NIO attempted to defend by arguing that they had, actually, followed the formal appointments procedure – despite Garcia’s argument that such a procedure didn’t apply to the appointment.

    The 67 questions and the inquiry are to ascertain whether Peter Hain and/or the senior civil servants deliberately attempted to pervert the course of justice during the review.

    The original judgement, still unchallenged by Peter Hain, was that he breached his Ministerial Code of Practice and failed in his duty of candour to the court.

  • Garcia

    We’ll see chaps. The 67 Q’s will be answered, i’m sure. Can’t see a head on the block as a result of this one though. Perm Sec of the NIO and Head of the Civil Service, plus Sec of State for Wales etc? All at once? Do you seriously think they deliberately set out to mislead and by implication, conspired to mislead? We can dream that is the case but I can’t bring myself to fall for such political agitiation. As tempting as it may be.

    The Ministerial code of conduct certainly won’t be invoked for sure, not a lot in there dictates HOW EXACTLY to appoint, just (as applies to this case) that those appointments with significant local interest should be cleared with the PM and the Chief Whip etc. Mr Blair would certainly have been aware of Ms McDougall’s appointment in advance. That being the case…..Hain fufilled his obligations. Why just go for him and not the PM?

    Anyway, will await the reply to Mr J Girvan with interest. Think he’s barking up the wrong one though…. IMHO.

  • Pete Baker

    Despite the comments about “political agitation”, “axe to grind” and “political agenda”.. we’ve actually been sticking fairly closely to the court rulings, Garcia.

    The terms of the inquiry will be worth watching closely – it was called to address issues subsequent to the appointment itself.

    And Peter Hain has been invited by Mr Justice Girvan to appeal the original ruling of the review if he believes it to be wrong in law – which would seem to be your line of argument, Garcia. Btw the Ministerial Code of Practice has already been invoked in that original ruling.

    Conclusions

    [59] The appointment of Mrs McDougall

    (a) breached section 76 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998;

    (b) being in breach of the accepted merit norms applicable to public appointments and in breach of the Ministerial Code of Practice in the circumstances the appointment, was in breach of the power of appointment under the Royal Prerogative;

    (c) was motivated by an improper purpose, being motivated by a political purpose ( so called confidence building) which could not be legitimately pursued at the expense of complying with the proper norms of public appointments where merit is the overriding consideration; and

    (d) failed to take account of the fact that there was no evidential basis for concluding that the appointee would command cross-community support.

    If he’s wrong in law I’d expect Peter Hain to appeal the decision.

    Additionally,

    In adopting the course that was followed starting with the letter 0f 5th January 2006 and continuing up until the filing of Mr Phillips’ affidavit and the concession made to the court that the letter was misleading the respondent failed in his duty of candour to the court.

    It’s after that that we get to the 67 questions and the inquiry.

  • Garcia

    Pete.

    All fair points very well made, as usual.

    Seriously all academic though IMO. Not dodging your points, honestly. Not dodging anyone else’s either. But Sec of State, HOCS and Mr Phillips, in one go? On points of law, investigated by the AG? Seems to me a waste of time & effort – and they have a position very easily argued by their press offices in the meantime. Really….’this was for the victims’ etc etc. Notable line to expect methinks…

    Like I said, we will see. Think this is a non-runner myself though. Even after the AG has got into the detail law of Mr J Girvans Qs…and ignored every one of them. Believe me, it’ll be put down as a temp appointment. The 67 Qs wont apply. Geddit?

    Take it easy
    Garcia.

  • dpef

    I’m more interested in Mrs McDougal’s report.

    If her appointment was illegitimate and unacceptable, regardless of her own personal attributes, then her report should surely be considered as equally flawed.

    How can an illegitimate Commissioner’s report be considered legitimate?

    I bet it takes another judicial review to get her forthcoming report rejected, one that people will be forced to deceive over again.

    This woman’s report cannot be the basis of victim legislation. This woman can’t even have a legitimate role in canteen choices.

    If her appointment is illegal, her findings are worthless.

    Back to the drawing board.

    (this DUP sop may cost a lot to fix, it needs fixed. It’s illegal)

  • Pete Baker

    Well, Garcia, academic is what I do.. some would say pedantry.. but I don’t pay them too much attention ;o)

    The ‘who will think of the victims’ line has been repeatedly made already.. but it’s an excuse, not an argument.

    And the AG may well not want to pursue the line of argument as set out by Mr Justice Girvan – given the route of his arrival in his position – and he may well say it was only a temporary appointment.

    But, as I’ve pointed out, the inquiry was not called into the appointment – it was called to investigate the lack of candour to the court.

    In any event we await the terms of that inquiry.. and, potentially, Mr Justice Girvan’s response to those terms.

    Meanwhile, the original ruling stands.

  • Joe Public

    If Mr Hain who now admits that victims have been left out out of the process had read The Good Friday Agreement he would have know that Victims were supposed to have been part of the process. It shows the arrogance and contempt that the British Government have been towards Victims of The Troubles.

    Mr Hain should how address this and I agree with binman(16) tyhat Mr Hain should address this as soon as The Interim Victims Commissioners Report is published. The Government have ignored The Bloomfield & NI Affairs Committee’s Reports.