“The law says I give it. All my legal advice is that I have no alternative..”

A Guardian report of an interview with Chief Constable Hugh Orde points to a possible clash with judges involved in the public inquiries, but his comments also have implications for any attempt at a full extraction of the poison from the system.. and for the Eames/Bradley group’s consultations.

In an interview with the Guardian, Sir Hugh said he believed the release of the identities of informants during imminent public inquiries could lead to people being killed and have a direct impact on the fight against international terrorism. “If someone is thinking of informing and then they see that in 10 or 15 years’ time their names will be published they are not likely to want to do it.” Last year the Sinn Féin official Denis Donaldson, who worked for special branch, was shot dead at a remote cottage in County Donegal.

The Guardian report also includes these quotes from the Chief Constable

“The legislation gives [these inquiries] huge powers to demand anything and everything and then to decide on relevance,” Sir Hugh said. “There are professional issues around the conflict between the powers of the inquiries and, for example, my obligations under article 2, section 29, of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act about protecting the identity of informants.

“Who is going to be an informer on anything – look at the international terrorism connection in the UK now – if it’s clear that five years down the line, 10 years down the line, 15 years down the line an inquiry can demand all that information from me and I can’t protect him?” Sir Hugh said he could not withhold documents under the inquiries act but he was discussing with lawyers the use of public interest immunity certificates preventing the disclosure of evidence leading to identities being revealed.

“The law says I give it. All my legal advice is that I have no alternative … That has national and international implications.”