John Hume and Raytheon’s dodgy comms strategy…

Nice piece of FOI work by the Londonderry Sentinel, which has the notes by then DETI minister Ian Pearson on John Hume’s view re bringing the controversial (and loss making) Raytheon plant to Derry:

“He would like the company to emphasise that its software helps to protect people (whether through having good air traffic controls systems or in radar work etc), not kill people. In addition, he suggested that in describing the work in a public arena reference should be made to government contracts, rather than MoD contracts, since the latter can be emotive. He undertook to update his colleagues, including Mark Durkan, on the meetings and he would work behind the scenes to get support for the company.
“The company were content with the outcome of the meeting and advised John Hume that they would be moving forward with gaining certification to undertake additional government (MoD) work. They undertook to keep in touch with John Hume’s office…by providing updates.”

Hume disputes the obvious implications of Pearson’s internal report… In fact the paper carries a lengthy rebuttal:

“The memo obtained by the Sentinel was not an agreed minute of a briefing which was provided by Invest NI in respect of Raytheon in 2003 and the SDLP does not accept its contents as an accurate reflection of the meeting.
“John Hume as the then MP did not indicate that he was content with Raytheon exploring defence options for Derry and in no way advised Invest NI or the company to present any such activities in any particular way. In fact, the briefing was provided as John had made clear that he would not support development of products that were not designed to protect people.
“While John and Mark Durkan did not discuss this particular meeting, their discussions about Raytheon around that time adhered to the party stance and there was no question of any SDLP representative working either behind the scenes or publicly for a change in approach to Raytheon. The party has at all times maintained exactly the same stance on this matter in public and in private, as the public would expect. In fact, Mark Durkan as party leader and councillors discussed this issue when it came to council and they reinforced the party’s consistent position.
“That position was and remains that the welcome expressed by council when Raytheon came to the city was contingent on civilian applications being its work, and that if that changed then the welcome position would change. At any further meetings with Raytheon the party also made clear its position in respect of development of systems in Derry which were not designed for civilian use.”

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty