Sinn Féin: Hyde Park bomb charges “vindictive, unnecessary and unhelpful”

Reports that John Anthony Downey, 61, from County Donegal, has been charged with the murder of four members of the Royal Household Cavalry in the 1982 Provisional IRA bombing in Hyde Park, London – he was arrested on Sunday at Gatwick Airport – has prompted a statement from Sinn Féin’s Gerry Kelly, MLA and member of the Northern Ireland Policing Board.  From the Sinn Féin statement [added emphasis throughout]

[Gerry Kelly] “John Downey is a member of Sinn Féin and a long time supporter of the Peace Process. The decision to arrest and charge him in relation to IRA activities in the early 1980s is vindictive, unnecessary and unhelpful. It will cause anger within the Republican community.

“Clearly if John Downey had been arrested and convicted previously he would have been released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

As part of the Weston Park negotiation the British Government committed to resolving the position of OTRs. John Downey received a letter from the NIO in 2007 stating that he was not wanted by the PSNI or any British Police Force. Despite travelling to England on many occasions now six years on he finds himself before the courts on these historic charges.

“This development represents bad faith and a departure from what was previously agreed by both governments.

“John Downey needs to be released and allowed to return home to his family.”

[They’re not listening, are they? – Ed]  Indeed.

As for those on-the-run…  the Irish Government has repeatedly reminded his party colleagues in the Dáil that

Proposed draft legislation by the British Government to deal with this specific issue as referred to in paragraph 20 of the Weston Park accord was formally withdrawn by the then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Peter Hain MP, on 11 January 2006. The draft legislation, the Northern Ireland (Offences) Bill, had been opposed by the majority of the Northern Ireland Assembly parties and the Secretary of State was compelled to withdraw the legislation when the only supporting party, Sinn Féin, could not accept certain aspects of the proposed legislation. [added emphasis]

And if Gerry Kelly doesn’t remember that, he should ask Conor Murphy, MP.  I believe he was there at the time.  [Or Gerry McGeough? – Ed]  Indeed.

…Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan pointed to legal authorities which set out that an abuse of process depended on an unequivocal guarantee of immunity being given by those bringing the criminal case.

“We do not consider that the evidence indicates any basis for the conclusion that Mr Kelly was a representative of those responsible for the conduct of the investigation or prosecutions,” the judge said.

“We further agree that in any event the statement attributed to Mr Kelly, who did not give evidence, did not contain any representation, never mind one which could be said to be unequivocal for the purpose of this test.”

From today’s BBC report

Sue Hemming, head of special crime and counter-terrorism at the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “The Metropolitan Police Service has been investigating the explosion near Hyde Park in London which occurred on 20 July 1982.

“We have reviewed the evidence gathered and authorised them to charge John Anthony Downey, 61, of County Donegal, Ireland.

“It is alleged that Downey is responsible for the improvised explosive device contained in a car parked in South Carriage Drive, SW1, London, which resulted in the deaths of four members of the Household Cavalry, Blues and Royals, as they travelled on their daily route from their barracks to Buckingham Palace.”

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  • GavBelfast

    “…. vindictive, unnecessary and unhelpful ….”

    Sums-up ALL of the armed campaigns of violence during The Troubles rather well, doesn’t it?

  • ArdoyneUnionist

    You know Gerry “so what”!!!

  • Ulster Press Centre

    Will be interesting to see which side of the debate the SDLP end up on here.

    Given their recent support for brainwashing children to idolise sectarian serial killers in Newry, taunting IRA victim, law abiding citizen and DUP councillor Sammy Brush in Dungannon and insulting every British citizen in the greater Belfast area by desecrating our national flag, I can only presume they will only again stand on the side of the religiously-motivated lawbreakers – and not with the IRA’s victims.

    Come on Conall – where are ya???

  • Mick Fealty

    Focus on the story guys?

  • Reader

    There was no amnesty in the GFA
    There was no amnesty in the StAA
    Third time lucky?

  • cynic2

    Didn’t SF oppose an amnesty because

    1 they wanted to milk as much as they could from Bloody Sunday Collusion etc

    2 they already had secret little pardons in their hip pockets for ‘those who really matter’ in the movement

    As in the Hunger Strikes the rest of the followers can go hang

  • iluvni

    Personally, I’ve had a gutfull of hearing Gerry Kelly whining. I care little of what he or his blood soaked colleagues have to say. If there’s a case against Downey, get him to court to answer it.

  • sherdy

    The British government know the identities of all those of their own soldiers who murdered 14 innocent people on Bloody Sunday in Derry.
    When will they, or their agents in the PSNI, arrest them and charge them with murder?
    Even PM Cameron has accepted their guilt.

  • Morpheus

    Every single family deserves justice – if the police feel that Downey has a case to answer then get him in front a judge/jury and if found guilty let him suffer the consequences of his actions. The same goes for any other crime that was a result of Republican/State/Loyalist violence.

  • son of sam

    Time for a “spontaneous ” protest by outraged Sinn Fein members in London!Except that ,given the events today,this might not be the best of times to remind Londoners of previous terrorist happenings.It will be interesting to see if light emerges at the trial on any side deals between the British Government and Sinn Fein.

  • keano10

    Pete,

    Firstly on a general point – It’s about time now that you ceased supplementing every comment or quote that you make with imaginary endorsements from “Ed”. You have previously admitted that “Ed” is actually yourself using a bit of diplomatic licence but to be honest, it has become really boring and pointless.

    All of us who blog or post on Slugger are open to our opinions being ripped to pieces by other contributors. That’s the nature of any form. We are all fair game and so it should be.

    Anyway, on to the point. Gerry Kelly’s quote in relation to what was said to The Weston Park Agreement & the subsequent letter to John Downey is surely highly relevant. Whatever he is alleged to have done, it seems clear that the British Government has reneged on a commitment made during crucial negotiations. If one cannot fulfill a commitment then dont make one…

    There is considerable potential for destabilisation in such cases and it cannot be trivialised.

  • son of sam

    Keano10
    “There is considerable potential for destabilisation in such cases” Please elaborate .

  • There is a depressing recital of unsolved UK murders on wikipedia.. It is prefaced:

    “This is an incomplete list of unsolved known murders in the UK. Victims believed to have been murdered by the same perpetrator(s) are grouped together. This does not include the 1,500 unsolved murders in Northern Ireland during the Troubles.”

    Fifteen hundred.

    No crime should go unsolved because it goes uninvestigated. There should be no unofficial statute of limitations for reasons of political convenience.

    Arguing my case here is likely a “no win” situation. To some, it must prove me a bigot. However, all terrorist bombings are nasty. Using IEDs in public places, among civilians, is particularly despicable. Indefensible. Intolerable. Indefensible. Unforgivable. Be it in Belfast, London, Beirut, or Baghdad.

    It is killing for its own sake.

    Here we have a suspect — not yet arraigned, we don’t know the precise charges, or whether he will in fact be brought to full trial, let alone convicted. He is, as I say, just a suspect.

    All that aside, if Mr Downey had a “past”, and knowing how passenger lists are scrutinised, his picnic must lack the odd sandwich to book himself through Gatwick. Wasn’t that — as far back as 1968 — how James Earl Ray was nabbed at Heathrow?

  • ArdoyneUnionist

    Hold on here keano10 did the shinners not say they were signing up to the rule of law and policing yet a bar full of shinners and provos cleaned up after they killed Robert McCartney, so there could be no evidence!!!

    Did they not renege on their commitment to law and order when they did not get the guilty to come forward for the murder or Robert McCartney???

  • Granni Trixie

    OTRs are a bit of unfinished business since the GFA. I suspect that this mans case is a trial run for OTRs. For people like Rita O’hare who wants back home,I believe. F

  • Pete Baker

    “Anyway, on to the point.”

    Keano

    “it seems clear that the British Government has reneged on a commitment made during crucial negotiations”

    Did you miss the point at which Sinn Féin dropped their support for the legislation to enact any private deal between themselves and the UK Government? The Irish Government didn’t.

    As for Gerry Kelly’s “letter from the NIO in 2007 stating that he [John Downey] was not wanted by the PSNI or any British Police Force”.

    Look closely at Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan ruling in Gerry McGeough’s appeal in which he pointed to legal authorities which set out that an abuse of process depended on an unequivocal guarantee of immunity being given by those bringing the criminal case.

    Assuming that Gerry Kelly is not being disingenuous about the letter, bear with me, and setting aside the fact that the NIO is not representative of those responsible for the conduct of the investigation or prosecutions – that would be the Metropolitan Police and the Crown Prosecution Service – not being “wanted by the PSNI or any British Police Force” in 2007 doesn’t mean that any individual might not be wanted at some point in the future.

    After the Met had “reviewed the evidence gathered”, for example…

  • Pete Baker

    Granni Trixie

    If there was a “trial run”, it was surely Gerry McGeough…

  • Neil

    That was a revocation of license no? So completely different. If convicted it’s two years under the GFA. Not indefinitely at the whim of a Tory SoS.

  • Neil

    OK my mistake, exactly the same then.

  • Mick Fealty

    That exchange between Micheal Martin and Deputy Adams (http://goo.gl/YZtpJ):

    I support the PSNI but Sinn Féin picketed a PSNI office because it did not like who it arrested. [emphasis added]

    Gerry Adams (Louth, Sinn Fein) We are entitled to do that.

    Micheál Martin I do not think you are.

    Gerry Adams Yes, we are.

    Micheál Martin If Sinn Féin members are on the Executive and the policing boards, they undermine the authority of the PSNI if they question its operational decisions on who to arrest or which crimes to pursue. That is fundamentally wrong and Sinn Féin does not enjoy that luxury.

    Gerry Adams: It is not a luxury; it is a right.

    Micheál Martin: Parties in government do not enjoy that right. Sinn Féin cannot have it every way all of the time.

    Gerry Adams: The PSNI has to be accountable.

    Micheál Martin: It is accountable through the structures created under the Patten reforms. That is why people sit on the policing boards. There is accountability through the boards. Various communities and political parties, including Sinn Féin, have representatives on the policing boards. There is a line of accountability but, unfortunately, there is a grave danger that policing in the North will be compromised because of this activity. A pattern has emerged whereby there are protests when arrests happen in loyalist areas. People can switch on riots if they do not like who is being arrested. People cannot condemn that kind of activity on the one hand while deciding to mount pickets on the other.

    Gerry Adams: Rioting and peaceful picketing are distinct activities.

    Micheál Martin: It increases tensions, inflames opinion and undermines the authority of the PSNI. No institution is perfect but the PSNI represents one of the better transformations or new departures to have emanated from the Good Friday Agreement. The work done by Chris Patten and everybody else has been held up as a model for policing in conflict areas. All parties should be extremely careful that nothing is done to undermine that transformation. By all means we should enhance it but let us not play to all bases all of the time. The problem in Northern politics is that the main parties play to their electoral bases to the detriment of the common good on social, economic and political issues.

  • Pete Baker

    Neil

    “OK my mistake, exactly the same then.”

    Indeed.

  • sonofstrongbow

    So Sinn Fein (Leave Ourselves Alone copper) yet again illustrate that their ‘support’ for law and order is (very very) conditional.

    Expect lots of whataboutery/threat to the ‘peace process’ verbiage to be fired at the media. However I don’t expect a picket outside Paddington Green police station.

    Amusingly the Shinners own deluded self regard comes out when they reference membership of Sinn Fein, and of course support for the said ‘peace process’, as a mark of an individual’s bona fides (perhaps more of the ‘Republicans can’t be criminals’ thinking).

    Maybe the Shinners should issue ‘Party’ membership cards to its followers to flash at the polis when they come a calling? I’m sure there must be some historical precedent somewhere in the world where some other political Party members were out of reach of the long arm of the law? I’m equally sure there’s some NIO apparatchik that would be more than willing to lobby government on the Shinners’ behalf.

  • tuatha

    Gerry Adams: Rioting and peaceful picketing are distinct activities. as are bombing civilians.
    As GavBelfast wrote – sez it all, really.