AG Statement: No tools for bringing to account those who have committed offences against the state…

Interesting intervention from the Attorney General who calls for an end to any investigations into the troubles related offences before the signing of the Good Friday Agreement. As RTE News notes he also highlighted the fact that the post GFA deal effectively buried a huge tranche of evidence of paramilitary murders:

He said part of the weapons decommissioning deal was that no forensic evidence was gathered when guns were being put beyond use.
He said no forensic evidence can be gathered if information is provided that allows the recovery of the remains of The Disappeared.

And the BBC quotes the man himself:

At present we have very good tools, subject to the point I’ve made about the passage of time, for critiquing the state, but we don’t have them for bringing to account those who have committed offences against the state.”

And on victims:

“At the same time, individual families should be facilitated in their access to documents and archives that the state holds, so that they and historians and journalists who are interested in these issues can find out more than may be possible at present.
“I think that’s an important part of that. I’m not in favour of any particular institution … but that families individually be assisted through the opening up of archives and records to a possibly greater extent than is currently possible.”

Updated with Vincent Kearney’s interview with the Attorney General John Larkin from Good Morning Ulster and some of the responses.


  • Dec

    ‘At present we have very good tools, subject to the point I’ve made about the passage of time, for critiquing the state’

    Larkin would be hilarious if this wasn’t so serious. He should try attending the inquest into the murder of Roseanne Mallon where doctor’s lines are now being produced by RUC detectives to avoid attendance and MOD files still haven’t being handed over.

  • Brian Walker

    Unionist critics should try to grasp the fact that this is about disclosure not cover up. For as long as there’s a chance of prosecutions, we will not be able to know for sure what the provos did or had done to them. The route of viable prosecutions is running out, says a lawyer who should know..

    What have we got to lose?

    No one expects a rash of confessions if you truly want find out more of what happened and why, the archives must be laid open for scrutiny. As identities will have to be protected, that would raise many questions about the terms for access. But at least it would be a constructive debate.

    Let’s have some genuine debate and not angry knee jerk reactions.

  • Updated with some of the interviews from GMU.

  • Turgon

    Brian Walker,
    “What have we got to lose?”

    Well Brian Walker may have very little to lose. However, in terms of justice whataboutery is appropriate. What have the victims’ relatives to lose? Any chance of seeing the murderer of their loved one brought to justice. The chance that the IRA UVF (or security force) murderer gets sentenced to gaol. The satisfaction of that – justice is what they have to lose. I know of no relatives or victims who support an amnesty.

    We as a society have much to lose. This would be the formal open and complete suspension of the rule of law. Society requires the rule of law and this would be an awful precedent. The current “constructive ambugity” may make these prospects remote but formally to abandon the rule of law is perverse. Further to abandon it only for certain crimes is especially perverse. Was Jennifer Cardy’s life worth more than Kathryn eakin’s or does Walker oppose the prosecution of Robert Black – after all he was already in gaol and his prosecution might be claimed to have achieved little in the sort of utilitarian dystopia such a concept imagines.

    Furthermore for the vast majority of us who bear absolutely no responsibility of guilt it would dishonour our honor decency and uprightness throughout the Troubles. We did nothing wrong. We conducted the debate, argument and “conflict” without any resort to violence.

    Next we did not vote for such a decision. Had an amnesty been proposed it is likely the Agreement would have been rejected. If we want an official amnesty we should ahve a referrendum on it as it would be a fundamental change to the Belfast Agreement.

    The groups who would gain of course are the terrorists who would no longer have the propsect however remote of being convicted and having that Maghaberry cell door close on them. I for one would rather not give them that gain.

    The reality is that society opposes an anmesty and the likes of the Larkin and Brian Walker stand on politically very narrow and morally utterly shaky grounds with such suggestions.

  • cynic2

    Clearly this is part of the choreography.

    There are two options

    1 the AG is on a flyer – given his past history that’s perfectly possible

    2 a cozy little deal is being done under the counter at Haass and the AG is out helpfully helping prepare the ground.

    Strange that the Shinners seem so quiet. In the past it was them who opposed this. Now that some senior Shinner figures may be limping into the frame they go quiet. What a shame for them that Jean McConville was murdered in Ireland where prosecutions might still be possible

    If I was a victim I would be very worried. I will soon be consulted, supported, venerated then told to go away.

  • Neil

    No one’s saying this is a decision for victims Turgon. They will undoubtedly be the most affected by any decision such as this, but they make up a tiny proportion of the population, maybe 2% overall. The 98% of us who didn’t have a close relative murdered (thank God) also get a say.

    It’s a very important topic for everyone, and I think when it comes to decisions of such importance the most emotionally involved people in the debate are not generally the ones to be relied upon. Many of them, rightly and understandably, do not have the best interests of society at heart, rather as you say they want justice (even if that is only two years) and would be happy for us all to suffer any consequence to get that justice.

    Boiled down: the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.

  • Turgon

    We are in complete disagreement and agreement.

    I disagree profoundly that it is for the good of society that we should have an amnesty. I also believe it would be a complete subversion of the democratic process and the rule of law as the basis of a democratic society

    However, you are completely correct that the argument is a needs of the many vs the few that the supporters are actually making. You have the moral and intellectual honesty to say that the victims are to be ignored. [Text removed – Mods]

  • Dec


    The idea that Larkin is, to use the Jazz vernacular, free-forming here is fanciful. Remind me, who employs him again? As I’ve hinted above, his position, that the state is disadvantaged, when it comes to truth recovery, is nonsense.

    ‘I’m not in favour of any particular institution ‘

    Someone should tell his employers.

  • nickbt9

    This is a very difficult issue, and one which needs to be publicly debated, but it was surely inappropriate for the Attorney General, of all people to raise it. He is not a politician and should steer well clear of political comments. His principal role, as he has often pointed out himself, is to uphold the rule of law. One of his statutory functions is to decide whether to direct coroners to hold fresh inquests in old cases. He has already done so on several occasions in pre-1998 cases related to the troubles. Is he now saying that, having decided to direct inquests to be held, that they should not now be held? I fear he may have rather compromised his position by his comments today.

  • Turgon

    You may well be correct. However, Larkin has a history of bizarre outbursts for someone in his position – see the episode about abortion.

    There is a middle way between the solo run and the choreographed conspiracy. Larkin clearly can see which way the wind is blowing re Haas which is in many ways re victims a rehash of Eames Bradley. Furthermore Larkin is clearly very fond both of the sound of his own voice and publicity. As such he may be rowing in behind what Haas will find and raising his own profile without having directly referenced OFMDFM etc.

    I suspect going forward Larkin has probably annoyed quite a few people with his approach (he is not the behind the scenes legal officer) and may be gradually making a pitch for some sort of “international Quango” or the like in the longer term. I doubt he will stay (or wishes to stay) AG in NI for ever. His behaviour reminds me in some ways of the way Hugh Orde conducted what was effectively a continuous public application process for Chief Constable of the Met.

  • Neil

    Wow, the Belfast Tele have some really quick typing journos. 5 articles on this topic on the website already?! I suspect cynic has called it, this looks like a bit of ground prep coming from the Haass talks.

  • Banjaxed

    Forget about Larkin. Imo, he is only the monkey. The organ grinder in this story is either the Stormont Executive or, in its financial overlord role, the Westminster government.

    Who has most to lose in the overall scheme of events? Given the recent exposés in Anne Cadwallader’s book ‘Lethal Allies’ on the depth of collusion in only ONE small county, more revelations – also in a recent book – by an ex-member of FRU on the actions carried out by a team of licenced assassins operating within a ‘no-questions-asked’ policy, a ‘not-so-veiled’ and deliberately vague threat from an ex-RUC association to name names (they do not say on which side), the ship of state is looking increasingly leaky as to how dirty the government’s hands actually were. They cannot sit on their grimey secrets forever if there are a lot of their former pointmen out there disillusioned by their subsequent treatment by state bodies.

    This is by no means minimising the actions of terrorists. They have nothing to lose. Human rights and the pursuit of justice should be the domain of a democratic government. So far, the UK government are not doing too well in this field the more the actions of their soldiers and police are exposed to public view. So, imo, they have more to lose on this aspect alone.

    However, leaving that to one side, there could be an even more cynical take on Larkin’s proposals. In today’s austerity-conscious world the number one mantra has become ‘follow-the money’. So, how many untold millions have the various enquiries, commissions and quangos set up to unearth the ‘truth’ (sic) cost the exchequer so far – with what result, to what end and ‘When are we gonna be there, Daddy?’ Time to trim the sails on the ship of state.

    As I intimated at the beginning, Mr Larkin may not only be flying his own kite here.

  • Framer

    John Larkin raised this possibility (‘Stays of prosecution’) at a conference in May run by QUB Transitional Justice Law Dept (Professor Kieran McEvoy) and Healing Through Remembering). The option of amnesty was the theme of the event.
    Perhaps he was so in tune with mood on the day nobody noticed or remembered.
    It is as plain as a pikestaff however that this is Larkin’s own proposal and not the Executive’s.

  • gapothenorth

    I don’t usually go for conspiracy theories since cock-up theory explains most things adequately, but there is something odd about Larkin’s approach. He did not merely raise the amnesty question which is worthy of discussion in its own right, but tagged on the idea that there should be no more troubles-related inquiries or even inquests. Why? Perhaps because amnesty would suit the Provos, but would not fly without a closedown of investigations, which would suit the Brits? Even that would not make it much of a conspiracy were it not for the timing. Amnesty and closedown are now officially on Haass’s desk, but have not been put there by Sinn Fein which released its general approach a day before. SF has form here – five years ago at the time of their last convergence of interests with the Brits they offered amnesties on collusion in return for a deal on their On-the-Runs.

  • Cynic2 [10.17] JL was only given the post of AG after it was established that he was a ‘castle catholic’ and after he had already ‘taken the soup’ as it were.He along with unionist politician want a hierarchy of victims despite their protests, it’s just that they want crimes committed by loyalists and the state to be kept under wraps and to hell with their victims.

  • BarneyT

    I think if Cameron rejects this, and does not legislate for an amnesty, then he should ensure his government cooperates fully with all enquiries that point the figure at the state. However, there is no acceptance from the state and I too include the Irish state to some degree, that they were involved in terrorism or at least in assisting and steering it.

    The clean slate option is perhaps the only way to go. I agree that prosecutions will be unsecured in many cases and there will be a mixed bag of results should we pursue investigations\prosecutions throughout. The wound will continue to fester in this case.

    I’ve said before that the British state needs to be pursued with vigour if they continue to regard this as a one-sided affair i.e. State V Baddies. We can all find atrocities throughout…as we can some small elements of justification for a campaign and a response.

    The need for justice or perhaps revenge is strong with many, and I hope the need for victim justice is provoking the Cameron response, but I doubt it.

    If we continue with the search for the truth via the investigative\enquiry\prosecution route, I firmly believe that the British State must be at the receiving end of a vigorous legal campaign, as they are the state, and as I’ve said in a previous post, the others have done exactly as it says on the tin and sadly we know where we all stand.

    “My son was killed by the IRA”. Anyone that falls into that category may not have justice, but at least they have some semblance of truth and they know were to point the finger with some level of assurance. They can also look at why the IRA emerged and hopefully now agree that we are looking towards a different future.

    “My son was killed by the UVF” …again we largely know why and who in this case…albeit basic responsive sectarianism. Killings at the hands of pro-British state factions do tend to lend themselves to accusations of British state involvement and collusion, however some form of answer and rationale can be extracted from these crimes too.

    As I say, both of the above did what they are prescribed to do. It’s not good, but it can be placed in some form of context.

    The state however, and I largely refer to the British state, do deserve the attention of the most enquiring and forensic international judicial minds and particularly in the absence of an amnesty.

    The amnesty, as painful as it might be, is the only way forward and it is the only way we can get most of the truth. I am assuming that the amnesty has been suggested to force the truth to come forward and will be coupled with an appropriate truth commission?

    An amnesty is likely to extract the truth from the paramilitaries and perhaps some retired British forces. Other servants of the state might come forward to help close some wounds.

    I’m not so sure about the British State Establishment exposing all of their deeds…amnesty or not. Perhaps they don’t see the relevance of the amnesty with regard to the state and its servants?

  • cynic2


    But wasn’t there even more collusion with PIRA?

  • cynic2

    “They can also look at why the IRA emerged and hopefully now agree that we are looking towards a different future.”

    In a series of power grabs by criminals and those keen to enforce their own views on others

  • carlota martinez

    Much prominence is being given to the PM’s robust assertion in the House that the Government has no plans to introduce legislation granting an amnesty. This pronouncement is accompanied by footage, on the lunchtime news, of Nigel Dodds looking grave and nodding sagely.

    John Larkin specifically stated that what he was proposing did not amount to an amnesty; why would the PM’s comment reassure anyone?

  • “No tools for bringing to account those who have committed offences against the state…”

    No? I expect Gerry McGeough will be surprised to hear that. Meanwhile we have 30 year inquests into sanctioned state killings in north Armagh and state forces dodging the inquest into the murder of a pensioner in east Tyrone.

  • Eames-Bradley was roundly rejected by most people, I believe. Larkin’s proposal should be treated as more of the same and should be rejected too.

  • looneygas


    “Furthermore for the vast majority of us who bear absolutely no responsibility of guilt it would dishonour our honor decency and uprightness throughout the Troubles. We did nothing wrong. We conducted the debate, argument and “conflict” without any resort to violence.”

    St. Peter has asked me to urge you to re-evaluate your assertions. He is worried about you.

  • Gopher

    “Let the dead bury the dead” I would be very much in favour to draw a line but with full understanding that it includes an end to civil compensation claims and inquiries as well pre 1998. Allowing that to continue would be unacceptable. If SF and the UVF are allowed to walk away financially unmolested the tax payer is entitled to that right also. For the victims perhaps a shrine of the victim by the unknown perpetrator.

  • Brian Walker

    The big question is whether justice for individual victims is now attainable in any numbers. If it were, this conversation would be redundant. But people are right to ask for informed estimates of the chances of future prosecutions from the authorities. This would emerge from an analysis of the the HET record (Anne Cadwallader’s source by the way) which has hitherto avoided public disclosure and from the DPP who is also required to consider the public interest.

    But there is another question. Should people blithely accept the verdicts of the HET and the Police Ombudsman? There is the approach of Amnesty international to replace the present “piecemeal approach” with an overarching body with strong investigative powers to bring forward prosecutions if the evidence is strong enough and to assess the claims of 300 cases of alleged unsafe convictions. Amnesty of course want even handed treatment but it’s not hard to guess who would be the net beneficiaries.

  • “What have the victims’ relatives to lose? Any chance of seeing the murderer of their loved one brought to justice. The chance that the IRA UVF (or security force) murderer gets sentenced to gaol. The satisfaction of that – justice is what they have to lose. I know of no relatives or victims who support an amnesty.”


    At most they can look forward to perpetrators being sentenced (because of the GFA amnesty) to two years in prison, which is not very much for murder. The relative satisfaction from that has to be weighed against the general societal interest in truth recovery.

  • Mick Fealty

    What we have here is a market full of sellers and no buyers… I’m afraid it back to the grind… at least when a politician lies they can be dealt with in the longer any the court of public opinion…

    But publicly suspending the law for a certain class of criminal offence for a ‘we’re telling you this is so…’ you cannot appeal or take further. It is as dead a duck as Mr A’s “Independent International Truth Recovery process…”

  • Morpheus

    “For the victims perhaps a shrine of the victim by the unknown perpetrator.”

    Excellent suggestion.

  • Turgon

    I cannot see how Peter has any significance or relevance to me in this regard. Unconditional Election and Perseverance of the Saints are the relevant concepts.

    I have guilt for many sins (Total Depravity). However, in the secular sense of guilt from the Troubles I have none same as the vast majority of people.

  • DoppiaVu

    I think that Larkin has probably got it right, unpalatable as it may be.

    He’s already pointed out the fact that the government was complicit in the destruction of evidence (paramilitary weapons). Perpetrators of heinous crimes have already been released early from prison. In the unlikely event that any were convicted in future, they would receive paltry sentences. He’s absolutely right that the logic of the settlement does lead in the direction of drawing a line under the past.

    And as I’ve posted before, the key players in NI’s recent history are never going to own up to the truth. If a fraction of the allegations levelled at Gerry Adams are true, he would be finished as a public figure. So he’s never going to own up to anything.

    And as for the UK & Irish Governments, does anyone seriously think they will ever give up their secrets? Particularly as we can be pretty confident that they are currently involved in covert activities against the dissidents? Does anyone seriously think they will risk exposing their techniques/personnel while they are still active?

    So whilst Larkin’s suggestion is pretty difficult to stomach…I’m struggling to see a more pragmatic solution.

  • Seamuscamp

    From a perpitrator’s point of view, an excellent suggestion; from the colluder’s point of view, even better; from a Utilitarian point of view, an obvious financial winner. But for the victims and their families and society’s values, a bowl of dry rusk.

    The terrible thing is not the suggestion, but the fact that it came from one whose brief is to consider Public Interest. Perhaps one day he will explain whom he thinks the Public are.

  • streetlegal

    This is very much a British Intelligence driven initiative, who have very astutely made use of Mr Larkin as a mouthpiece to bring this project into the public domain. It has the support of Matt Baggot, Martin McGuinness and the UDA and UVF commands.

  • Western Approaches

    “For the victims perhaps a shrine of the victim by the unknown perpetrator.”

    This is an idea with resonance. Shame can be a powerful motivator.

  • Cynic2[1.48] Possibly, but from memory of following news since the late 70s, collusion cases that kept being discussed, invariably involved loyalists and the RUC or army. I can’t think of one high profile case where the govt colluded with republicans except the glaring case of shielding the Claudy priest widely held culpable for the 1972 atrocity, by church and state with connivance of the RUC.

  • Alias

    The Security Services (the actual ‘government’ in that part of the United Kingdom) already decided that it wasn’t in the national interest to disclose their role and purpose in controlling the republican and loyalist murder gangs (not that it needed much deliberation). It’s simply a matter of leading the public to think that the decision was theirs, made in a manner of thie choosing, and that they made it in their collective interest.

  • Alias

    “I can’t think of one high profile case where the govt colluded with republicans…”

    The government doesn’t get involved in those decisions. However, the FRU colluded with PIRA’s ISU in the torture and murder 50 or so PIRA members. It was Mr Adams who appointed British agents to run the ISU and who kept and protected them for almost 20 years (when universal counterintelligence procedure is to change such people randomly in order to avoid the long-term infiltration that Mr Adams very helpfully engineered. Why no call for a public enquiry into that massive level of collusion?

  • Comrade Stalin

    Larkin has no business commenting on this matter in public. OFMDFM need to do something about this self-promoting loose cannon before his interference causes serious problems. If he wants to be a public figure with public political opinions, let him resign and stand for election and he can say whatever he wants. I’m sure NI21 would let him in.

    Regarding the point itself, this is a matter on which there is no consensus. Paramilitary figures are not going to admit to their past roles, even in exchange for an amnesty unless they face a real prospect of being jailed. Even then, they are probably reluctant to own up about what they did – whether it be through shame or guilt, or lack of empathy etc. For similar reasons the government is not going to prosecute it’s own soldiers, and unionist politicians are not going to admit to their roles in assisting or providing support to the UDA and UVF.

    Other places have had to deal with this. Germany has an issue about what to do with ex-Stasi agents. To my knowledge none of the agents who tortured thousands of political prisoners in the Hohenschönhausen prison have ever been brought to justice and are indeed probably still at large. These people killed people, destroyed families, and used medieval torture methods on those accused of relatively minor crimes such as republikflucht. This problem is not unique in Northern Ireland and we should not try to pretend that there is a simple or obvious solution to it.

    Regarding NI21, I think this shows that they are a party very much at the whim of Basil McCrea who reserves the right to shoot from the hip on any issue he chooses without consulting his own party. NI21’s blank policy cheque is being cashed by Basil and I suspect there will be NI21 members unhappy with the idea that door should simply be closed on victims.


    “Eames-Bradley was roundly rejected by most people, I believe. Larkin’s proposal should be treated as more of the same and should be rejected too.”

    Mister Joe

    I don’t recall most people being given the opportunity to roundly reject (or accept) Eames-Bradley. However I do recall that when people were given the opportunity to roundly reject or accept the proposals in the Belfast Agreement which allowed those convicted of terrorist offences out of jail after only two years (irrespective of how horrendous their crimes were), most people accepted them. Perhaps the people should be given the opportunity to formally reject or accept Larkin’s proposals rather than the politicians whose views do not necessarily reflect the opinions of most people.

  • Charles_Gould

    NI21 have supported this dreadful idea.

    I said yesterday they were weak on victims. They want victims to go away. This reinforces this view.

  • Charles_Gould

    Gone right off NI21 now.

  • I do add my name to the list of people wondering how John Larkin’s intervention and interviews falls into the Haass choreography. Encouraged to float the idea by Haass/O’Sullivan? Encouraged to float the idea by FM+dFM? Encouraged by the legal profession to publicly articulate the unpalatable reality that there won’t a lot of successful prosecutions? Or on a solo-run just-in-case the idea would float rather than sink?

  • Charles_Gould

    “Encouraged to float the idea by Haass/O’Sullivan? ”

    Possible, but it seems unlike Haass, from what we know of him.

    “Encouraged to float the idea by FM+dFM?”

    Neither would want this outcome.

    “Encouraged by the legal profession to publicly articulate the unpalatable reality that there won’t a lot of successful prosecutions?”

    Professions don’t exhort in this way.

    “Or on a solo-run just-in-case the idea would float rather than sink?”

    A solo run. He specialises in those.

  • Charles_Gould

    Larkin has controversial comments on Abortion recently.

  • Charles_Gould

    I want to hear more from the victims, all of them.

    Dame O’Loan has it right: there is a duty to prosecute.

    Loyalist, republican and state law-breakers must not be let off the hook.

    Forgetting the victims is not an option. We need to hear more from them, in all their diversity. I find that hearing the stories of the victims, hearing them talk to one another, is very inspiring. They should not be forgotten.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I don’t believe this is anything to do either with Haass or any other conspiracy. It’s a solo run – not for the first time, either.


    Charles, were the political parties who supported letting out of jail all those who had committed serious terrorist offences (providing they had served two years) back in 1998 also ‘weak on victims’? Please provide the reasoning for your answer if you can.

  • Charles_Gould

    Not Now John

    I think it *is* fair to say that the Agreement was weak on victims. It did not do much for them, and that is more apparent the more time passes.

    Regarding the early release of prisoners. That was hard on victims. But those people who were released had been found guilty, there was a form of judicial closure in the conviction, and the conviction and finding of the court was not undone by the release. The Agreement did not imply that future convictions should not be made.

  • Not Now John,

    I did qualify my statement by saying “I believe”. I live far away and rely for my information on various (mostly) N.I. sources. My recollection is that many individuals and organizations did clearly reject the Eames-Bradley recommendations and don’t remember anyone praising them.
    On the subject, I think that it is a dreadful insult to victims and families to say that we can’t afford the investigations. I had a close relative who was abducted, murdered and “disappeared (not “troubles” related) and I can tell you that healing does not come easily but conviction of the guilty does help.
    I don’t think that governments can rule via referenda.


    “It did not do much for them (victims), and that is more apparent the more time passes.”


    I understood that the GFA ultimately led to the establishment of the Commission for Victims and Survivors, the establishment of a Victims and Survivors Service, the establishment of the Historical Enquiries Team, a number of inquiries and the appointment of a dedicated Victims Commissioner. I’m also aware that some of those speaking today who claim to speak on behalf of victims appear to have rejected the proposal put forward by Larkin just as they rejected the Eames-Bradley proposal. Taking into account what has been put in place to help victims following the GFA and what it is that those claiming to speak on behalf of victims have subsequently rejected; can you tell me what it is it that those claiming to speak on behalf of victims actually want?

  • Not Now John,

    It’s quite simple; they want justice.Do you have a problem with that?

  • Greenflag

    Forgive and forget and move on, and try not to let the same (troubles ) happen again . This debate has been going on for decades more or less and it’s unlikely that all or any of the victims will see the guilty brought to justice .

    Theres no perfect justice -never was- and never will be . The authorities have probably done the best they can given the political limitations and the passage of time .

    Best for all parties to help build a less confrontational future thus ensuring no repeat of the past . Thats probably the best memorial for the innocent victims of the NI conflict.

  • Greenflag

    @mister joe ,

    No problem with wanting justice in this case – but delivering same seems to beyond practicability at this stage for reasons which have been referred to above numerous times .

  • Greenflag,

    At the risk of Godwin being invoked, why are we still hunting, charging and convicting the last few WWII war criminals?


    Mister Joe

    What is justice?

  • Not Now John,

    If that is a genuine question, sorry, can’t help you.


    Mr Joe

    That is a genuine question.

    I will ask the question again. What is it that those who claim to speak on behalf of victims actually want? (I’d appreciate a non confrontational response this time I merely ask the question.)

  • sean treacy

    Charles ,Larkincontroversial remarks” on abortion mirror the position of the party you support,ie the SDLP.Dont forget who tried to run Marie Stopes out of Belfast

  • OK, Not Now John, didn’t mean to sound confrontational,

    I’ll tell you what I think justice is. It is the process whereby anyone who carries out an act that society (through Parliament) decides is not permitted, then the authorities investigate and bring a suspect to the Courts, where, if convicted, receive an appropriate sanction (again, as decided by society through PARLIAMENT).

  • Turgon

    Justice is the conviction of the guilty. The sentences may be paltry but at least they mark the criminal as a criminal.

    Larkin is being highly disingenuous about prosecutions. The chances may fall after a few years. However, there may well still be large amounts of evidence gathered at the time of the killing. Furthermore DNA techniques completely unknown at the start of the Troubles are now available. A number of convictions have been achieved from Troubles era crimes. Gerry McGeough was successfully convicted and although it is not a Troubles case Jennifer Cardy’s murderer from the same era has been convicted. The police are still (quite rightly) trying to find a conviction in the case of Inga Maria Hauser from 1988.

    If Larkin wishes to advocate ending attempts to convict certain criminals then that is fine. However, he should do so from a position outwith that of AG: i.e. he should resign to peruse that agenda. David Ford as the politician in charge of justice should slap Larkin down on this issue as to be fair Stewart Dickson the Alliance justice spokesperson already has done.

  • Charles_Gould

    Not Now John

    I can’t speak on behalf of victims and they’re a heterogeneous group.

    What I *will* say is that I want to hear more from victims. I want to hear their stories.

  • Charles_Gould

    On the whole I think victims don’t want what JL has proposed, they want prosecution and the guilty to be found guilty. That applies across the board regardless of who the victim-maker was and who the victim was.

  • Charles_Gould


    A victim was interviewed on UTV just now and he said what he wanted was the truth.

  • I agree with Turgon. An A.G. should confine him or herself with the duties of the office and, if they want to enter politics as Larkin has done, should resign the position and argue as simply an individual. Larkin’s opinion is simply that, an opinion, and holds no more weight that any other individual (at least, should NOT).


    Mister Joe,

    That seems a reasonable explanation of justice. I particularly like your reference to ‘anyone’. And if that is what those claiming to speak on behalf of victims really want, that too seems to me to be entirely reasonable. However if this is what those who claim to speak on behalf of victims really want, then can you explain why the Eames-Bradley proposal was roundly rejected?

  • Not Now John,

    I think that the major “flaw” in those proposals was the trivialization of the victims by suggesting that their grief and pain could be overcome by a token payment of a few thousand pounds. The anger at that led to the “whole” being rejected. I can only speak for myself, of course.

  • sectarianheadcount

    Stopping the attempted convictions of perpetrators. That kinds of assumes they ever started in respect of the British Army.


    “I think that the major “flaw” in those proposals was the trivialization of the victims by suggesting that their grief and pain could be overcome by a token payment of a few thousand pounds.”

    Mister Joe

    Again I would ask the question of those who rejected the proposals, what is it that those who claim to speak for victims actually want. Is it justice and truth …. or is it something more?

    I know of victims who would have been very glad of those few thousand pounds in order to meet their basic everyday needs but were denied the opportunity to accept the payment. I sometimes wonder do some of those who claim to speak on behalf of victims really speak on behalf of victims or only on behalf of those victims who share the same viewpoint as themselves.

  • Not Now John,

    I don’t know. I, like many, do know some victims/survivors but since I am so far away, didn’t have personal conversations when that report came out.

  • It’s about time the real debate on dealing with the past got going. This has stumbled and pitched forward and backwards for years. In South Africa the TRC got established in the way that it did because there was not enough money to carry out full proper judicial processes. The compromise was amnesty for full disclosure, and the victims getting to tell their stories on record. There was some financial compensation too.

    We might as well put everything on the table here because full accountability will never be apportioned or owned up to by any of the three main protagonists without some radical thinking.

    Judicial processes to convict are quite clearly a non-starter, especially as the state will never acquiesce and each act that was perpetrated will be mired in detail, obfuscation, half recollections, scapegoating and lies. What else do people expect will happen?

    Conditional amnesties are the only way the truth will out with some form of cross checking to ensure the stories are corroborated.

    There will have to be compromise but if convictions for deeds are the starting point for negotiation on how to proceed, it will never happen.

  • Comrade Stalin

    sean treacy :

    Charles ,Larkincontroversial remarks” on abortion mirror the position of the party you support,ie the SDLP

    The remarks were controversial not because of what he said, but because of the job title he has.

    Larkin’s apparent desire to influence government policy is at odds with his job description which requires him to provide impartial legal advice to the government.

  • “In South Africa the TRC got established in the way that it did because there was not enough money to carry out full proper judicial processes. The compromise was amnesty for full disclosure, and the victims getting to tell their stories on record. There was some financial compensation too.”


    In South Africa the new government also had a stick because one of the leading members of a secret killer team at Vlakplaas farm had defected to the ANC in 1989. The threat was that those who didn’t voluntarily come forward and confess completely would be prosecuted based on his testimony. Once he began talking others would began talking as well. With the blanket amnesty as part of the GFA in 1998 that stick was taken off of the table. The vast majority of the violence that was investigated was state violence because the ANC did not use terrorism as a policy. But the apartheid government did. The ANC was only investigated for its “internal housekeeping” in its Angolan camps. The PAC was also investigated. It was a goldmine for historians. It was the first real history of the Pan-Africanist Congress, a small liberation movement that had fallen off the radar between 1967 and 1990.

  • DoppiaVu


    I agree, we need to get a proper debate going on this. Which is why I welcomed Larkin’s proposal. His proposal certainly isn’t popular, but at least it’s prompted debate on this forum.

    Regarding you suggestion of amnesty, I see the logic of that. But I still don’t think that will be enough to do anything other than reveal a few of the footsoldiers. The people that really matter have too much to lose in terms of reputation. And don’t forget, the security forces are still active in NI (if only in surveillance mode), so there’s no way they’re going to reveal anything of interest. I don’t see how those problems can ever be addressed. I’d be interested if you can find a way around those issues, however.

    But I do agree we need to make some sort of decision on a way forward. Alternatively, we could all just sit back and let things go on as they currently do i.e. steadily decreasing probability of any convictions accompanied by steadily increasing acrimonious speculation about what themmuns did. Which I don’t think helps anyone.

  • Gopher

    The flaw apart from Larkin being influenced politically is he only mentions criminal charges. Meaning paramilitary victims will get absolutely no redress unless of course SF and the PUP are liable to get sued .

  • tmitch

    That is correct and if you apply that logic to Northern Ireland (which you can’t really as the state apparatus of the time is still in charge and they were involved in much if not all of the paramilitary actions through the direction of operations or intelligence from operatives and needing to protect their sources) we will be relying on super grass testimonies which we know are notoriously unsafe.

    We need to know what is the minimum that can be acceptable to victims in terms of disclosure as I reckon most will want to know the truth about what and why, after that the next issue will be some form of prosecution – whether this is a token conviction or a full criminal process.

    in all common sense the latter can only be achieved if a large number of actors come forward and disclose which is unlikely as they will be keeping their heads down as much as possible.

  • Greenflag

    @ Mister Joe ,

    “why are we still hunting, charging and convicting the last few WWII war criminals?”

    The IRA (Provos) were fighting for what they believed was freedom from British rule or in other words independence for all of Ireland . They were not a threat to British sovereignty or democracy in Britain per se ..
    LIke it or not the IRA (Provos ) and their political successors SF owe their history to a long line of ‘Independence movements in Ireland going back centuries .Whether one agrees or disagrees with their politics or not there is a continuity in the long struggle of Irish people on the island of Ireland for ‘independence ‘.

    The Nazis were a threat not just to Britain but to the whole world and their ‘racist ‘ gibberish ended in 55 million deaths. The Nazis were not fighting for power sharing or German independence.They were fighting for a thousand year Reich which would extend from the Atlantic to the Urals .

    To add to the melange above heres a news item this morning which should make those who believe that the State (British or otherwise ) operates on a ‘higher moral plane ‘ than so called terrorists ” look again. Not that this news is ‘news’ to some the families of innocent victims .

    I can’t imagine these undercover British soldiers who were only known to each other by their first names ever being brought to justice as per your nazi example above.

    My sympathy lies with the victims most of whom will never know the truth . But thats the way in all conflicts .

    Forgive and forget and move on or risk any progress that has been made unravelling in a new generation or two of usuns and themmuns being used as a proxy war for the current batch of political parties ..