Peter Robinson: “The justice system has been stood on its head…”

From Peter Robinson, First Minister of Northern Ireland: The cloak of secrecy that has surrounded the operation of this scheme must be removed once and for all. The justice system has been stood on its head to facilitate not the victims but the perpetrators of terrible crimes. After all, in the real world, what innocent person would go on the run for a crime they did not commit? This week we have at least started the process to put right … Read more

Rationale for the #ShinnersList: “Preferential treatment of IRA men regarding their potential criminal liability…”

On Facebook yesterday, I saw a query from an old schoolfriend (from P1, as it happens). He’s about as apolitical it is possible to be, but his curiosity was clearly piqued and he asked a question about how on earth the NIO managed to get all those letters out to the OTRs. The answer as we now know was via Sinn Fein. We’ll have to await the outcome of the Review to see just how rigorous the processes were. But … Read more

Community Relations in Northern Ireland after the Flags Protest – Roundtable at the Royal Irish Academy

Last night the Institute for British Irish Studies at University College Dublin hosted a roundtable on ‘Community Relations in Northern Ireland after the Flags Protest,’ at the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin. The discussion was focused around the findings of a report commissioned by the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister, ‘The Long View of Community Relations in Northern Ireland: 1989-2012,’ written by Duncan Morrow, Gillian Robinson and Lizanne Dowds. The report charts changes and trends in … Read more

David Ford: #ShinnersList letters are not now and never have been a devolved matter…

So in all the obfuscating fog of war, a little more clarity. It seems the Secretary of State was not correct to suggest this had something to do with the devolved institutions: Stormont Justice Minister David Ford said government officials told him five cases were currently being considered under the scheme, and the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) had accepted responsibility for this. “Now I don’t like the scheme at all – it’s not open, it’s not transparent, it’s not something … Read more

Mark Durkan finds the real political weakness in the DUP’s (and SF’s) position on OTRs

Two short segments from last night’s The View, cut back to back of Mark Durkan first puncturing a bureaucratic argument between Jeffrey Donaldson and Jim Allister and then turning his guns on Sinn Fein’s Alex Maskey just as the latter tries to claim the moral high ground on the issue. Let’s just say it makes for uncommon viewing… Mick FealtyMick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider … Read more

So now I’m suing, now I’m not…

This, for the record, is one of the oddest stories I’ve seen since I started blogging on Northern Ireland. Here, without further comment is Gerry Kelly explaining his decision to withdraw his legal action against the Chief Constable of the PSNI, three days after announcing it:  …on Thursday, the North Belfast MLA said the incident had “unfortunately split opinion into two camps of unionist versus nationalist alongside elements in the media reducing the issue to one of money”. “Issuing the … Read more

Incidently, the elections are on May 22 after which the report will be delivered

While we are all trying to assess the political damage (or otherwise) of the shortest crisis in Northern Ireland’s long and twisted history, it’s worth noting that the Judge led inquiry will only report after the Local elections… Mick FealtyMick 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

Powell: Releasing prisoners was not easier for Nationalists; it’s ignorant and offensive to suggest otherwise

Responding to the latest attempts by the DUP to take ownership and responsibility for nothing that occurred in Northern Ireland before Ian Paisley was finally crowned, as First Minister, official leader of the unionist tribe, Blair’s former right-hand, Jonathan Powell, has just claimed something extraordinarily vulgar. Releasing murderers as part of the Good Friday agreement after only two years in prison was an extraordinarily difficult thing for the government to do and an extraordinarily difficult thing for particularly the unionist … Read more

David Cameron: “We will appoint an independent judge to produce a full public account of the operation of this administrative scheme…”

The BBC reports that the Prime Minister David Cameron has announced a judicial review of the operation of the controversial administrative scheme to deal with so-called “on the runs” which was highlighted in the recent collapse of the John Downey case.  From the BBC report Mr Cameron told a Downing Street press conference: “I agree with the first minister of Northern Ireland that after the terrible error of the Downey case it is right to get to the bottom of what happened. … Read more

How the system of “comfort letters” developed. Secrecy was important, Hain admits

Much of the ammunition Peter Robinson needs is already in Mr Justice Sweeney’s lengthy judgment in the Downey case. Key points in this Belfast Telegraph summary. The administrative scheme began in 2000 to rectify the anomaly because as on the runs, they weren’t eligible for the early release scheme. The overall picture is of Gerry Kelly as Sinn Fein’s point man  with the British government on the issue,   coming forward regularly with new names and the legal authorities  led by successive … Read more

More than ever, the “crisis” shows the need to face up honestly to the end of Troubles prosecutions

Fair enough. There are genuine grounds for shock and anger but there is a good deal of grandstanding too. The pity of it is, the growing recognition among unionists of the case for limited immunity tied to truth recovery will be set back. Taking the optimistic view (somebody has to), the full extent of de facto amnesty will emerge a lot more clearly and can no longer be denied. The pretence should end, that “ justice”  is attainable were it … Read more

#ShinnersList and the unravelling Chamber of Secrets…

On the principle of blog what you know, publish learn more and then blog more, here’s as much sense as I can currently squeeze out of this OTR business. I’m sure more will emerge over time. 1 After a day of talking up two divergent matters (Hain’s controversial administrative deal with SF, and the general issue of OTRs) and the ongoing issue of the OTRs, it finally became clear from Gerry Kelly last night that Peter Robinson was never let … Read more

If you want an excuse to bring the house down, you’ve got one now

It’s too much to hope for that politicians should act with restraint over the Downey debacle. It gives them a heaven sent opportunity to jump up and down.  Look,  at one level  the Downey case is an obvious anomaly. He was wanted. He wasn’t not wanted. Unless you think that the 180 letters were a cynical ploy to let any old warriors off the hook at random. Why stop at 180 republicans? But the core problem is not the one exposed … Read more

“The Government communicated back the response to Sinn Fein via a letter from the Northern Ireland Office…”

Via the Guardian politics live-blog.  Worth noting the written ministerial statement from the NI Secretary of State, dated yesterday, which details the mechanism of the on-the-runs administrative scheme [added emphasis throughout] The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mrs Theresa Villiers): On 21 February, Mr Justice Sweeney ruled that an abuse of process had taken place in the prosecution of John Downey for offences relating to the Hyde Park bombing which took place on 20 July 1982. Mr Downey was part … Read more

Not a cosy conversation: Victims and survivors conference

The Commission for Victims and Survivors (CVS) convened a conference “to listen to as many voices as possible” in forming its advice to the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister, the CVS Commissioner Kathryn Stone explained. The event was well attended by a couple hundred delegates, representing the broad spectrum from Northern Ireland’s Troubles; but remarkably absent were politicians. Commissioner Stone quoted the Haass-O’Sullivan published draft document, in regards to the leadership role demonstrated to date … Read more

Robinson threatens to quit over Hyde Park

Following on from Nigel Dodds very annoyed performance during  Prime Ministers Questions, his boss Peter Robinson is now threatening to bring down the whole show telling the BBC that he is not prepared to continue leading an administration that is being kept in the dark about these type of issues. He is now insisting that a judicial inquiry into the 180 secret letters given to On the Runs be set up. With an election approaching, poor relations with Sinn Fein and … Read more

Downey case collapse may become a resigning matter – Peter Robinson demands judicial inquiry

Still image grab from Peter Robinson talking before DUP's 2011 Assembly Election launch

BBC News >>> Northern Ireland’s First Minister Peter Robinson has threatened to resign unless there is a judicial inquiry into secret letters given to more than 180 paramilitary suspects. The DUP leader said he was not prepared to remain as first minister in a power-sharing administration that is being kept in the dark about such an important matter. Mr Robinson said he would discuss this with the Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers at a meeting later. This is a risky … Read more

Downey case and the uncomfortable facts of our Peace Process re-emerge in a different light

Well, like others, I’m keeping my powder dry on all of this Downey affair. There’s a couple of pieces which are worth noting quickly. One, the vixens have dusted down their copy of jonathan Powell’s Great Hatred Little Room to bring us this: And The Pensive Quill has this on why the PSNI may have made the mistake: In a report, Acting Det Chief Insp Neal Graham told his superior, Det Chief Supt Howard [sic] Baxter, that Mr Downey was … Read more

Hyde Park bombing suspect will not be prosecuted

The BBC are reporting that John Downey who was arrested and charged with killing four soldiers in the 1982 IRA Hyde Park bombing will not be prosecuted because he was given a guarantee he would not face trial. Downey was arrested in 2013 at Gatwick whilst en route to Greece. From the BBC: ..over the course of legal argument, he asked the Old Bailey to halt the prosecution – saying he had received a clear written assurance from the government … Read more

Ever been at a Taytoff? (Yep, well, seems we ‘nordies’ lost the very first away fixture)

It’s A Taytoff. Ireland has a single, but highly partitioned (like the island itself) brand of potato crisp most of us love (and most of the rest of the world could not care less about): And here, courtesy of Bodger, is the result: [We was robbed!] Mick FealtyMick 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 … Read more