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:

Powell on OTRs and DUP

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 not wanted by PSNI, but further checks should be made as to whether Scotland Yard still wanted him.

But when Det Chief Supt Baxter reported to his superior, Assistant Chief Constable Peter Sheridan, three days later he said only that Mr Downey should be informed he was not wanted by PSNI and made no reference to the fact that he was still wanted over the Hyde Park atrocity.

When asked about the omission, on behalf of the court earlier this year, Det Chief Supt Baxter said only that there was no statutory requirement to supply further information beyond whether he was wanted by PSNI and Mr Downey was not considered to be on the run because he was not a resident of Northern Ireland.


  • The narrative still seems to be unfolding (or unravelling).

    Vincent Kearney suggested on Good Morning Ulster that sources from within the PSNI team that supplied information that fed into the letters had only fed back about PSNI warrants, and definitely not about other forces. Which begs question of whether that’s true, and whether the CPS PPS or NIO made separate queries into other police forces before the NIO issued the letters.

    Politicians should be careful about distancing themselves from an arrangement and a process that was pretty obviously the only way of making the OTRs issue go away. If Liam Clarke (then writing for the Sunday Times) was aware of it and talking to Peter Hain and the NIO press office about it in 2006/7, it was no secret …

    Mick – fixed your link to the vixens above.

  • megatron

    I am totally unsurprised that DUP etc were aware and I am sure they asked that they could have plausable deniability.

    Same for concessions to other side which SF were aware of but didnt want to have to defend / support.

    Constructive lying is what I call it.

  • Are the DUP seriously expecting us to believe they didn’t notice 180 odd former OTR republicans back living openly north of the border? Really, even after half their top table sat alongside Sammy Brush at Gerry McGeough’s trial when he also mentioned the letters?

  • BluesJazz

    Someone is telling porkies.

    Tony needs to clarify…

  • Kevsterino

    I guess anything beats dealing with the present circumstances in Northern Ireland.

    Back to the drawing board?

  • Greenflag

    ‘I guess anything beats dealing with the present circumstances in Northern Ireland.’

    And heres to you Mr Robinson -slugger posters thank you more than they can say -hey hey hey 😉

    ‘Back to the drawing board?’

    Well it could be worse as in back to tabula rasa following another destructive 35 year long uncivil sectarian war /conflict /lack of politics /whatever .

    But rest assured that when after such and those Fermanagh steeples once again out of the historical mists that any new GFA will be even less favourable to Unionists than the Sunningdale or GFA experiments .

    Demographics will see to that .

    For the aging NI politicians of the slow school of thought maybe back to the chalk board instead of drawing board might be more appropriate ?

  • Kevsterino

    @GF, to think Peter Robinson is now shocked and offended that a back room deal was made with HMG and SF coming to terms regarding ‘OTR’ guys 7 years ago reminds me of a song from an old American musical, “Texas has a whorehouse in it”. This sudden awareness and revulsion seems a bit, well, contrived.

    Are people actually believing he was shocked?

  • Not for the first time, Mark Durkan gets it absolutely right.
    A Dirty Peace following a Dirty War.
    I’m not convinced about the “human error” aspect. Most of these 187 letters related to Norn Iron. Letting one or two London cases thru might have been a tempting soft option.
    Put simply does anyone trust the (secret) process. Seemingly its not something that the current Tory administration had a problem with (30 odd cases under their law and order watch.

    yet there is a strange almost-precedent that has been overlooked.
    nearly 40 years ago, the Court of Appeal where Lord Denning ruled against some convicted people who claimed they had been framed. and forensics tampered with.
    Denning seemed to find that placing the interests of Justice above the State was an “appalling vista”
    Yesterday the Judge ruled …again in favour of the State against Justice.
    The agents of the State are to be backed at just about all costs.

  • Lionel Hutz

    Just scanning over the judgment, this appeared to be a purely administrative process where the PSNI checked to see if there is any outstanding warrant for a suspect.

    I don’t see any particular problem with that. If this process was working as it appeared on the face of it, then this case simply collapsed because of peculiar circumstances where the PSNI made a mistake in saying that there was no warrant outstanding for this individual (when there was), and therefore its not particularly significant for other cases.

    The more questionable point is that, in reading the judgment, there was a lot of back and forth for years prior to 2007 where there was a clear note of Downey being sought by the Met and therefore you have to question whether this was really a mistake. After four or five years of the PSNI not giving the “all-clear” to this man and after the legislation collapsed in the HoC, then the PSNI moved much more quickly in giving the all-clear.

    That seems strange to me. And you wonder whether this purely administrative process was being manipulated….

  • Lionel Hutz

    In other words, “wot FJH said”

  • If we asked Tony Blair to ease our unjustified cynicism or justified questions…he might recommend a “Hutton-like” Inquiry.

  • Lionel Hutz

    The amazing thing is that the politicians who were at the centre of this don’t seem to clarify that this was an administrative process. Gerry Kelly has said today that certain people may have been found guilty. Peter Hain has been constantly talking about the greater.

    If this was the administrative process that the Judgment refers to, then none of that justification would be necessary.

    They would just say that certain individuals were told that they were not suspects, that this was in accordance with due process and should not be problematic.

  • Morpheus

    I agree Lionel but the Shinners are so inept they sent out Maskey of all people with all the wrong messages on Radio Ulster. All they had to do was quote The Ministerial Statement from yesterday and throw in the responses from the Judge, Matt Baggott and Hugh Orde and this thing woukld’ve been put to bed by the end of the day and PR would be left looking like an idiot.

    But noooo…

  • Lionel Hutz


    But the question is whether this was a blunder or an intentional thing.

    the original system was set up in 2002 or 2003 as an interim measure, to inform potential OTRs whether they were being sought by the Police. And that system seemed to do what it said on the tin. Mr Downey got no assurance.

    But once the legislation failed, the system was set up under Operation Rapid and Mr Downey got his letter very quickly, with the PSNI “making a mistake.”


  • Morpheus

    That’s a bit too far fetched for my liking Lionel but I can see where you are going with it.

    I am just happy that all this rubbish that Peter Robinson, Deputy Dawd, Mike Nezbitt etc. have been peddling about ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ cards has been debunked.

    Electioneering at it’s finest (or worst)

  • Lionel Hutz


    But if you listen to Peter Hain speak of a “quasi-judicial” process, you have to ask what the hell is going on.

    Whats quasi-judicial about checking a computer or making a few phone calls to see if some man is a suspect or liable to be arrested. Thats purely administrative.

    Peter Hain is talking about something more.

    Here’s a question, has any individual who has sought this clarification been told that they ARE a suspect or ARE liable for arrest.

    Because if they haven’t, then the evidence would suggest that there is something more than a purely administrative process going on here.

  • Morpheus

    Hain said on Nolan this morning that if the person was being pursued then they didn’t get a letter.

    I agree with you that it was administrative – this whole sorry debacle seems to be nothing more than administration gone wrong and the DUP/UUP trying to make hay for the elections. They will come out of this with egg on their face, especially when the minutes of the policing board meetings come out when the DUP/UUP were briefed.

    Plus it’s there is Eames/Bradley(page 121)

  • Lionel Hutz

    Yes, Hain did say that. Its either nowhere near as bad as it is being suggested or it so much worse that you can say goodbye to devolution. Its probably the former but something just doesn’t sit right. If it was just the administrative process then it doesn’t solve the problem.

    To give another example. the SoS has indicated that these letters might be revoked. If it was little more than an Access NI style check looking at outstanding warrants rather than convictions, then there is nothing to revoke. Some of the language used by politicians other than the unionists has been strange.

  • Morpheus

    I don’t see how a letter saying if a person was or wasn’t being pursued by the police can be ‘revoked’.

    Just to be clear though, I think the authorities should start extradition proceedings asap and get this guy before the courts. I think each and every family who have lost long ones should get justice – be it this case or Bloody sunday

  • Lionel Hutz

    “I don’t see how a letter saying if a person was or wasn’t being pursued by the police can be ‘revoked’”

    That’s exactly what I mean. So whats the SoS talking about…….

  • Lionel Hutz

    If, however, it was a letter saying that a person WOULD NOT be pursued by the police – Thats different

  • Son of Strongbow

    The PSNI’s Operation Rapid was asked to answer two questions.

    1. Was the subject wanted by the PSNI?

    2. Had the PSNI received a request from any other police force to arrest the subject?

    How could such a simple statement of fact, dated as it would have been some time in the past and therefore could possibly have been superseded by subsequent events, have resulted in a judge ending a murder trial?

    The letter in question must have been much more legally persuasive.

  • Greenflag

    ‘Are people actually believing he was shocked?;

    A good question Kev . A lot believe he’s pretending to be shocked because it suits his current predicament . What can be deduced from this debacle is that Scotland Yard and the RUC/PSNI if they communicate at all with each other may be doing so by mental telepathy .

    Somebody should advise them it doesn’t work . Anyway if Robinson brings the Assembly down over this issue it’ll be more or less par for the course . I can’t even recall what issues the previous several collapses of the Assembly arose from . No Assembly then no McGuinness as FM seems about the sum total of Robinson’s ploy at this stage .

    Not to worry the next GFA will be even more favourable to nationalists and republicans than the current experiment .


  • Greenflag

    @ SOS ,

    ‘The letter in question must have been much more legally persuasive.’

    Selling out is a wretched business is it not ? in particular when it’s done by one’s so called own eh ?

  • Morpheus

    The contents of the letters are shown in the ministerial statement on Pete’s thread. Have a butchers.

    This is nothing more than an admin error (which granted has serious ramifications) and political unionism are attempting to exploit it to secure their seats, salaries and pensions for one more term

  • Lionel Hutz

    It is bizarre,

    Read the following:

    “98. In March 2006 the NIO wrote to Mr Kelly stating that in relation to four individuals there was no outstanding direction to prosecute in Northern Ireland, that there were no warrants in existence, and nor were the individuals wanted in Northern Ireland for arrest, questioning or charge by the police. Letters to the four individuals were included – each in the terms set out in paragraph 49 above. However, the letter to Mr Kelly went on to indicate that three other individuals, one of whom was the defendant, would in the current circumstances of their cases face arrest and questioning if they returned to Northern Ireland (p. 735/6).

    99. In June 2006 (p. 741/2) the defendant appeared on a list of persons who were confirmed as being wanted by the NIO and wanted for questioning by the PSNI.

    100. In January 2007 a PSNI schedule (p. 745) recorded that the defendant was currently wanted by the PSNI, and that enquiries confirmed that he was sought for arrest and interview in relation to a number of serious terrorist offences, and that the NIO had informed Sinn Fein accordingly in March 2006. “

    And then in Feburary 2007, Operation Rapid begins.

    On 13th April 2007, a check confirmed that Downey was still wanted by the Metropolitan Police.

    On 7th May 2007, an Operation Rapid review confirmed that there was still information that Downey was wanted for conspiracy to murder in connection with Hyde Park Bombings and report was sent to the DCS

    On 10th May 2007, the same DCS wrote to the ACC and said that he “reviewed his case and there is no basis in my professional opinion to seek his arrest currently for any offence prior to the signing of the Good Friday Agreement. The above person should be informed that he is not currently wanted by the PSNI for offences prior to the Good Friday Agreement 1998.”

    By the 27th June 2007, written confirmation had been given to Downey that he was not wanted.

  • Lionel Hutz

    Apart from the Hyde Park murders, what happened to the suspicion for offences in Northern Ireland.

  • son of sam

    Glancing briefly through the judgement ,I note that the solicitor for the OTRs at a certain stage of the process was a Mr Mc Grory.Could this be the the current DPP(NI)?The ironies of life!

  • Mick Fealty


    “Put simply does anyone trust the (secret) process.”

    In a word, ‘nope’. Considering there was an embarrassed silence from all parties when the AG called this ‘solution’ out in public. We’re definitely missing a determined, ambitious and thorough-going opposition to this cosy deal politics.

  • Mick…some points and I say it in all seriousness.
    The Good Friday Agreement was a benign confidence trick.
    Most people were willingly conned…or conned ourselves because the Prize was too big to say No. It was for the Common Good.

    Even in saying “go ahead Robbo resign” I have to remember just what life was like in the 1970s and 1980s.
    A load of lies and half truths is probably better than that.
    The under-35s may not “get” that.

    But if people…like me certainly…and possibly others….are going to whinge about voters, politicians and collaborators….then there is no better time to push the buttons and sink the whole damn thing.
    Seriously…would you miss it?

  • Greenflag

    @ Mick,

    ‘We’re definitely missing a determined, ambitious and thorough-going opposition to this cosy deal politics.’

    Indeed and as long as NI exists in it’s current format there will be no incentive to have a thorough going opposition . Normal politics can’t be the norm in a state such as NI -which is why mandatory power sharing became the least worst option -up to now anyway .

    Things fall apart -eventually and Stormont has a track record second to none in Western Europe bar Italy in that regard .