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…

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  • Charles_Gould

    Mark Durkan very impressive here, as always.

  • Both Mark Durkan and Jim Allister made very clear points, that the DUP needed NOT to know about the OTRs and Peter Robinson did not get what he demanded just the day before.

    Can anyone think of a really good reason why Peter Robinson did such a U-turn in less than 24 hours?

  • Red Cortina

    Fantastic from Mark. It’s a real pity his tenure as DFM was so short lived.

  • Sadly missed at Stormont.
    But this is Creative Ambiguity exposed.
    “Invisible Agreements” and “not wanting to know” ….can a Peace Process survive that?
    A light has been shone on the Agreement and its out working and its very unpleasant.
    I think most of us assumed that Robinsons resignation threat would be reversed. But I thought Id be more neutral about his U turn.
    I actually wish he had resigned and the whole sham came tumbling down.
    Ive moved a long way from 1998 or even 2010.
    In 2010, I thought the Good Friday Agreement was “everything”. Now its just about worthless.

  • Mick Fealty

    “In fairness to the DUP…” Alex’s opening line on Morning Ireland in explaining the invisibility of the deal. To which he might have added “so we could continue to back the campaigns of Relatives for Justice, the PFC and the Ballymurphy families”.

    The really important outcome here is the [temporary] disappearance of the cloak of invisibility.

  • son of sam

    Would agree on Marks contributions to the View.But sadly as we all know ,virtue and integrity butter no bread when it comes to elections.In the next few months,both the main parties will play to their respective constituencies and as always the main casualty will be be truth.Plus ca change etc!!

  • CJ

    Mark spoke with clarity. However, once again it is apparent that the dichotomy present within the heart of government here is distorting outcomes for families, victims and our young people. Son of sam is correct in his claim that the main casualty is the truth, moreover the lack of it.

  • Mick Fealty

    Well, we’re getting some now. Which is nice.

  • FuturePhysicist

    Would agree on Marks contributions to the View.But sadly as we all know ,virtue and integrity butter no bread when it comes to elections.In the next few months,both the main parties will play to their respective constituencies and as always the main casualty will be be truth.Plus ca change etc!!

    Mark Durkan is still MP for Foyle, Sinn Féin are lucky the SDLP have only one…erm I mean two of them.

  • IanR

    They have three MPs don’t they? Or do you mean two Mark Durkans (Snr and Jnr)?

  • Mick Fealty

    That’s inner Derry Wan’s speak for the rest of the world does not exist… 😉

  • cynic2

    Loved ‘Vacuum’ Villiers comment today that the NIO thought about telling hapless Wee Davy Ford the big secret on the Amnesties but thought they would just leave it to Sinn Fein to tell him!!!

    She was also very careful to skate over a crucial question. We know that most OTRs got a letter saying they weren’t wanted.

    But what happened to the ones who were wanted. How many were there and how many got a pardon?

  • David Crookes

    Bravo to MD for stating facts. If people would remove their hands from their ears, they would see what a devastating statement Mark has really made. Will some competent journalist PLEASE do the work, and write a detailed story about his statement, backed up by quotations from the pertinent minutes?

    MD has shown that he deserves to be a much bigger player. On the screen he came across like a highly intelligent collie surrounded by Pekinese dogs.

  • IanR

    I think the number bandied about for the ones who got ‘letters of discomfort’ was about thirty-odd. And there’s been nothing to suggest any of them have been pardoned. Indeed, everything that has been said from former and current NIO ministers and from SF has clearly indicated that no such pardon has or would be agreed.

    The only ‘royal prerogative’ pardons date back more than ten years to the time when the Early Release scheme came to an end, where they were used to tidy up anomalous cases where two years incarceration had already been served (in some cases in the Republic), rendering extradition proceedings pointless.

    In one case in early 2000 a prisoner was tried and convicted for one offence (B) whilst he was serving time for another (A), so at the point when the Maze doors opened in July 2000, he’d served more than two years for offence A but hadn’t yet served two years since the date when he was convicted for offence B. His co-defendants on charge B were up for release, as the time they had spent on remand counted towards the length of their sentence, but you can’t be on remand whilst you’re serving a prison sentence for a separate conviction, hence the anomaly to which the Royal Prerogative was applied.

    I seem to recall it being argued that the killers of Billy Wright, who were affiliated to the INLA, could have made the same argument, but they didn’t bother as they only had a few more months to serve and they didn’t want to be associated with the ‘Royal’ part of the prerogative.

    Anyway, the point is that all of those pardons for ‘anomalous’ cases were already history and therefore factored into the DUPs determinations when they decided to enter into power-sharing with SF at St Andrews.

  • IanR

    (Last message was in reply to cynic2.)

  • IanR

    (And I meant the DUP’s ‘deliberations’ not ‘determinations.)

  • quality

    I was thinking that the DUP should have taken the moral highground – argued that Sinn Féin were more interested in protecting ‘their own’ rather than seeking the best arrangements for the north, rather than having a tantrum.

    Durkan does that superbly here.

  • Lionel Hutz

    If there ever was a case of a man taking the leadership too early. He should be leading the party now in my view.

  • FuturePhysicist

    If there ever was a case of a man taking the leadership too early. He should be leading the party now in my view.

    Durkan is still a very important leader in the SDLP, but he wasn’t alone, and that’s often the problem with personality politics even while he was finance minister economic policy within the SDLP was being lead by Alasdair McDonnell during a relatively healthy economic climate.

  • Lionel Hutz

    He’s an important man within the SDLP but not so much with the wider public who only see him now and then. I just mean that he would be the best man for the leadership now but for the fact that he has already been leader

  • I am of course biased but Mark was head and shoulders above the other participants.

  • FuturePhysicist

    He’s an important man within the SDLP but not so much with the wider public who only see him now and then. I just mean that he would be the best man for the leadership now but for the fact that he has already been leader

    Not a barrier as was the case with Alex Salmond, but he has no intention giving it a second go as yet or he would’ve thrown his hat into the ring to replace Ritchie.

  • redstar2011

    Before we all decide to canonise Durkan how come he didnt know anything about all of this when Atwood was at the Psni briefing?

  • Morpheus

    I agree RS, I think Attwood owes an apology to Denis Bradley

  • redstar2011

    And Durkan needs to tell us why he doesnt communicate with Attwood!!!!

  • Charlie Sheens PR guru

    Good marshalling of the facts here from Durkan. This in many ways highlights the problem of the SDLP, they don’t have enough like him anymore. If it came down to an honest fact based debate, the SDLP would be on the high ground almost every time. But as SoS states that is all somehow forgotten when SF and the DUP come knocking for your vote. Sinn Fein and the DUP are actually all at sea these days and yet no one can articulate a push back and the media, with honourable exception, seem completely disinterested in good ol’ fact based journalism preferring rather to post Willie Frazer’s latest Twitter and Facebook musing like it is newsworthy.

    That said, I take comfort from knowing that we get the politicans we deserve.

  • redstar2011

    But his facts were wrong!!!!

    Sdlp DID know about all this no matter how much they lie. Attwood was at the meeting!!!!!

  • Mick Fealty


    Denis was, if I recall correctly talking about a briefing he got in 2005, which was pre this arrangment. As for the 2010 briefing here’s Ringland from yesterday’s GMU:

  • Mick Fealty


    [Fixes the ‘troll’ with his gimlett ‘ref’ eye]: Which facts?

  • Gopher

    Who abstained in the vote?

  • redstar2011

    Bit unfair calling me a troll simply cos you disagree with me but whatever

    As regards Durkan. He maintained Sdlp knew nothing about this despite Acc Drew Harris Psni stating he set out the scheme to a Policing board meeting at which Attwood was present

  • Mick Fealty

    It was an attempt: one at lightening the situation: and two, quiet ask for you (and others) to try and up the game, ‘s all. But thanks for the clarification.

    I asked because Dennis was talking about an earlier briefing from 05, I think, which predates this arrangement by two years and therefore, I think, puts Attwood in the clear. Also, just listen to the first line in the video, “I did not know…” says Durkan.

    For important context on what I think will still prove to be an important briefing for what it reveals of the nature of the deal, see Ringland above (who was there) for why the two things can be true at the same time… (can’t speak for the quality of the recording…)

  • redstar2011

    Listened to it and very early in he admits the scheme was outlined to them.

  • Mick Fealty

    Go and listen again. What he says is that in hindsight he has to admit that what was being described to them is consistent with the outline of the Comfort Letters but they were not given any notice the scheme itself.

    This is pretty consistent right through, and is confirmed by Alex Maskey and Gerry Kelly both of whom admit now that the deal had to be kept from others otherwise they’d have gone ape, as the saying goes.

    Are you calling Gerry and Alex liars too?

  • redstar2011

    Certainly I am.

    Youre playing with words here.

    Its admitted that it was a scheme that was being described. Its either dishonesty or stupidity that they didnt there and then ask any questions about what they were being told

  • Mick Fealty

    I can assure you, I am not playing. If you cannot make an accusation like ‘they lied‘ and credibly stand it up, then you are in over your head.

  • Mick Fealty


    In court, the emphasis is on you to prove a positive. You are the weakest link, goodbye… 🙂

  • Morpheus

    Mr Ringwood, who was at the meeting, says in the first 30 seconds “that the awareness of such an operation was raised in public and those at that meeting and the wider public were aware that such a process did exist” and goes on to say that members of the DUP cannot deny that they were aware of the process.

  • Morpheus

    Did you just red card him for disagreeing with you?

  • Mick Fealty

    No Morph. I redded him for failing to come up to some pretty basic standards. I’d add that the logic for doing so was made pretty transparent and therefore contestable. Unlike the said letters of comfort. 🙂

    Now, anything on topic?

  • Charles_Gould

    Charlie Sheen PR

    “Good marshalling of the facts here from Durkan. This in many ways highlights the problem of the SDLP, they don’t have enough like him anymore.”

    There are few people as good as Mark Durkan in any party.

    “If it came down to an honest fact based debate, the SDLP would be on the high ground almost every time.”

    Absolutely spot on.

  • Morpheus

    I made my very on topic comment above.

    If you are judge, jury and executioner when it comes to standards I heartily recommend a nosey around a few of the other threads. Some absolute clangers for you

  • Mick Fealty

    Email me, with specifics?

  • sherdy

    Is it time for the beatification of St Mark?

    He is an able politician but I think that he actually suffers politically due to his ability to deliver stinging one-liners. Remember, no one likes a smart-ass, or else he would still be leader of the SDLP.

    It wasn’t any other party who dumped him – it was his own colleagues, so why are they so lionising him as a result of one good TV appearance?

    What a sad commentary on our current bunch of politicians who appear to be so shaded by someone who is regarded by his peers as past his sell-by date.

  • Charles_Gould

    SDLP did not *dump* Mark. And it is a measure of the man of how well thought of he is both in the SDLP and much more widely.

  • sean treacy

    Does anyone remember Durkin standing like a clown outside MI5 headquarters brandishing a lolly pop stick.Didnt show someone who had a grasp for what could be deemed ridiculous.Apart from his clownish behaviour he obviously didn’t know that the average stoop doesn’t give a damn about MI5,collusion prison issues,censorship.or anything of that nature.The SDLP voter base is primarily made up of insufferable snobs and die hard Hibernians.Decades of canvassing has given me an insight into the mentality of those who support them.

  • Morpheus

    The SDLP are obviously trying to put clear blue water between them and SF. Not sure if they are doing that very well on this issue.

    Mick, it depends on what standards you are policing. If it’s intellectual standards then you could do worse than look at the genius who suggested the police charge themselves with attempting to pervert the course of Justice for sending the confirmation letters.
    If it’s the Slugger standard of ‘man playing’ then you could do worse than the poster who attacked Comrade Stalin a few days ago with a particularly offensive comment which was marked as such by several other posters. But who am I to tell you your job eh? 🙂

  • sean treacy

    If you expect Mick to operate on a basis of standards ,look at his vitriolic abuse of Adams and compare it to his defence of lollipop Durkin who must be protected from the slightest criticism.

  • son of sam

    The rather hysterical abuse aimed at Mark by S F poster Sean Tracey really shows the desperate levels to which his detractors can descend.Has his own party regularly expressed its concern about M I 5s role in the North or is it perhaps more than a little comprised in that area?!

  • son of sam

    Sorry; that should be compromised.

  • sean treacy

    The stoops are all over the place on every issue from spads to equal marriage to otrs. Serious commentators regard them as a joke.Finnoula O’Connor poured scorn on Durkans equally clownish nephew a few days ago on Radio Ulster. Durkin juniors claim to fame before becoming a minister was falling off a ladder in Derry a few years ago !

  • Niall Noigiallach

    Durkan did not perform that well folks, come on. Nobody had seen or heard from him in a while and for me the shock was that he was actually in the room. Pope Frank heard about the proposed beatification and said nah apparently. Ah well.

    In the immediate furore of Robbo’s outburst there followed the moral high ground land grabbing by the SDLP, Alliance and Unionists. “Who knew what because we didn’t know” carry on. With each passing hour it has become increasingly clear that all and sundry knew something was being worked on in the background. Maybe not the actual letters themselves but to think otherwise is quite foolish. There’ll be more to come no doubt.

    Surely now there must be a realisation that there needs to be a truly holistic approach to dealing with all of the major issues – the past, OTR’s, parades, flags, whatever. Dispite the high fiving for MD, last night’s exchange on the view was an embarrassing and worrying indication of where our politics actually is currently. Obviously anyone who was female or under the age of 30 was exempt from appearing alongside Mark Curruthers last night

  • Charlie Sheens PR guru

    I suppose most people on here will take serial SF fanboys like ‘Sean Tracy’ but in the wider public, Mr and Mrs Joe Nationalist should see discussions like this when making up their mind who to vote for. But it’s circumstances that dictate voting patterns. For the part of the SF manifesto that hasn’t been canibalised from the SDLP they still really can’t defend: OTRS is quite like SPADS except that SDLP only eventaully stumbled onto their own political ground on the issue. SF on both counts have a duty of care to their own and are compromised. Next time the Ballymurphy families or the Finucane family are making a statement, their supporters would do well to remember which party is now wholly comprised in expecting soldiers or colluding local security forces to ever be brought to book.

    One of the other issues which SF can longer stand over come election time is the abstentionism and Ferghal McKinney was well ahead of both Gildernew and the unionist unity candidate below: Unfortunately, the FPTP election went that people were probably nodding along going “Yeah good point Ferghal, but I can’t vote for you or Connor will get in”

    I’d say between now and the 2015 election the SDLP could do worse than focus on the areas with clear blue water. I’d probably change their stance on education.

    All that said SF’s vote has not risen all that much in 15 years, its just more people have stopped voting SDLP. So they need to start finding out why people aren’t and concentrate on those areas.

    I’d lastly probably take the kid gloves off and state “Why on SFs watch are we suddenly total from polls that there is an army of nationalists just itching to vote for the union when 10/15 years ago a United Ireland seemed almost inevitable.” Has Sinn Fein just made the word republican such a dirty one that moderate nationalists couldn’t be seen associating with it?

    Time for the party to take the kid gloves off, otherwise they’ll continue to decline.

  • MonkDeWallyDeHonk

    Durkan came across well but some people here are acting like he’s a really outstanding statesman and leader.

    He isn’t.

    Unfortunately since John Hume stood down, the SDLP seem to go out of their way to elect arrogant leaders and Durkan was the first.

    He comes across as smug and frankly thinking he’s a lot smarter than he actually is. I know an awful lot of people (including people who have had dealings with him) who confirm that impression.

    My own field is economics/finance and I found Durkan laughable. I’m happy to be corrected but I believe his degree is in politics and he has always “worked” in politics. He certainly isn’t particularly knowledgeable about economics. I used to watch him talking about the economy and he was clearly out of his depth.

    The SDLP hardly prospered under his “leadership” and his attendance record at Westminster wasn’t impressive (along with Eddie McGrady and McDonnell when they were the SDLP contingent).

    I had to laugh when they were always attacking SF for their abstentionist policy and then they were among the worst attendees. At least SF said they weren’t going to go.

    Fair do’s – he did quite well on Thursday.

    However, the truth is that he is just another extremely average politician with a big ego. He presided over a period of decline of the SDLP which has continued since he stood down.

    If his “leadership” is regarded as being a success, I’d be interested to know what constitutes failure.

  • Reader

    sean treacy: The SDLP voter base is primarily made up of insufferable snobs and die hard Hibernians.Decades of canvassing has given me an insight into the mentality of those who support them.
    I take it that you didn’t manage to win many of them over to SF then? Maybe other SF canvassers had a different attitude and more success, or perhaps the SF vote has peaked.

  • FuturePhysicist

    The Sinn Féin vote has peaked, they’ve effectively sent de facto comfort letters to the Ballymurphy and Bloody Sunday murderers as a means to get some of the IRA On The Run off the hook. Francis Brolly, a man who turned his back on Sinn Féin once upon a time openly lied when he said these arrangements were in the Good Friday Agreement, they weren’t due to a failure in Sinn Féin leadership and a twisted sense that British Army victims were more equal than those of the IRA, and British Army victims who were in the IRA were more equal than those who were not.

  • BluesJazz

    No-one has been convicted of murder on either of the events you mention. Nor are they likely to be. The events were firefights between terrorists and the security forces.
    But at least we now know that the security forces have been given a de facto amnesty over any personnel that may have overreacted on a few occasions. The only good thing to have come out of the recent fiasco.
    Sleeping dogs etc.

  • Morpheus

    Just when you think you’ve read it all …

    Ballymurphy and Bloody Sunday were “firefights between terrorists and the security forces” and they “may have overreacted on a few occasions”

    You really are a disgusting individual BJ, shame on you.

    Mick, how’s that for standards?

    I’ll be here on the edge of my seat waiting to see how this one is handled.

  • FuturePhysicist

    If Blue Jazz has any problem with my use of the word murderer he can take me up on it, but even if he views it as mere manslaughter or homicide why should a soldier who shot a group of unarmed people on a protest sleep any easier than a terrorist who shot at a group of unarmed people?

    Does overzealous and fear really justified when you’ve got a clear vantage point? Deep down that the same evil and lack of self restraint which caused the terrorism!

  • FuturePhysicist

    Indeed why should a man who put a gun in a hand of someone their regiment shot to frame a self-defence motive be able to sleep any better than the killers in that regiment either?