#ShinnersList: “…old hatreds have not been buried. The old injustices have been replaced by new ones.”

Charles Moore in the Telegraph reprises Peter Preston’s 2007 theme of poisonous foundations:

On one thing, Jonathan Powell is quite correct. The indignation of Unionist politicians in Northern Ireland, notably the First Minister, Peter Robinson, is utterly synthetic. Mr Robinson says he was not informed – and that may, strictly speaking, be the case. But he could have found out about these comfort letters in 10 minutes if he had tried. It was much more convenient for him not to know, because if he had done, voters could have forced him to act, and that might have prised apart his comfortable hold on office. His threat to resign this week was dropped the following day as soon as David Cameron gave him the fig leaf he sought by promising a judge-led inquiry.

What we are seeing in all this is the result of an agreement built on insecure foundations. The consensus view of Tony Blair is that he was, broadly speaking, a wasted prime minister, but one who had an unassailable achievement in bringing peace to Northern Ireland. My own view is almost the opposite. I think his ability to make the Labour Party moderate, electable and capable of dealing with a global, liberal economic system was remarkable, and has not, despite everything, collapsed. But his Northern Irish legacy is insecure.

This is because his deal boiled down to a division of the spoils between two gangs – one Republican, one Unionist. The moderate parties – the Ulster Unionists and the SDLP – were squeezed, and the nastier ones – the Paisleyite DUP and Sinn Fein – were put centre-stage. The British state deferred to them (especially to Sinn Fein, by far the nastiest of the lot), showered them with public money, and was prepared to distort the due process of law, the impartiality of administration and the rights of Parliament to get what it wanted.

In Northern Ireland, the peace is therefore uneasy. The old hatreds have not been buried. The old injustices have been replaced by new ones.

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  • Mc Slaggart

    “The moderate parties – the Ulster Unionists”

    By what standard has the Ulster Unionists been a moderate party?

  • Mick Fealty

    You always ask that question McS, and I’m never sure what you mean by it?

  • Mc Slaggart


    “I’m never sure what you mean by it”

    Is that because you think the Ulster Unionists has been a moderate party?

  • Mick Fealty

    I asked you…

  • I’m sorry but “#ShinnersList” – really? As poor attempt at social media curation or engagement as you’ll ever see unless of course you’ve absolutely no interest in hearing what the “Shinners” have to say.




  • Mc Slaggart


    “I asked you…”

    If you read back you will see I asked the question first.

    “By what standard has the Ulster Unionists been a moderate party?”

  • Morpheus

    The UUP lost the right to call itself moderate when they put their name to the cowardly, disgusting leatlet targeting Naomi Long.

    Sorry. Correction, they didnt have the balls to put their name on it and denied it was theirs until caught red handed.

  • Morpheus

    In regards to #shinnerslist when are we going to talk about the fact that the loyalist paramilitaries were offered exactly the same option of finging the status of their otrs?

    The lack of objectivity and balance on this ‘story’ is very telling, embarrassing in fact

  • lamhdearg

    Morpheus, “fact” i will assume you can direct us to the proof that this is a fact.

  • Charles_Gould

    I think #shinnerslist is a good hashtag. It was the IRA after all who wanted this secret deal, and they who took advantage of it.

  • SK

    UUP are every bit as tribal, every bit as “nasty” as their compadres in the DUP.

  • Morpheus


    How about an article in The Belfast Telegraph under the title “On the runs: Loyalists were also asked for a list of their fugitives” which quotes William ‘Plum’ Smyth, former chairman of the Progressive Unionist Party who took part in the negotiations when he said:

    “We attended meetings with civil servants, the NIO and British Government. We went to a meeting and were told to put together a list of loyalists we thought to be on the run. The first steps were made ahead of the Good Friday Agreement. It didn’t really affect us, though, as we had no people on the run. Loyalists couldn’t hide in the South, they couldn’t go to America. We had no safe havens. That’s why the on-the-runs issue didn’t become a big problem. But on the pursuit of people for pre-1998 offences, it was quite clear there would be no prosecutions.”

    As an added point of clarity he said:
    “For the DUP to say they didn’t know is nonsense. They weren’t there during the Good Friday talks but they were being kept informed at the highest level by Mo Mowlam.”

    How’s that?

  • Mick Fealty


    We’ll have to agree to disagree on that. I think its fairly precise. And to address Morpheus on the same point, it’s the Shinner’s list because it is the progenitor of all the others. Apparently it even extends to governments.


    You were asking me about something Moore says in the quotation. I just asked you why you keep asking the same question? I didn’t answer because I cannot answer for Moore’s use of political language. What’s your excuse? 😉

  • lamhdearg

    “how’s that” not bad, thanks.

    “But on the pursuit of people for pre-1998 offences, it was quite clear there would be no prosecutions”
    one wonders was plum offered/get a letter to that effect.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    Great point there in the Plum Smyth quote provided by Morpheus, which had also occurred to me: all this OTR stuff is predicated on the ability of IRA members to live undisturbed outside the UK, as it’s mainly about what happens if they come back into the country. Should we be asking why IRA members might be able to find a safe haven in the Republic, when Loyalists could not? Presumably a sense of moral outrage would kick in should it become known there was a Loyalist terrorist in their midst; whereas a Republican terrorist …

    Society in the Republic still has a lot of coming clean to do regarding that country’s role as a safe haven during the IRA’s “armed struggle” against British communities in Northern Ireland.

  • Morpheus

    Why couldn’t a Loyalist go into RoI if they wanted MU? As far as I am aware they don’t have big signs on them saying “Look at me, I am a Loyalist” so could easily do exactly the same and head for the hills of Donegal, Monaghan or Cavan without anyone, including the Irish and British Governments knowing anything about it. That’s what fugitives do, they go underground.

    My guess is that they don’t through personal choice. How would that look, a loyalist going OTR in the country he hates to get away from the authorities in the country he is supposedly loyal to?

    By the way, when it comes to ‘coming clean’ do you think that IRA men get a PPI number, social security payments or do you think they get arrested when caught like any other scumbag?

  • fordprefect

    I wonder if Tony Blair applied for one of those letters? After all he is a war criminal and the deaths he caused in Iraq, well, the IRA wouldn’t have a patch on him when it comes to killing civilians.

  • Son of Strongbow

    #ShinnersList is very neat. It delivers exactly what it says on the tin.

    The clever reworking of well known cultural or historical icons can on occasion provide immediate impact. Shorthand perfectly suited to the Digital Age.

    How about a revisit to Hawthorne’s ‘The Scarlet Letter’? The Secret Letter perhaps?

    Lady Justice is on the scaffold. Her sword is broken and her scales are heavily tilted to one side bearing a mewling Orc-like ‘OTR’-tattooed body with an Armalite in one hand and a get-out-of-jail-free letter in the other.

    Lady Justice is daubed with a red ‘S’ on her chest. Written in blood.

    As we draw back we see a balaclava wearing figure holding a gun to her head. Drawing back further we see the scaffold she stands on is made up of the broken and bloodied bodies of many victims.

    This pyre is being added to by hooded figures carrying more bodies to lay at the feet of Justice.

    As the hooded figures walk back from the pyre a bespectacled postman hands them each a letter.

    Now where’s Brian John Spencer and his cartoon penmanship when you need him?

  • Morpheus

    Give me strength…

  • Reader

    Morpheus: In regards to #shinnerslist when are we going to talk about the fact that the loyalist paramilitaries were offered exactly the same option of finging the status of their otrs?
    If there is any continuity from those negotiations in 1997/98; then it ended in 2005, when the SDLP successfully blocked the 2005 OTR legislation. But your attempts to trace pre GFA wishlists into secret action ten years later really ought to stop in 1998, when we had a referendum on the *actual* deal – which included no deal for OTRs (and no united Ireland – another negotiating position that flopped)
    The reason for the failed 2005 legislation was because there wasn’t a deal on OTRs prior to that.

  • looneygas

    And the award for drama queen goes to….

  • Here’s a gem from ACC Drew Harris in that April 2010 minute in response to Alex Attwood:

    It would be unkind to call them ‘Walter Mitties’ but there seems to be a sizeable group of people who like to be called ‘on the runs’ and have applied that title to themselves. So, I would add one word of caution in terms of the information that comes forward, it is very good of all these people to put their hands up to crimes that we’ve never heard of and people we have never been aware of as well.

    I wonder how many ‘Walters’ are in receipt of ‘comfort letters’.

  • and a curiosity from the Sweeney judgement:

    24. The fact that the defendant was wanted by the Metropolitan police for conspiracy to murder on 20 July 1982 remained on the PNC until 29 August 1994, when it was removed in error.

    The removal took place two days before the PIRA cessation. Might there be a connection between these two events? The name was returned to the PNC on 31 October 1994.

  • sean treacy

    Mainland Ulsterman,you never answered my question: Do you get your name from the fact that you live in Ballycastle as opposed to Rathlin island.I would like your views on the demise of Moyle council with the advent of the new super councils.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    Perhaps they couldn’t hide out in the Republic because doing so requires a number of people to help or turn a blind eye – which is what seems to have happened on many thousands of occasions with the IRA there.

    OTRs are the tip of the iceberg on that bigger scandal of how terrorist sympathisers in the Republic helped the perpetrators of violent crimes in Northern Ireland evade justice, on a massive scale. And the Irish government did far too little to disrupt those terrorist support networks on their soil. That many senior Irish ministers shared the Republican worldview, and a visceral dislike of the island’s British population, is I’m sure entirely coincidental.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    Well, there are many mainlands, as it’s a relative term. But in my moniker, it refers of course to the British mainland, where I now live. Remember, you are supposed to *accept* us Brits now, especially the Northern Irish ones. In your own time, it’s only been 15 years … 😉

  • tacapall

    MU obviously your moral indignation does not extend to those Irish citizens who were murdered by your fellow countrymen, aided and abetted by members of the British security forces. Obviously you’ve brushed under the carpet the many instances of RUC officers directing loyalist paramilitaries, arming loyalist paramilitaries, allowing innocent people to be murdered, protecting their murderers from prosecution. Perhaps you’ve also forgotten some of those same unionist politicians including the first minister who are in a frenzy about the rights of victims today were the same politicians who formed their own paramilitary army that imported hundreds of weapons into Ireland that were later used to murder innocent people.

    Typical unionist hypocrisy.

  • Morpheus

    There were sympathizers in RoI who helped republican terrorists in the same way that there were sympathizers in Northern Ireland who helped loyalist terrorists – two sides of the same coin. Both as bad as each other.

    Did the British do enough to stamp out the terrorist support networks in Northern Ireland? That would be a resounding ‘hell no’ judging by the sheer volume of collusion that went on. Did the Irish do enough to stamp out the terrorist support networks in ROI? You say no but quite frankly I am not qualified enough to answer because I never lived there and I have no experience upon which to draw

    Maybe you could show me some of the evidence on which you base your conclusions that the RoI didn’t do enough to disrupt those terrorist support networks on their soil. Who, for example, are these “many senior Irish ministers” who have “a visceral dislike of the island’s British population”? What did they say? When did they say it? What makes you think they have a “a visceral dislike of the island’s British population”? How do you know about these ‘terrorist support networks’? Where were they based? Who turned a blind eye to what?

  • looneygas

    Nationalist support for the IRA, north or south, is a relative thing.
    If the point is to show that the IRA were wholly unjustified murderous crackpots, unionists will say they had very little support.
    If the point is to say that unionists in general are the good guys, then unionists will say that the IRA had lots of supporters and sympathizers.

  • Son of Strongbow

    The IRA were indeed “unjustified murderous crackpots”. However that did not stop the murder machine’s ‘political wing’ [sic] being widely supported by the nationalist community.

    Indeed the para party is lead at Stormont by an IRA ‘commander’.

  • looneygas

    Guess a lot of folks see things differently than you, sir.

  • Son of Strongbow

    I think the graveyards attest to that Mr Looneygas.

    It’s always interesting to get a view from a planter from across the pond.

    I sometimes muse on what may have been if the nationalist community here were living the contemporary lives of, for example, Canada’s First Nation indigenous peoples.

    Existing on reserves, well behind the nouveau Canadians across all social indices; employment, health, education etc. Was it in 2013 that a survey found 50% of First Nation children live in poverty?

    Might mandatory coalition between indigenous and new Canadians politicians, joint state and federal premiers shared by the two groups, be the way to go?

    Perhaps a First Nations ‘armed struggle’ would have garnered your vote to advance the indigenous peoples’ lot?

  • looneygas

    I agree ,Sonny.
    Natives got shafted here and still get shafted.
    It’s nice that we agree on something.
    Not sure that mandatory coalitions are the way to go.
    Pretty sure that armed struggle would fail.
    No simple solutions here, either.
    A lot less name-calling and hate-spewing, though.

  • Son of Strongbow

    So lots of work to be getting on with in your own bailiwick then looney?

    Reading through your archive here on Slugger I detect someone who believes themselves to be on the side of those they perceive as the downtrodden.

    I expect therefore you’re very active in promoting First Nations’ rights. Some of your personal history in such activism would I’m sure make an interesting article for Slugger.

    With all the work that needs to be done in Canada I do admire your work ethic to take the time to regularly comment on a political situation many thousands of miles away. Well done you.

    To have formed such strong partisan views must surely be evidence of in depth study of the place where I live?

    Impressive; and as I’ve already said: well done you.

  • looneygas

    Thank you for the compliments, Strongbow. I’ll raise a glass to the downtrodden in your honour.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    Well, a timely question because at last we have a book on the subject and even better, it’s by one of our leading academics – Henry Patterson’s “Ireland’s Violent Frontier” – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Irelands-Violent-Frontier-Anglo-Irish-Relations/dp/0230299962

    I’ll defer to the professor on that. To quote the publisher’s blurb:
    “The important and controversial issue of cross-border security cooperation against the IRA during before the Good Friday agreement is woefully underrepresented in the literature on the Troubles in Northern Ireland …[this book] establishes the crucial importance of the border to the IRA campaign and shows why successive British governments considered the Republic a ‘safe haven’ for the IRA. It reveals the devastating effects of republican violence on Protestants in border areas and contains new archival material that sheds light on the Kingsmill Massacre, the role of the SAS, the murder of Lord Mountbattern as well as the Garda collusion. It also highlights how Mrs Thatcher’s concern about the issue of border security led her to contemplate major concessions to the Irish government and how her Irish counterpart, Taoiseach Charles Haughey, sought to exploit this concern.”
    A must-read for you, I’d say.

    Apart from the obvious example of several times leader Charles Haughey, his party Fianna Fail was of course institutionally anti-British. Indeed it has been a badge of honour for them and has been seen as a vote winner in the past for them. As Prof. Patterson points out, “Lynch and his successors” held back in their actions against the IRA because of political fears that being seen to be “collaborating” with us against the IRA would be electoral suicide for them in the Republic.

    Haughey certainly had the visceral dislike of the island’s British population I talked about. Journalist Henry Kelly, writing on Haughey in 2006, recalled a lunch with Haughey in the 70s:
    “I recall vividly the burden of Haughey’s conversation: that Ulster Protestants were secondary to the future of Ireland, and that – his own words – “they’ve never achieved anything”.”
    It would be bizarre to think Haughey was alone in that attitude; or that it was confined even to Fianna Fail. I have heard even quite liberal friends in the Republic describe our ethnic identity as “false consciousness” and insist there is no legitimate British presence on the island. These are the dehumanising, patronising ideas that have spawned deep ethnic prejudice against Ulster Protestants and a toleration of violence against us.

    You ask: “How do you know about these ‘terrorist support networks’? Where were they based? Who turned a blind eye to what?”
    I think Prof Patterson’s book will prove illuminating for you. But for starters, here’s a factoid: in 1988, intelligence suggested that 10 out of 16 IRA active service units on the island were based in the Irish Republic. If you want to contend there were not extensive terrorist support networks there, I think you may have an uphill struggle in the face of that.

    And this is hardly news: as Patterson’s book detailed, the use of the border areas by the IRA during the Troubles was extremely extensive and a security nightmare for our security forces. It was one of the main reasons Thatcher gave for the AIA in 85 – trying to improve cross-border security co-operation. As the book details, the British government was deeply disappointed both before and after 1985 with the level of disruption of IRA activities achieved by the Irish government on their side of the border.

    None of this should be surprising to anyone who followed the events of the Troubles at the time.

  • socaire

    People on this island are not against ‘the British people’ on the island. They are ‘viscerally’ against the interference of the British government/state in their country. You put a lot of store in Patterson’s book – I wonder is he biased in any way? To quote ‘in 1988 intelligence suggested ………………’ I suggest BS.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    Yes, anyone providing evidence refuting our lazy assumptions must be ‘biased’. That way we don’t have to submit them to any actual evidence-based scrutiny …

    I see you maintain the highly convincing differentiation of Irish Republicanism between the manifestations of Britishness in NI: – British state = bad, but
    – British people in Ireland = good, though (1) shouldn’t really be here, (2) not really British, (3) their allegiance to the British state is bad, (4) our violence is their fault (5) most other things that have gone badly in inter-communal relations are their fault, (6) when we killed them, it was alright because the British state was bad and they supported it. Though, wait a minute, we have now recognised that NI is legitimately part of the UK so we’re kind of accepting those British people we attacked had it right all along. Let’s hope no one notices!

    So no, you’re not ‘against’ the British people on the island at all …

  • socaire

    If ,say, the Little corporal wrote a book about the PIRA campaign against the armed wing of the British government in Tyrone, would you not accept that his bias would be evident in his book? I only ask about Mr Patterson – I don’t know.
    1 Would they not feel happier at home
    2 not really sure they are British
    3 allegiance to Ireland would be nicer
    4 our violence has nothing to do with them
    5 all our fault
    6 most were killed wearing the uniform of an alien government
    The six counties is temporarily under the control of the British government because of force majeure. Happy now?

  • Barnshee

    1 Irish rabble invite in Normans
    2 Irish spend centuries trying to undermine British succession and get Normans to go away
    3 Irish get regularly booted up the arse including influx of prod in north
    4 Irish continue as before -alienate prods via murder
    5 Prods refuse to join AFM Irish in new state
    6 Irish continue as before prods answer in kind –Irish whine foul
    7 Big brother steps in- Irish continue as before
    8 Thousands dead prods (and other)s vote to stay out of “Ireland” sign big agreement
    9 Irish continue as before.

    Six counties remain under British Government because majority there are sort of keen on it. Irish continue as before

    Insanity doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

    Albert Einstein


  • socaire

    So ‘prods’ is interchangeable with almost everything that’s not Irish?

  • Barnshee

    So ‘prods’ is interchangeable with almost everything that’s not Irish?

    I suggest you
    1 er ask any prods you may know
    (I suggest you exclude the uncle toms cowering in the ROI)
    2 Cast your eye over the various census statistics for NI apparently a lot of “not Irish” there

    they haven`t gone away you know

  • looneygas


    I don’t think the quote from Einstein really applies that well, considering that the guerilla campaign of 1919-21 succeeded in helping the British decide that 26 counties weren’t worth the trouble.

    I think, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” is more applicable.

    Also, your ninth point states that the Irish continue as before. It’s true that they continue to pursue independence from Great Britain, but they’ve adopted different tactics. A small number of dissidents continue as before. The far greater part of the former guerilla soldiers have renounced violence and accepted the terms of the GFA, which include a peaceful, democratic means by which big brother can be absolved of the need to bother himself any longer with his pain-in-the-ass stepbrother who likes to bang his drum and brag about his arse-booting prowess.