So one thing the revelation of the #ShinnersList might do is to reset public discussion over policing and justice to something a little saner than heretofore [travel in hope rather than expectation, eh? – Ed].
One problem Unionist politicians have been bombarded with for years is the idea put to them repeatedly by Loyalists that Republicans had some kind of amnesty in their back pockets whilst they, plainly it now seems, had none. [Wonder who told them that? – Ed]
No, no they were assured there was no such thing.
Well today, Gerry Kelly was at pains to tell everyone that those pieces of paper he has been postmastering for the last while do not amount to an amnesty.
Now the DUP members of the Policing Board along with the single UUP member, are using the opportunity of the current ‘crisis’ to call an Extraordinary meeting. Jonathan Craig MLA, DUP Group Leader on the Policing Board laid out these questions:
It is essential to the restoration of public confidence that the PSNI detail fully just what the nature of their involvement in this scheme has been.
Furthermore, it is essential, in the context of devolution of policing and justice powers that we establish under whose authority the PSNI were party to this administrative scheme?
If not the Justice Minister or the Policing Board, just who were the police reporting to on these matters? Furthermore, why were they taking part in a scheme which has no mandate from Parliament nor legislative underpinning?
Dolores Kelly has some questions of her own too:
I have a number of questions for the Chief Constable regarding the On the Runs scheme, including asking, under what classification is the OTRs information retained? Is it categorized as ‘National Security’? If not, why was the Policing Board not informed of this scheme – with the specific details – not simply a reference in a briefing by the Assistant Chief Constable?
“I will also be taking the opportunity to ask Matt Baggott how many letters were served to OTRs which informed them that they were still being sought for questioning in relation to past atrocities, and is he now satisfied that all the other individuals who were given letters were not wanted for offences at the time?
It’s long past time for some clarity on these and other issues. But the hard truth is that politicians as members of the Policing Board have been remarkably slow to support the police, especially when it comes to choosing between their voters and their police force.
Sorting the mess created by this secret administrative deal can only be the first stage. Northern Ireland has had enough empty grandstanding, whether it be suing the Chief Constable, or defending the egregious behaviour of paramilitaries and rioters.
Mick 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