Haass knew nothing of Sinn Fein’s OTR side-deal before he tried ‘dealing with the past’

Yesterday’s briefing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Highlights include a thorough briefing from Baroness Nuala O’Loan which starts with some of the victims groups who are hungry for some form of truth recovery.

But right at the end of her presentation she hits a fairly pristine note in the context of the crisis that has followed the revelation of the #ShinnersList:

I don’t think we can have a legal system which criminalises young people for marching down the street or those who protest at others who march down the street whilst it fails to deal with those who are suspected of more serious crime.

It’s clear even from Dr Haass’s early remarks that he has become a Belfast Agreement sceptic.

Perhaps that’s not surprising since the DUP based its public pitch on the idea that St Andrews was a fresh start on from the Good Friday Agreement (it largely wasn’t).

Sinn Fein for their part wasted little time in treating the GFA as a starting gun for a government by negotiation model, in which no deal is too loose to wriggle out of.

Interestingly Haass also told the committee that “all he knew about the On the Runs letters had come from the public revelations regarding their existence”.

So Haass knew nothing about this private deal over how the past was to be handled before going into a process to determine how the past was to be handled?

He did offer however the opinion that since this was not an official amnesty it had no effect.

Well, there’s a House of Commons Committee looking into whether the last Labour government did or did not set the wishes of parliament on that matter right now.

It is interesting to note that this particular house subcommittee (Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations) did take submissions from two victims of state violence.

It may have something to do with the committee’s brief no one who had suffered from Loyalist or Republican violence (responsible for 3000 out nearly 3700 deaths) appeared.

But even the view of the two victims who did appear were not directly of a single mind over what they wanted to be done.

Geraldine Finucane was clear that ‘gunmen were two a penny at the time’ saying that convictions were not necessary in her husband’s case. She wants know who was in the chain of command that gave the order to have her husband Pat murdered in cold blood.

But with no clarity over extra GFA and extra parliamentary clandestine agreements between Sinn Fein and the state, what chance is there of Mrs Finucane getting what she needs without some future political agreement?

And, post the revelation of the existence of the #ShinnersList, any such agreement seems further away than ever. Not least when Dr Haass seems content to accept that not all parties to his process were on working on level playing field.

In his own words

“I don’t see the society sowing the seeds of its own normalisation, of its own unity, if neighbourhoods and schools are still divided.

What worries me in that kind of environment – particularly where politics are not shown to be making progress – alienation will continue to fester and violence, I fear, could very well re-emerge as a characteristic of daily life.

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

  • Morpheus

    Here is the Full comment from Dr Haass Mick:

    Don’t you think the DUP owe an apology to the victims for dragging them unnecessarily through the ringer yet again?

  • Canisp

    It takes a very partial type of myopia to single out the DUP as the prime victim-tramplers in this current mess, Morpheus.

  • Morpheus

    Really? I can do it with consummate ease. They knew about the scheme for years, they knew that it was not amnesty, they knew Downey did not walk because he had amnesty, they knew there were no Get-Out-Of-Jail cards but yet they have zero shame in putting on a song, dance and a massive climb-down for the media and not a single feck was given to the victims sitting at home thinking that the perpetrators of crimes against their families were allowed just to come home. They used and abused the situation for their own political end and then calmed down when the SoS reworded what she had been telling us all along and PR had been given the proverbial dummy-tit of a Judge led inquiry which reports back after the damage has been done – right after the local and European elections.

    But as long as they get their seats/salaries/pensions/expenses for another term at least, that’s all that matters right?

  • Mick Fealty

    Thanks Morph. Will add. And behave!

  • For a while now I have said we are in a pre-Conflict phase.
    I dont want to put words in Malachi O’Dohertys mouth but at the PFC event two weeks ago, he seemed on the same page.
    Richard Haass now?

    The GFA has been ignored, cherry-picked, parked, undermined and amended to the extent that the DUP have a good case for saying St Andrews is the template.
    Malachi O’Doherty voted YES in 1998.
    He says he has changed his mind.
    So have I.

    We blew it.

  • Barnshee

    ” She wants know who was in the chain of command that gave the order to have her husband Pat murdered in cold blood.”

    So there was a meeting or series of meetings where decisions were taken to kill individuals?

    Who attended these meetings?
    What hierarchy was involved ?
    How many links in the “chain” were there?

    IF such a structure existed (unless the protagonists were brain dead -alway possible) there are unlikely to be minutes circulated for record and agreement.

    How much help did the murderer get- who knows? or perhaps more important who will tell?

    I suspect that those involved will have adopted the style of Saint Gerard and operated at arms length (or further).

    The idea that a log “chain of command” from politicians via high ranking security forces down to a squaddie/cop to “employ” a thug to kill is ahem -unlikely

  • sean treacy

    O’Doherty voted yes in 98 because he thought SF would be consigned to the ha’penny place.Unfortunately for him and his ilk the complete opposite happened and he is now throwing his toys out of the pram.

  • Mr Treacy, I certainly agree.
    But unlike me, he was unlikely to have been voting Sinn Fein in 1998.
    Indeed I was voting Sinn Fein from 1993 to 2009 Euros.
    My change of heart is based on a number of factors….and the dominance of SF is hardly an issue for me….after all I am responsible.

    People from unionist and nationalist traditions might look at issues that have not really been addressed ….victims, Justice, Irish language, historic things, the past.
    any nationalist or unionist can perm anything and show it is about nothing other than keeping the show on the road.

    like you twelve years ago, I was happy to see the discredited RUC sent into the dustbin of history.
    Of course unionists here wont see it that way.
    After all they got a medal and good pensions.
    Creative Ambiguity…everyone’s a winner.
    But you dont really have to be a nationalist to be offended at the scale of compensation claims for RUC Deafness.
    Nor do you really have to be a unionist to be offended that someone has been awarded £50,000 for being called a “F&&&&&”.
    I might be owed something.
    Somehow I missed the gravy train.
    And its not just the politicians and their staffers.
    Its the assorted hangers on…
    Just how many of our local media will be taking selfies in the White House Press Room.

    If we are on the gravy train, we feel different than those not on it.
    Give me a job in the lobbying industry or as the tea boy in a Press Office and I could get remarkably positive.
    In fact a ticket to a Conflict Resolution seminar in ….ooooh California would work well.
    Or an invitation to Bastille Day at the French Consulate.
    I dont have many principles …but I sell them Chelyabinsk.

    how many garages is it that were selling dodgy petrol.? 400 plus.
    But we cant be told the names.
    But I guess any pill -popper in East Belfast knows a good dealer.
    I guess most people in West Belfast know a cheap supplier of cigarettes and booze.
    Or unlicensed meat, doing the double, insurance scams, money laundering (no area having the monopoly).
    More on the gravy train….seemingly the only people who dont know about this are DECENT people and of course the PSNI (but to their credit they have great hearing).

    I daresay Mr Treacy is right.
    It hasn’t turned out well for Malachi O’Doherty but there are a helluva lot of other people, for whom it hasn’t been great.

    “I dont have many principles….but I sell them CHEAPLY.

  • socaire

    Mick, you can hardly expect the Brits to brief Haass about the factual letters when they didn’t even brief the Punt.

  • SF didn’t, of course, bring up the issue of the OTRs in the talks which dealt with The Past since, as far as they were concerned, the issue had been dealt with. Sneaky, but there you have it.

  • Morpheus

    SF didn’t bring it up because it was low level administration.

    “Excuse me Dr Haass we would just like it on record that years ago a bunch of people got confirmation that they weren’t wanted for anything”

    “OK, thanks for that”

  • sean treacy

    perhaps someone could explain the yellow card?

  • son of sam

    Could it possibly have something to do with your remarks at 6-43 pm ?!!

  • When you are carded, you get an email in your mail box registered with Slugger telling you which comment offended..

  • sean treacy

    Ah ,I see FJH says Malachi would like himself now vote no.I offer an explanation as to why Malachi would vote no and FJH agrees with this explanation.Result : I get a yellow card but SDLP man FJH does not.But of course there’s no bias on slugger !

  • Mick Fealty

    You’ve been working yourself there ‘sean’. Yellow is just warning.

  • sean treacy

    Great explanation ,”Mick” !

  • Framer

    If you read Richard Haass’s written statement, it is plain he was aware of the letters, if only in passing, for he says, “Virtually all I know about these letters is what I have learned from public exchanges that have taken place over the past few weeks.”
    He may however not have recognised their import or been aware that they were being issued in a secret process (as Gerry Adams said he wanted it to be).
    Who told him?
    Plainly not the NIO.
    SF casually, or perhaps Barra McGrory who came to operate as his legal adviser?

  • “The idea that a log [sic] “chain of command” from politicians via high ranking security forces down to a squaddie/cop to “employ” a thug to kill is ahem -unlikely”


    I agree, If anyone outside of the UDA made a decision about Finucane it was probably in the nature of not warning him or attempting to save him in order to protect Brian Nelson as a source, rather than ordering a hit.

  • looneygas

    Sean Treacy,
    I think it was from 4 or 5 days ago you were calling Charles Gould a stoop and Mick an Uncle Tom from a garrison town on a thread about SF’s underhandedness and double-dealing re the Ballymurphy victims.
    And other name-calling, I think.

  • Morpheus

    tmitch57, I recommend watching the Panorama Documentary entitled ‘License to Murder’ in which the gunman who physically committed the murder of Pat Finucane, Ken Barrett, talks about it in detail it with particular emphasis on the role of the police at the time


    I am not saying that we should simply trust the word of a psychopathic terrorist killer but it does raise questions about members of the police playing judge, jury and executioner. Questions the family wants answers to

  • Reader

    Framer: If you read Richard Haass’s written statement, it is plain he was aware of the letters, if only in passing, for he says, “Virtually all I know about these letters is what I have learned from public exchanges that have taken place over the past few weeks.”
    Whereas I read the same sentence as implying that he had got someone to fill in a few gaps since the story broke.

  • Barnshee

    “am not saying that we should simply trust the word of a psychopathic terrorist killer but it does raise questions about members of the police playing judge, jury and executioner. Questions the family wants answers to”

    Sadly the “answers” will prove to bit elusive and in any event unacceptable for the conspiracy theorists. Some cops took the actions of the IRA personally how many? quite a lot,–how many did anything about it? no idea.( however that was/is always the problem in NI– taking it personally and deciding to do something about it)

    Finucane was perceived as a provo (and even identified as such by former IRA member) Cop(s) encouraged his murder? –possibly Did anything to prevent it? probably not

  • Son of Strongbow

    “Some cops took the actions of the IRA personally”.

    What a classic line!

  • Politico68

    I cant really understand why there is still such a fuss on slugger over the British Governments side deal on OTRs. It seems to be pretty typical of the North addiction to crises to stub its toe on an issue and then proceed to exaggerate the pain, feign paralysis and look for soothing belly rubs while the rest of the planet moves on.
    Nuala O Loan lets herself down I think when she tries to draw an analogy between two very different issues; one of which is non-justicable and the other (loyalist violence) is quite the opposite. Serious crime in the North is dealt with adequetely on a daily basis and it does a dis- service to the Norths Legal Personnel to suggest otherwise.
    The hoo haa surrounding the OTRs is an issue that is disjoint from contemporary civil justice as its meshed in a history of compromise in the context of conflict resolution.
    Loyalist violence is just that – Loyalist Violence- intentional disruption conducted without a background of provocation.
    It is no surprise that Hass new nothing of the British deal with Nationalist, why would anybody bother telling him about something that had been sorted, his brief was to deal with how to deal with the past. He was not instructed to deal with what was already concluded.
    As for Mrs Pat Finucane; the British may have made side deals with many different groups and individuals over the last 30 years or so, but unless they made an agreement with the lady herself regarding her specific situation then I fail to see what it has to do with SF and the OTRs situation. I dont buy the argument that because there was a deal regarding the OTRs then the same standards apply to where no deal was made.
    If my next door neighbour tells me I can have is old lawnmower as a gesture of goodwill or to keep me on side, that does not imply that my neighbour can then help himself to my brothers rake by virtue of the fact that we are related, or live in the same house etc.
    Sean is quite correct concerning O’Doherty and others like him, the sour grapes are choking them.

    I fear Morph is also correct, we could be in pre-conflict land atm, God help us.

  • Morpheus

    Wow wow wow, sweet child’o’mine….I don’t think we are in pre-conflict land. I think those days are gone. The police are well able to stifle the vast majority of the activities of those hell bent on taking us back to the bad old days.

  • Politico68

    Sorry Morph I mis-quoted you obviously. But as it happens I do believe there is the potential for a new conflict if we are not very careful.

  • Mick Fealty


    “unless they made an agreement with the lady herself regarding her specific situation…”

    And there you have it. If everything is subject to side deals there is no equal citizenship. And that’s the point O’Loan was making.

    There’s a long way to go on this issue. We’ll have to see just what these inquiries bring.


    You’ve had the fuller explanation several times now. It’s just cards from here on in.

  • socaire

    Like the traffic wardens, Mick has targets to meet. That’s why you got a card, ‘sean’. And don’t mess with Charles. He has put more people off voting SDLP than Austin Currie. Which is a good thing. BTW, how do you update the e-mail address that you used to register?

  • IrelandNorth

    He synopsised it perfectly when he said (in as many words) that there was nothing in the Letters of Comfort (LoCs) for On the Runs (OTRs) to justify any party (of the fourth or fifth part) to abdictate responsibility to lead from the front towards a shared future, rather than from the rear to a dysfunctional past. A view echoed by Dr Brian Feeney in ‘The Irish News’ yesterday about the Ulster Unionist Party’s (UUPs) 27 page document. Some of us will be very interested to read Dr Haass’s own recommendations when published soon, other than seven drafts produced to satisfy unsatisfiable inflexible participants.

  • Barnshee

    As an aside -its quite easy to get Hass to go away Simply ask him his position on Israel in general and the actions of the IDF (in Gaza for example)

  • Politico68


    ‘If everything is subject to side deals there is no equal citizenship’

    Everything? What do u mean by everything. I am confused by your statement.

    If an ex member of the IRA (or anybody else) went out tomorrow and got caught committing a crime, she would face the law and pay the price, the same as every other citizen, no? That’s civil equality under the law.

    The ‘side deals’ the British agreed on were context specific agreements; dealing with events stemming from abnormal critical circumstances, outside a normal civil justiciable environment. Therefore making the two not analogous.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    Is this a new form of immunity we didn’t know about? If it’s “dealing with events stemming from abnormal critical circumstances, outside a normal civil justiciable environment”, we should let it go. That is the same as saying, any side deal with the IRA is by definition OK. Which it clearly isn’t.
    And do you apply to that to the Finucane murder, as a matter of interest? Or is that “justiciable”?

    The bigger problem with your approach is that it gives the government carte blanche to do whatever secret deals it likes, citing only: “Um, it’s the um peace process, and that.” Last time I looked, it was felt to be important that the peace process had *public* support, which kind of requires the public to be told what it actually is. The problem for you is, the public voted for something in 1998 that did not involve OTRs; and while elected officials *could* have done a deal on OTRs subsequently on the public’s behalf, THEY DIDN’T, after considering the issue in detail in parliament.

    As far as the public – and indeed parliament – was concerned, there was no authorised deal. In administrative law terms, the SoS acted ultra vires; not only that, it seems parliament and the British people were then mislead on multiple occasions. Hence we’re talking about the possibility of resignations here. This is no small thing.

  • Raymonds Back

    I really think that Haas and O’Sullivan not being told about the letters is a bigger deal than people here are making out. Whatever about Perfidious Albion and her reputation for underhand dealings, it is a major diplomatic embarrassment for the USA to have two of its senior representatives treated like this, ie kept in ignorance about matters of fact pertaining to the talks they were chairing, And I feel there will be repurcussions in terms of any future USA involvement in our wee war.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    If, as it seems, Haass didn’t know about the secret OTRs scheme, this certainly begs serious questions of the government. As RB says, they were sitting on this all the time while the parties (apart from the dishonest SF) and Haass were negotiating in good faith, unaware the government had already stitched up one of the issues secretly with one party.

    They have made a mockery of the Haass talks and undermined confidence severely in the political process. Nice one, Hain, Powell, Villiers et al – top contribution to NI community relations there.

  • Morpheus


    How would that briefing go?

    “Excuse me Dr Haass,we just want it to go on the record that a years ago a bunch of people the police didn’t know (and crimes the police didn’t know were committed) got letters confirming that they weren’t wanted for questioning for anything. It was part of an administrative scheme that:
    the Governments knew about,
    The NI Prison Service knew not only knew about but used,
    Republicans knew about,
    Loyalists knew about,
    the media knew about and
    SF/SDLP/DUP/UUP/PUP were all briefed by the PSNI who answered questions from the political parties – one of the DUP representatives being a barrister no less.”

    Oh yeah and a letter has not been sent in 2 years

  • IanR

    Morph, for completeness you should also add to that briefing that a number of republican suspects were informed by letter that they WERE indeed wanted for questioning, and the rest were told that if new evidence emerged then they could still be subject to prosecution.

    Seamus Kearney was imprisoned whilst the Haass process was going on, how does that fit with Haass having the wool pulled over his eyes about some secret amnesty?

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    You should ask Haass; and the Minister of Justice. Or rather you won’t need to because luckily Parliament is asking the questions in some detail now.

    Morpheus lists various parties that were supposed to have known. Yet we’ve now seen the minutes of the Police Board which were supposed to revealed this and it’s clear no such disclosure happened.

    So good luck with the ongoing attempt to brush this one under the carpet and discredit the whistleblowers. Going well.

  • Morpheus

    MU the evidence is all over the place that the politicians knew – the claims that they didn’t are simply ludicrous. Minutes, briefings, the media, the politicians themselves confirming they knew, Hansard, the list goes on. But you mentioned the list of parties I mentioned – one of those who got the briefing is a QC, I’ll leave you to figure out which one – was he not listening?