Downey waited four years before #ShinnersList became activated…

Predictably enough the DUP have launched a statement in response to John Downey’s interview with the Donegal Democrat. Interestingly hye claims the arrangement was an agreement between the British and Irish governments rather than just an administrative scheme.

The timeline he gives is fascinating too:

“As far as the Unionists saying that they didn’t know about the letters, of course they knew. I got the letter in 2007, having applied through Sinn Féin in 2003, four years later the application was granted as part of an ongoing process,” he said.

He added that he received his letter a few days after the Northern Ireland assembly was set-up.

“As far as the letter is concerned this was an arrangement between the British and Irish Government and my arrest was a breach of the agreement reached between the British and Irish government,” he said.

So that would be apply through Sinn Fein in 2003 (when presumably there was no finalised arrangement), only to hear almost immediately Operation Rapid got going (and all attempts at legislated agreements had failed.

Which makes it sounds dodgier than it might finally prove to be….

  • Morpheus

    Amazing – it took them 4 years to investigate and draft the letter and they still got it wrong.

  • Morpheus

    When did #NIPrisonService take advantage of the scheme?

  • socaire

    Mick, how do you update your e-mail?

  • Mick Fealty

    Through your admin page? If not, send it to me and I can doubt manually.

  • Mick Fealty

    We’ll have to wait. Best guess, lists of escapees to check against SF’s list?

  • Granni Trixie

    It is worth making the point that Downey only interpreted the letter as such ….which does not mean that it was n fact the case (as implied) that the British and Irish gov agreed it was an get out of jail card,hence his surprise. (But then I studied anthropology which raised my awareness about how peop construct their worlds ….which is not necessarily the same as established FACTS.

  • Morpheus

    Granni it is blindingly obvious to the world that those letters were not amnesty, immunity or GOOJ cards – I don’t think anyone believes that DUP politicking garbage anymore. Downey got a letter that said he wasn’t wanted in the UK when he clearly was – he traveled to the UK, was arrested (after numerous previous tips to the UK – just saying) put on trial and the Judge (and prosecution) agreed that he was ‘misled’ and called an abuse of process. Case closed.

    If you want established FACTS then look at the ‘Core Facts’ from Justice Sweeney – they are very comprehensive..

  • Mick Fealty

    His ‘interpretation’ doesn’t add up with the administrative arrangement idea though… And the timing comes directly on the heels of a failure of the Blair government to get Parliament to grant an amnesty…

    So Morph is right, this is NOT an amnesty… Though it *may* have been sold as such to the initial recipients…

  • Morpheus

    I don’t think there is a salesman on earth who could sell those letters as amnesty Mick – statement of fact and a warning, that’s all.

  • Old Mortality

    If Downey was in possession of a letter, why did his legal team wait until the case got to court before introducing it? I think we can safely assume that Downey was not paying his own bills, in which case the objective must have been to maximise the legal aid payments.
    Perhaps Downey may even receive a share of it to compensate him for having to remain in custody.

  • Morpheus

    Oh now we are scrapping the barrel – he was in custody for 10 months in a scam for legal aid payments? C’mon people. The authorities fecked up, end of story.

  • Neil

    Though it *may* have been sold as such to the initial recipients…

    Tough sell. Here are 37 letters saying the recipient will be arrested and charged the moment they set foot in the jurisdiction. Now what kind of amnesty’s that.

    It may have been sold as such to the initial recipients… Probably not though. The shinners aren’t that dumb as to interpret a letter promising arrest as an amnesty, and even if they were I’m sure someone has a dictionary to hand.

  • Morpheus

    Neil, don’t forget the 3 guys who were wanted who came to the UK and were put on trial. One of them because new DNA evidence which fits in nicely with the ‘if new evidence…’ bit in the letters

  • GEF

    Surely these pardons from the Queen were amnesties?

    “Escaped IRA terrorists handed Royal pardons as part of peace deal”

    “The amnesties were part of the same deal between Tony Blair’s Government and Sinn Fein that saw up to 200 other suspected IRA terrorists given “comfort letters”, effectively protecting them from prosecution.”

  • Neil

    They were, actual real amnesties. Of course the DUP knew about those amnesties and for some reason that wasn’t a problem. It’s just the non amnesties that drew the reaction.

  • Morpheus

    RPOMs are issued to those who have been convicted GEF – 13 were issued in total between 2000 and 2010 but they are a separate kettle of fish from the recipients of the letters. I am open to correction but it makes zero sense for anyone who got a letter to have had an RPOM because they weren’t even wanted for questioning never mind arrest/trial/conviction.

    To me they are a horrible, cowardly practice and the applications should have been thrown out the window never mind granted.

  • IanR

    Old Mortality:

    “If Downey was in possession of a letter, why did his legal team wait until the case got to court before introducing it?”

    I seem to recall reading somewhere that Downey had his letter with him when he was arrested at the airport, and showed it to the customs officials but did so in vain.

  • sean treacy

    I think John only spent a couple of days in custody.Was he not granted bail early on?

  • Old Mortality

    Please explain why, if his solicitor was aware of the letter, she (Gareth Pierce) did not use it to secure his immediate release?
    Ian R
    I’m surprised that a customs official would have been involved. More likely to have been border security if not the police.

  • IanR

    Border security yes, can’t remember where I read it though.

  • Morpheus

    I wasn’t involved in that process OM so I cannot confirm if they did produce it on day one or not but it is one helluva stretch to think that he deliberately held onto it, keeping him away from his family, as part of an elaborate scam to fleece legal aid.

  • DC

    It will be interesting to see what the judge makes of this challenge:

    I wish this guy all the best with his endeavours in getting legal clarification on conflict related offences post-GFA in light of #Shinnerslist and impact on due process.

  • IanR

    This is an interesting development, perhaps worthy of a blog in its own right:

    Slightly shoddy journalism in the intro, as it isn’t the ‘Operation Rapid’ OTR letters scheme that forms that basis of Rogers’ appeal – although it’s trendy to bang on about ‘comfort letters’ at the moment – but the separate issue of the use of the Royal Prerogative of Mercy to release certain IRA inmates/escapees towards the end of the Maze prisoner release scheme in 2000.

    It’ll be interesting to see the reaction from political unionism to this one. Will their indignation at alleged favourable treatment of republicans, trump their concern for Catholic victims of loyalist violence?

    Of course, if Rogers wins his case, then there’s no reason why exactly the same argument could be used by Seamus Kearney, who was jailed last year for a pre-1998 offence having already served more than two years for pre-ceasefire IRA activity.

  • IanR

    Cross-post DC. I presume you meant to refer to pre-GFA conflict-related offences, not post-GFA?

    Oh, and I suspect you’ve foreseen the answer to my question about political unionism’s likely response to the case, in your “wishing this guys all the best in his endeavours”. No mention of wishing the family of Eileen Doherty or Ciaran McElroy all the best, DC?

  • IanR

    Oops, typo – if Rogers wins his case, then there’s no reason why exactly the same argument **couldn’t** be used by Seamus Kearney

  • IanR

    (And in my response to DC, ‘guy’ should have been singular and ‘families’ plural. Where’s the Edit function?)

  • DC


    I meant post-GFA in terms of the outworking of the agreement itself and the impact that had on sentencing and conflict related ‘offences’ prior to 1998 yes – I shouldn’t have written it the way i did but yes I do mean pre-1998 offences.

    I stand over what I said I wish this loyalist all the best with his endeavours in getting legal clarification post #ShinnersList and the impact that that list has had on due process.

  • Morpheus

    As you say IanR, lazy journalism – the letters and RPMs are 2 different issues.

    If he wants a letter confirming if he is wanted by the police then his will contain a ‘No’ because he is not wanted as he is already in prison but if he wants a RPM then that’s a different kettle of fish and an issue for those who grant those despicable things.

    Listen for the silence from the DUUPers 🙂

  • IanR

    Thanks for the clarification of your post DC.

    For legal clarification about the impact that the letters scheme has had on due process, Rogers need only look to the case of republican Seamus Kearney who was imprisoned last year for a pre-1998 offence (albeit he will only serve two years, like Rogers himself). i.e. NO impact on due process, NO amnesty and NO get-out-of-jail free cards. Simples.

  • IanR

    P.S. Rogers is rehashing Gerry McGeough’s appeal, arguing for a RPOM on the basis of fair treatment – which was thrown out.

  • DC

    Aren’t you being a bit naive Morpheus, first of all no one knows on here who is on the list and those that did make it on one that we know about eg Downey had evidence to convict him, there was good stuff to go on and win the case against him, but surprise surprise surprise ‘maladministration’! Voila – he got off!

    Oh please PSNI ‘maladministration’, that’s funny – approaches made to the PSNI by other authorities about Downey and still the PSNI did nothing. The power of doing nothing #PSNIRA

    So, firstly let’s see the list to see who is on it, secondly let’s find out case particulars, what did the PSNI go on, what evidence was deemed insubstantial or lacking in order to make the case fall to the ground or perhaps melt away in the eyes of the PSNI, then I might believe that the list contains harmless people that the police simply had nothing on.

  • DC

    Well it looks like moral relativism has inadvertently led to legal relativism #ShinnersList is a list agreed by government containing not so bad baddies who need a more favourable treatment under the law because morally what they did was actually freedom fight for Ireland, not terrorism – and subsequently, the law now being bent to suit this SF & HMG agreed take on the past. The rest, the other clowns not on this list, can go hang so to speak.

    Now, standing back looking at things in general, rather than in particular, the perception, rightly or wrongly, is that of a bent legal system in favour of republicans in terms of the past.

    And it will take one hell of a PR job to turn this around if not actions by government that seem to create a level playing field.

    I wonder also if the judgement made on the Union flag over Stormont wasn’t actually made infected with this sort of pro-IRA rot in that what does it matter the frequency of the Union flag up at Stormont in the eyes of the law, only perhaps that given the constitutional position there should be one flown?

    (See this link for background –

    All the judge had to say was that the union flag and its frequency is not a matter of law but that the union flag should fly to reflect the constitutional position not both flags as demanded by Sinn Fein. The judge simply had to rule that the union flag should continue to fly and importantly that the parties in Stormont can agree among themselves the frequency and number of days.

    That would’ve meant the flag could’ve been left up but with veto in play at Stormont no agreement on the number of days would mean the flag would fly by default 365 days. Till such times as there was an agreement, cross-community. That would be fair.

    But oh no – the judge had to rule on the number of days referring to ‘guidance’ policy with no legal obligations on any authority to comply with it throughout the UK, but never mind legalise it into effect for Stormont regardless of that fact – all 15 days.

  • Morpheus

    Ugh, not ‘the flag’ again DC. Would it help if we clubbed together and got you one?

  • DC

    The point I am making about the flag in connection to OTRs is that yes both may well have been burning political issues and political priorities of a certain political party, but they sure as hell weren’t legislative ones. However, the flag clearly has had legislation done on it in terms of frequency when no such legislation was required imo and the other political issue, OTRs, letters were issued to make up for a lack of legislation. But here’s the thing, given the impact it may as well have been legislation.

    These were both political issues. But the government stepped in in lieu of political agreement and pretty much legislated over the heads of the collective majority including SDLP to suit one part – SF.

    The connection in all of this is the judicial process and it being bent for political purposes in case you hadn’t joined the dots.

  • DC

    OK the executive couldn’t agree on the union flag – so what? That’s politics.

    But did this disagreement at the time really require a judge to legislate on the frequency it should be flown whenever frequency isn’t actually legislated on in the rest of the UK – all he needed to do was state that it should be flown given NI’s constitutional position. The frequency and the particulars left up to the politicians.

    The British government implores NI politicians to reach agreement, but somewhat counter-productively when no agreement is reached, it goes out of its way to make up one of its own. That does not help with producing organic solutions to local problems. The government wonders why after a series of debilitating interventions local politicians no longer have it in them to broker home baked deals.

    Try instead having an open, transparent process and getting it all there so the bottom, the ordinary person, can join up with the top in reaching and making decisions for the common good as far as possible, than just relying on the top to work its magic all the time.

    Unfortunately the top – the NI political ‘elite’ – is so overbearing at times that it is likely to collapse the whole edifice. Top down.

  • IanR

    And I suppose the British government legislating to set up the Parades Commission fits into your argument too? The issue would have been best resolved by leaving it to local representatives to sort it out?

  • DC

    Yes to a certain extent and also the PSNI too. I think all of this in time will come back to bite those unelected technocrats, such as Chris ‘Dog’ Patten, Kathleen O’Toole, who felt that by being outside the control of local people and democracy they could somehow build a much more durable in touch police service, a much better police authority in design and so on than locally elected types could do. Well I am not so sure.

    Difference is one type is accountable, Patten and Kathleen O’Toole types are not.

    I mean the PSNI never flies the union flag despite N Ireland being a legitimate part of the UK as agreed as part of GFA endorsement and I am not quite sure if this struck or strikes the right balance, given the circumstances, the constitutional position of NI as part of the UK. Bearing in mind the RUC and the distance travelled by the PSNI in separating itself from this force – perhaps too much distance too much stretch too much disconnect?

    In relation to the orange order and parades my attitude has shifted in favour of the right to parade and protest together – peacefully, the orange are no longer the physical manifestation of political orange (mis)rule at Stormont and bogus supremacist takes should be revised in light of this. Also, it is mainly the working class involved in orangeism in and around urban areas, and not well to do chaps who should’ve and could have led much better but failed to do so when things were really hotly contested. Orange rule has gone and the supremacist take just looks silly now and not that appropriate, far be it from me to endorse the liberal approach of the right to parade and to protest but I think that fits the circumstances today!