Gnomic quote of the day….

Jonathan Powell commenting in front of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee on the Secretary of State’s remarks that those who recieved OTR letters should no longer rely on them as a defence…

“One of the things I have discovered after leaving government is that people in government know a lot of things that people outside government don’t know, and it’s sensible to be quite cautious about opining on those things without that knowledge.”

So is Jonathan just saying that he knows something she doesn’t know?


  • chrisjones2

    Well perhaps he will openly and honestly give evidence on it

    And I love the line that those who were on the run didn’t get letters. The people who got the letters were those against whom there was no evidence – they just thought they were on the run. Wizzo!

    Except that simply isn’t the case. Some of the ones who were OTR also got pardons (at least the Friends of SF did) and as we know from Downey others were wanted and there was huge pressure from Dowing Street to hope that perhaps the police and law officers might think that they really weren’t wanted

  • Tacapall

    ““One of the things I have discovered after leaving government is that
    people in government know a lot of things that people outside government
    don’t know, and it’s sensible to be quite cautious about opining on
    those things without that knowledge.”

    I bet the relatives of all those who were killed in the Mull of Kintyre helicopter crash would agree with that observation, after all what are politicians but professional liars and masters of illusion, like the DUP’s use of petitions of concern, Alex Kane sums it up well –

    “that the DUP wields the petition of concern in much the same way as it was accusing some people of using OTR letters”

  • Neil

    Mr Powell was he was surprised at Ms Villiers’ remarks branding the letters as worthless.
    “I was surprised and I didn’t quite know what it meant,” he said.
    “I was surprised that was a gesture a politician would make, given you have to have relative balance if you are Secretary of State for Northern Ireland on these matters, but she may well have her own reasons for doing that that I am simply unaware of.”
    He said he was cautious about offering an opinion as he said those in government knew a lot more about issues than those outside it.

    So I think he’s saying she knows something he doesn’t. Possibly something she learned at a garden party. The Tories have to buy and pay for the DUP’s support. That’s the sort of thing you might find out if you’re in government. The Tories don’t do balance when it comes to NI, they are Unionist participants in the process.
    He added: “The reason this has caused a stir is really the way, as Lady Justice Hallett has said, it’s been misreported and misrepresented, [How very dare you – Ed] rather than the issue of the administrative scheme itself. Because if you think about the administrative scheme, it’s allowed people to return who are not wanted, and that should not be something that should disturb relations between parties and governments.”
    “I do think there is a danger if an issue like this is played with for political ends,” he said.
    “I think the peace process is quite fragile, it can be destroyed if people try hard enough to do so, I hope it won’t be.”

    Sounds like someone was playing politics with this issue. I wonder who that could have been. Maybe someone who featured in, but didn’t read a book by Mr Powell.

  • Morpheus

    Of course this issue has been whipped up, misreported and misrepresented – it fills column inches, increases readership and maximizes income from advertising.

    Despite what the Judge made very clear in the Downey case and the SoS’s repeated assurances to the contrary political unionism to this day waffle on about GOOJF cards and amnesty. We even had #Shinnerlist on here for weeks on end even though it was made abundantly clear that the process was offered to both loyalists and republicans, was used by both the British and Irish Governments as well as the NI Prison Service! The fact that it is a legal right to ask for clarification on legal status and the fact that most were not even wanted for questioning was swept under the carpet in the hope that this was the smoking gun some had been waiting for. Just this week we had comments on here about how SF are nervous in case there is new evidence even though it says it in the original letters that anything new will be dealt with in the usual way!

    Between The Hallett Review, this farcical NI Select Committee and her bizarre statements the SoS is going to extraordinary lengths to give the DUP a proverbial dummy-tit to keep them quiet until after the general election, shame on her for doing it but she is a politician after all.

    Powell is right, this has has inflicted unnecessary distress on victims, I wonder if there will be any apologies.

    Finally, I wonder why Powell wasn’t asked to confirm what he wrote in his diary about DUP members knowing about it all along and were happy for it to go ahead as long as the blame could be put at the feet of Trimble.

  • Neil

    Finally, I wonder why Powell wasn’t asked to confirm what he wrote in his diary about DUP members knowing about it all along and were happy for it to go ahead as long as the blame could be put at the feet of Trimble.
    I suspect he wasn’t asked in case he answered. I also suspect (for some as yet unknown reason) that the incredibly politically astute Peter “It’s my ball and I’m going home” Robinson, and others feel that somehow, somewhere in here there’s something politically damaging to SF. Damned if I can figure out what that’s supposed to be.

  • Morpheus

    PR told us that he would resign unless
    1. there was “a full judicial inquiry into all of these matters” [FAIL]
    2. he was told who the recipients are [FAIL] and what crimes they were believed to have committed [FAIL]
    3. “I want all of the letters rescinded.” [FAIL]

    Keeping in mind the actions of the DUP when it comes to Nelson McCausland I won’t be holding my breath.

  • chrisjones2

    Be fair the fragrant Theresa has promised 3

  • chrisjones2

    Re his own behavior and that of the Blessed Tone

    “people in government know a lot of things that people outside governmentdon’t know, and it’s sensible to be quite cautious about opining on
    those things without that knowledge”

    RE Theresa Villiers statement

    “I was surprised and I didn’t quite know what it meant,”

    Consistent? Moi?

  • Morpheus

    No she hasn’t. She said:

    “”To all those who have a letter I say – if the police or prosecuting authorities have evidence which is available today or becomes available in the future to pursue you, they can and will pursue you.” Nothing that wasn’t in the original letters.

    She said several times that any sense of general “rescinding” of the letters was not applicable. Nothing new.

    She told MPs that individuals with letters would be treated by the authorities in exactly the same way as individuals who did not have one. Again, nothing new.

    It was a farce from start to finish

  • SeaanUiNeill

    “One of the things I have discovered after leaving government is that people in government know a lot of things that people outside government don’t know, and it’s sensible to be quite cautious about opining on those things without that knowledge.”

    He’s perfectly right in a much broader sense. Obviously if I am so ill informed as to be unable to have an opinion on political issues, why should I be offered a vote every five years to perhaps disturb the deliberations and long term plans of those savants who have spent their lives honing their political skills to manage affairs of state. I take back everything I said to Ian Parsley a few weeks back on another Slugger thread, we obviously need professional politicians who can take the strain of information that would perhaps endanger the sanity of most ordinary people.

    Seriously, the question really is why is the public not fully informed about these issues by those who we are told are our servants so that we, too, are able to judge what is going on in our name?

  • chrisjones2

    why is the public not fully informed

    becasue people like Mr Powell ensure yoiu are not ….in the public interets of course

  • chrisjones2

    the Judge made very clear in the Downey case

    The Judge who did the inquiry or the Judge who ruled the Downey prosecution was fatally compromised by his OTR letter?

  • Morpheus

    For the umpteenth time, it was not the fact that Downey had a letter which caused the case to collapse. The Judge felt it was abuse of process because his letter had a mistake and the authorities did not correct their mistake despite several opportunities to do so. It’s right there in the Judgement which can be found in under 10 seconds on Google.

    Do keep up

  • chrisjones2

    “The Northern Ireland secretary has said the government is “no longer standing by” letters sent to ‘on the runs”

    So it did stand by them before

    “Secretary of State Theresa Villiers said those who received letters should no longer rely on them as a defence.”

    So they did rely on them as a defence”

    “She said it applied to all available evidence against them, “old or new”.



    “She told MPs that she had taken legal advice on the issue and had concluded making a statement to the House of Commons was the best way to “remove barriers” to future prosecutions.”

    So they were a barrier to prosecution.

    So although you say they were worthless she said that until they were exposed the Government

    * did stand by them
    * regarded them as a defence
    * saw them as a barrier to prosecutions

    And if it didn’t see them as a de facto amnesty in that way, what was the point in the Blair Government issuing them in the first place having tried (and failed) to get a measure through Parliament

    And why as it done in secret

  • Morpheus

    Of course they can’t stand by the letters anymore, it turns out that there were mistakes in them for goodness sake! But if someone wasn’t wanted for questioning by the police on X date then they weren’t wanted for questioning by the police on X date. Unless the authorities go back and say they were actually wanted on X Date then it isn’t possible to rescind them. It’s like trying to ‘rescind’ an old bank statement, hence the SoS’s comments

    You say ‘they relied on them as a defense’. Who? Who exactly relied on them as a defense? It sure wasn’t Downey so who was it?

    The barriers to prosecutions were in cases where there were mistakes – as for the rest, to show how much of a show this whole debacle has been by political unionism, if all 200 people went through the whole process again and asked for their legal status again tomorrow they would get an answer.

    The ‘secret’ part made me laugh…


  • chrisjones2

    I am up.

    And the ‘mistake’ was in the letter

    And the PSNI had been asked to prepare letters for one legal purpose

    and the NIO modified and perverted them into a quasi-amnesty without telling them or telling them they had changed the letters

    No matter what you say or do this was a dirty little secret and underhand side deal that spat in the faces of victims

  • chrisjones2

    why Powell wasn’t asked to confirm

    Depends who was asking the questions in the committee and their intellectual capacity

  • chrisjones2

    You say ‘they relied on them as a defense’.

    We dont know who did because noone will ever tell the wider community. Was Downey the only one? Who knows?

    But if they were worthless why were they issued? And why is the NIO now rescinding them (no matter how much you dislike the word)

  • Mister_Joe

    Morpheus has explained many times why they were issued. There was (is) a legal obligation to do so to a request from a citizen as to whether or not he or she is wanted by the police. You just won’t listen.

  • Morpheus

    I’ll say again for those in the back, it was the mistake that caused the trial to collapse, not the fact that he had a letter. There is a massive difference. If his letter didn’t contain a mistake then he would have been aware that he was wanted so if he entered the UK jurisdiction and arrested then there would have been no abuse of process.

    Ask yourself, why were there no extradition proceedings in place if he was wanted? Why was he allowed to enter the UK jurisdiction multiple times prior to his arrest? It was monumental cockup that caused Downey’s case to collapse in what was a admin scheme…at best.

    You seem to be sticking with the ‘secret’ rubbish. Ask the republican paramilitaries how secret it was. Ask the Loyalist paramilitaries. Ask the British Government. Ask the Irish Government. Ask the Police. Ask the NIO. Ask the Policing Board. Ask Eames Bradley. Ask the NI Prison Service. Ask the DUP. Ask the Ulster unionists. Ask the BBC. Ask the Belfast Telegraph….

  • Morpheus

    You don’t know – quelle surprise.

    They were issued because they were asked for and the authorities have to answer – it’s a legal right. Not sure why that is confusing you.

    And I have explained the ‘rescinding’ rubbish so again, not sure why that is confusing you either.

  • chrisjones2

    No…i referred to that above. There was a legal requirement to issue. The point is that Hallet showed that the NIO then got them and perverted them into GOGF letters issued through SF Even parts of the wording were changed without telling the police. What was supposed to be a legal process was distorted into a political deal

  • chrisjones2

    Ask yourself, why were there no extradition proceedings in place if he was wanted?

    Because he may have been wanted by the POlice but not the Government. Thats what underlies all of this. Prosecutions would have ben inconvenient

  • chrisjones2

    …oh yes and courtesy of MCDowell we know that the Irish were running a secret amnesty policy too

  • chrisjones2

    the ‘secret’ rubbish

    Awww come on. Even the British Government didn’t tell Wee Davey the Justice Minister when they dumped the role on him. They left it up to the Shinners to tell him “if they thought it necessary”. They didn’t!

    Even today we have Powell attempting to redefine the issue as letters to people who thought they were OTR but weren’t as nobody wanted them.

    One assumes the real OTRs go the old Pardon things but we cant tell, because the records were lost or cannot be released

  • Thomas Girvan

    I didn’t know Loyalists were offered them.
    So how many Loyalists got them?

  • Morpheus

    William ‘Plum’ Smyth is a former chairman of the Progressive Unionist Party and took part in the negotiations. His party represented the views of the UVF and was involved in talks around loyalist prisoners.

    “We attended meetings with civil servants, the NIO and British Government,” he told the Belfast Telegraph. “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.”

    Smyth said he had no doubt the DUP leadership was fully aware of the move from the inception of talks around on-the-runs. “For the DUP to say they didn’t know is nonsense,” he said. “They weren’t there during the Good Friday talks but they were being kept informed at the highest level by Mo Mowlam.”

  • Morpheus

    The only party who can say that they were unaware of the scheme was the Alliance because they were not present when the Policing Board was briefed – but if I were David Ford I would be asking serious questions of the NI Prison Service. They report to him and not only knew about the scheme but took advantage of the scheme on multiple occasions.

    But even still details of the scheme were printed the media as far back as 2002.

    Powell is correct in what he says – many of the names on the list were not wanted for as confirmed by ACC Drew Harris when he said “Of the submitted names, 173 are not wanted, 9 have been returned to prison and 11 remain wanted. In the year 2007 to 2008, 3 were arrested and referred to the court service. Of the remaining names, 10 have been referred to the PPS for direction, 11 are proceeding through Historical Enquiry Team review and 2 are ongoing live investigations.”

  • Reader

    So, you are using Hugh Smyth’s recollections of talks in 1997 to stand in for involvement in an actual process that happened a decade later. In fact, neither Hugh nor yourself has any evidence that the DUP knew about the OTR process in 2007(?), nor that any loyalists were involved.
    I can understand that loyalists have an interest in muddying the waters (they badly missed a negotiating ploy), but I wish I knew your motive.

  • Morpheus

    For goodness sake, remove the tinfoil hat for 5 minutes and look at the thing objectively. You are trying to say that the UK Government didn’t want to put on trial a man suspected of involvement in the 1982 Hyde Park bombings because it was inconvenient? C’mon man. The final decision not to extradite him was taken in November 1989 ffs, well before the ceasefires and the GFA! Why would it have been inconvenient?

    Then in September 1993 it was recorded by the
    Metropolitan Police that “the subject is not extraditable but is obviously arrestable should he be detained within the UK jurisdiction.” Downey then entered the UK jurisdiction multiple times after that.

    The Downey case was a monumental cockup, as both the PSNI and Lady Hallett agree, not some machiavellian scheme

  • chrisjones2

    “I have explained”

    Note to self

    1 because I explain something to my satisfaction doesn’t mean that others who are perhaps a shade more analytic and less trusting don’t HAVE to accept it

    2 hectoring people from a position of claimed intellectual superiority doesn’t work unless the serfs believe I am intellectually superior. Often they dont

  • Morpheus

    So its not very nice when someone says something like ‘Do keep up’ from a position of ‘claimed intellectual superiority’ eh? 🙂

  • Tacapall

    Morph are you still trying to peddle the idea that all those who received those letters were Walter Mittys who for reasons unknown Sinn Fein spent lots of man hours lobbying British ministers or whoever for letters of reassurance to people who for some crazy reason believe the PSNI or British police want them for some imaginary crime.

  • Morpheus

    For goodness sake. Again, take off the tinfoil hat.

    You are saying that despite the fact that it has been confirmed multiple times by numerous sources that the letters were not amnesty, get out of jail free cards or immunity you know better?

    You say that Hallet showed the NIO got the letters and perverted them into GOGF letters issued through SF – can you tell me which section that is in?

    The SoS confirmed what the wording of the letters in her Ministerial Statement in February 2014 and The Hallett Report shows photocopies of the actual letters which were sent – can you point out which ones were altered? Are you seriously trying to say that the police said that a person was wanted but the NIO changed that to say they weren’t?

  • Morpheus

    No, I said that vast majority were not wanted for questioning at that time. If you think they should have been wanted for questioning at that time then I recommend a trip to the local PSNI station.

  • Mister_Joe

    And you don’t think that there were other “dirty side deals” which benefitted players on both sides of our dirty little “dispute”?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Which is exactly why I commend Beppe the clown rather than the seasoned and professional narcissists who are our masters at present.

  • Morpheus

    No, you are right Reader – even though Loyalists said that they were offered the scheme as well they obviously weren’t. This former UVF spokesman no less is obviously lying.

    And the fact that The Government’s Chief of Staff – based on his diaries and Downing Street documentation – confirmed that the DUP could accept the scheme as long as Tony Blair wrote to Ian Paisley making clear it had been agreed under David Trimble’s watch is obviously another lie.

  • Morpheus

    Where did you get the quote that the British Government left the decision to tell the Justice Minister to the Shinners “if they thought it was necessary’?

  • Mike the First

    I wonder did Smyth and co just forget about the loyalist convict who escaped from a courthouse in the early 70s and was arrested again fairly recently (last 2 or 3 years I think).

    His case isn’t a parallel to those wanted for questioning/trial, but is analolgous to the many prison escapees who were give royal pardons.

  • chrisjones2

    Yes…and I decry them all. They are the reason for todays mess as the children havbe been educated that they can do any didrty deal they want behind clsoed doors

  • Mister_Joe

    Can’t argue with that. I believe there were likely lots of side deals which haven’t been revealed and are likely never to be.

  • Morpheus

    The SoS’s ‘Operation Dummy Tit’ is complete…

    …nothing that wasn’t in the original letters.

    Over to you Peter Robinson…

  • chrisjones2

    “But on the pursuit of people for pre-1998 offences, it was quite clear there would be no prosecutions.”

    Which of course proved to be nonsense – at least for Prods who didn’t have friends at the highest levels of the Blair regime and weren’t valuable enough to save from justice. And that’s why the system was a dirty little secret

  • Mister_Joe

    So, nothing new. And millionaire Robinson (courtesy of the public purse) shown to be nothing but a bluffing blowhard. He was never going to resign, his family having lost over half of its enormous income after his adulteress wife was found out. It’s a pity that she apparently has not recovered sufficiently from her acute embarrassment to sit down with the police and explain all of her suspect activities.

  • Reader

    Morpheus: No, you are right Reader – even though Loyalists said that they were
    offered the scheme as well they obviously weren’t. This former UVF
    spokesman no less is obviously lying.

    They can’t have been offered a 2007 scheme in 1997. Way back then there was talk about OTRs, amnesties, early release schemes and sentencing caps. Only the last two went into the GFA.
    I have no issue with your description of DUP stupidity (or hypocrisy, or obfuscation, or backtracking – whichever it was), nor with the purely administrative aspects of the letters. It’s your initial suggestion that both lots of terrorists were indulged in the same way that irks. Maybe the loyalists got a different set of sweeties at a different time – I don’t know.
    And outside of Slugger, in the real world, what bothers me is the possibility that the NIO tampered with the PSNI letters to make them actually harmful, and not just administrative letters of comfort at all.

  • Morpheus

    Operation Rapid started in 2007 but a process for dealing with OTRs was in existence well before then – see the BBC report from Barney Rowan back in 2002…

    The long and short of it is that the scheme was offered to both Loyalists and Republicans, whether that irks you or not is irrelevant.

    As for your final paragraph, are you seriously trying to suggest that the police said a person was wanted and the NIO changed it to say they weren’t?