NI Affairs Committee On The Runs report – an example of something being “hidden in plain sight”

On The Runs report coverThe NI Affairs Committee’s 111-page report into The administrative scheme for “on-the-runs” [PDF] will take some time to read and digest.

In the meantime, picking out a few of its 62 conclusions and recommendations …

2. It is clear that Sinn Féin pushed for OTRs to be dealt with at the highest level, and that promises were made by the Prime Minister as a result of the pressure put upon HM Government by Sinn Féin. Over the years, Tony Blair put in much effort to ensure those promises were fulfilled, but did so without telling other Northern Ireland party leaders about the exact nature of the administrative scheme. (Paragraph 47)

3. The role of the Irish Government also gives rise for concern, as the December 1999 letter highlighted that it was pushing for cases which had not even been tried in the United Kingdom courts to be completely dropped. It appears that the Irish Government was, in effect, trying to persuade HM Government to introduce an amnesty for republican terrorist suspects. (Paragraph 48)

The scheme remained “largely invisible”

7. One of the most controversial issues within the Belfast Agreement was the early release of prisoners, but at least it was publicly disclosed in the Agreement which itself was endorsed by referendum and enshrined in statute. By contrast, the administrative scheme for OTRs, also a highly controversial scheme, remained largely invisible for some 14 years. (Paragraph 61)

The scheme was “extraordinary”.

12. The direct involvement of Secretaries of State for Northern Ireland, Officials in the political directorate in the NIO, and even No. 10 Officials, in the criminal justice process was recognised as being extraordinary by many witnesses. We understand that the circumstances after the Belfast Agreement were also extraordinary and given the lack of confidence Sinn Féin, at that point, had in the criminal justice system in NI, we recognise that an extraordinary process was required. However once Sinn Féin had signed up to support policing in NI this scheme should have reverted to more normal criminal justice processes. We also consider that the extraordinary nature of the scheme should also have required all those involved to put in place thorough processes to ensure that the identified risks of damaging the criminal justice processes were mitigated as far as possible from the start. It is greatly regrettable that this was not done. (Paragraph 75)

13. It is apparent to us that different Secretaries of State played significantly different roles in the scheme. Those who were in post at the initial stages of the scheme were very knowledgeable about it, as was Peter Hain, a long serving Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. His evidence appears to have been heavily relied upon by Judge Sweeney in the Downey judgment. Those involved later in the scheme seemed to be much less well informed about the detail of the scheme, and did not have the same role with regard to individual OTRs. This may have been because the scheme had become firmly established by the time they became the Secretary of State and it continued to be operated by NIO Officials. It was wrong the final scheme continued without the full involvement of successive Secretaries of State. (Paragraph 76)

15. Whilst the scheme may not have given Sinn Féin exactly what they wanted, it was designed to go well beyond the terms of the Belfast Agreement early release scheme to cover a much wider range of people. It allowed people to return to the UK, without going through any judicial process. It also allowed prison escapees to return to the UK, without serving the remainder of their sentence or being charged with escaping from prison. (Paragraph 86)

In hindsight, the scheme was “hidden in plain sight”.

16. Only with the benefit of hindsight, can it now be seen that there were several indications that an administrative scheme for OTRs was in operation, including, for example, from Ministers’ responses to Parliamentary Questions; the scheme was therefore an example of something being “hidden in plain sight”. (Paragraph 104)

17. Whilst we accept that some disclosure had been made about dealing with OTRs, these have tended to be incomplete accounts of what the scheme fully entailed. Indeed, some of the disclosures to Parliament, both in response to Parliamentary Questions, and to questions raised by our predecessor Committee, leave out some key information about how the scheme worked, and in his judgment Mr Justice Sweeney commented: “At a meeting with the [Secretary of State for Northern Ireland] in May 2001 Mr Adams expressed the view that, in terms of Republican confidence, it would be better if there was an invisible process for dealing with OTRs”. It is clear the intention was that the people of Northern Ireland and other political parties were kept in the dark about the scheme to the greatest possible extent. (Paragraph 105)

18. In section 8.54 of The Report of the Hallett Review, it is stated that “there was sufficient information in the public domain to alert the close observer of political affairs in Northern Ireland to the fact that some kind of process existed by which OTRs could submit their names for consideration by the police and prosecuting authorities”. We disagree. Even Owen Paterson, who had been shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland since 2007, told us he did not know about the scheme until he actually became Secretary of State in 2010. (Paragraph 116)

19. We have found no evidence that, beyond Sinn Féin and the NIO, anyone else knew about the precise use of letters, issued on behalf of HM Government, to alert someone as to whether they were “wanted” or “not wanted”. (Paragraph 117)

20. It is important to make clear at this point that the PSNI knew nothing about the content of the letters sent from the NIO to Sinn Féin until December 2011. This is one of the major failings of the scheme. (Paragraph 118)

23. The letters themselves, and subsequent statements by the PSNI and NIO, have left it unclear quite what “new evidence” would be required for a prosecution to be brought against a recipient of one of the letters. This issue is key and should have been addressed before the text of the letters was decided so that all involved were clear regarding what could and could not be considered. This issue exposes again the lack of care that was taken in designing the scheme. This is a point which needs to be clarified, particularly given the statement by the PSNI that 95 recipients of letters are potentially linked, by intelligence, to almost 300 murders. (Paragraph 141)

24. Sinn Féin stated that it was “impossible to overstate the importance of the assurances” the letters gave. It is unclear whether this means Sinn Féin took the letters to have some legal status beyond being a simple statement of facts at the time, but it is difficult to see how the letters could have been thought to have such significance if taken purely at face value. The fact that Gerry Kelly refused our invitation to give public evidence has denied Sinn Féin the opportunity to explain what assurances they had been given by HM Government as to the status of the letters. (Paragraph 146)

26. The Government should set its mind to ensuring that all necessary steps are taken, including, if necessary, introducing legislation to ensure the letters have no legal effect. (Paragraph 157)

37. If the PSNI had known about the entire scheme and had been involved in checking the letters sent to OTRs, it is almost certain that the Downey judgment could have been prevented. Matt Baggott, former Chief Constable of the PSNI, told us that, “with the benefit of hindsight, had we known there were letters, could there have been a bigger conversation about the implications if a mistake had been made”. We agree with this comment. (Paragraph 207)

43. Whilst there is no suggestion that the scheme was actually illegal, it would be difficult to say that the scheme is unquestionably lawful in every case and this might have given an aggrieved person an opportunity to have a decision made by a Minister quashed in judicial review proceedings. Secrecy denied this opportunity. However, we are pleased that cases for judicial review have now been brought given the wider public understanding of the scheme. We are also concerned that the availability of this scheme to only one section of the community, and even then only effectively at the whim of one political party, raises questions about equality rules in Northern Ireland. (Paragraph 220)

55. Having looked at all of those documents which have been made available to us, we have concluded that pre-conviction pardons were not used in relation to OTRs. (Paragraph 288)

56. We welcome the fact that the Hallett report recommended that a central register of RPMs [Royal Prerogatives of Mercy] be drawn up for Northern Ireland, and are pleased that HM Government has already accepted this recommendation, although this information will not be provided retrospectively. In the interests of transparency, and given that the names of those who received the use of the RPM are already in the public domain, however, we recommend that the Secretary of State should publish this information retrospectively. (Paragraph 296)

57. We recommend that HM Government confirm which OTRs received the RPM, as the provision of such information could not jeopardise any future prosecution of those individuals. (Paragraph 298)

58. Whilst the name of those who received a RPM have been disclosed in court cases, the Secretary of State has refused to name which of those are OTRs. We find this wholly unacceptable. (Paragraph 299)

59. Where the RPM has been used in Northern Ireland in the past, we believe HM Government should publish the names of those people, and list what they received the RPM for, and we recommend that the names of any future recipients of the RPM in Northern Ireland should be required to be published in the Belfast Gazette. (Paragraph 300)

Sinn Féin’s lack of evidence to the inquiry hampered the committee’s ability to fully understand the OTR scheme.

60. We have previously noted that Sinn Féin were not getting what they wanted from the letters, which was, effectively, an amnesty. It has been suggested that the letters were only sent to those people who had the status of “not wanted”, but we find it somewhat difficult to follow the logic that Sinn Féin would have been kept on board by the NIO sending letters to not wanted people. (Paragraph 313)

61. Without being able to question Sinn Féin about exactly what assurances they thought they were being given by HM Government through these letters, we are not convinced that the OTR letters were deal breakers. It appears to us that Mr Blair was saying that it was necessary to find a solution to the OTR issue in order to keep Sinn Féin on board, and while it was too difficult to legislate for an amnesty, this scheme served as a substitute, a distraction, which kept Sinn Féin in the peace talks. However, it looks to us that the two processes became blurred. (Paragraph 314)

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  • chrisjones2

    This has all the hallmarks of collusion (on the Corry definition) between Ministers and officials to pervert the course of justice. Done in secret. A dirty little deal

    Will it now be reported to law officers and investigated to see if criminal offences were committed?

    Will we hear calls from SF for an international judge led inquiry?

    Will Ministers who misled the house be forced to apologize?

    Don’t hold your breath for any of this as it all ‘might damage the peace process’

  • Ulick

    Well they would say that wouldn’t they?

    The NI Affairs Committee aka Kate Hoey, Naomi Long, Ian Paisley, David Simpson, Alasdair McDonnell, Sylvia Hermon.

    Hardly seekers of the unbiased truth.

  • james

    Why on earth are Sinn Fein so desperate to protect IRA terrorists from conviction for murder and who knows what other horrible crimes? After all, they are two separate organizations, aren’t they,

  • Would it have been more representative if Sinn Fein took their seats and were on the committee?!

  • chrisjones2

    But then they couldn’t deny responsibility and blame the big boys

  • chrisjones2

    Isnt it suddenly quiet in here. Amazing how when a light goes on they scuttle for cover. Its almost as if an email want out saying ‘say nothing’

    And where are the DUP on this. You might expect them to respond but no… so where that commitment to victims

  • chrisjones2

    You missed all the English ones and labelled Kate Hoey as anti SF as well

    Now why would you do that? Man playing? Racist bias and a casual assumption that anyone who says anything about the Republican Movement nuts be a liar or charlatan?

    The report was signed off by the Committee en which the NI MPs are a minority. Even the Labour MPs were critical of the behaviour of their own former ministers and Dear Leader

  • Glenn Clare

    Don’t forget protection from pedophilia and the despicable act of moving the around so they could sexually abuse more children. Do on the run letter cover any of these crimes??? Who knows both the shinners/provos and the PSNI are being very coy on who got a letter and what they got the letters for???

  • So Gerry Kelly, who has today revealed that he received a royal pardon (care to mention the crimes that this was in relation to?), refused to give evidence on his participation in this covert scheme. Does he not see the irony in being the Sinn Féin spokesperson for Policing and Justice yet being a block to justice for many?

  • chrisjones2

    And now the boul Gerry Kelly has been outed………

    So how many other senior Shinners negotiated themselves an RPM in the ‘lost’ NIO files?

    Unionists need to ask themselves if this political shambles on the Hill is worth it

    Republicans need to ask themselves – why him and not me?

  • Glenn Clare

    Did any shinners/provos get an OTR letter which protected them from their acts of pedophilia when they moved out of the jurisdiction so they could abuse more children???
    Do on the run letters cover any of these crimes??? We just don’t know because both the shinners/provos and the PSNI are being very coy on who got letters and what they got them for???

  • Ulick

    Undoubtedly Alan, but a more representative Westminster committee isn’t going to make it’s report any more useful. Excuse me for being crude, but the expression “can’t polish a turd” was invented for this likes of this.

  • chrisjones2

    Good heavens where have all the Shinners apologists in here gone to?

  • Glenn Clare

    It’s a which hunt, our selves alone. Welcome to big boy politics, no woolly faces to run to.

    Did the shinners/provos ever think that because they are shinners/provos they would get an easy time. This is the equality Gerry gets on his high horse about when he demands it of others. Well Gerry equality works both ways.

    As I have said before the shinners/provos are good at street politics and looking after their own, but when it comes to realpolitik they just don’t have it.

    Watch the welfare issue blow up this week.

  • Cue Bono

    I wonder how many of them were recruited by SB/MI5? That could be a huge can of worms.

  • Cue Bono

    Why not take a bit of time and point out the things which they said that are incorrect? Rather than simply dismissing them because they arent terrorist supporters.

  • Cue Bono

    There is a definite pattern here. For instance threads which discuss the PRM’s involvement in child sex abuse also tend to be devoid of Sinner input. It’s as if they were directed on which subjects to discuss and which ones to ignore and hope will go away. You also see a very definite line to take in a lot of their arguments and it tends to rely heavily on whataboutery.

  • james

    Good point. I’ve never heard Kelly (apparently the man in the know about how to reach the various gentlemen who felt the need to skip the country, and whom then seemingly have reason to believe the police might be after them) lay out exactly which crimes the OTR’s might be OTR from. I’ve heard it said that innocent men don’t run, but what would I know?

  • chrisjones2

    I know I have mentioned this several times (ad nauseum some may say) but the absence of the usual SF suspects in this thread and on Slugger generally today is so so startling that it just stinks of co-ordination on other threads. They seem to have all but vanished at one time on one day

    Are they all frantically searching for their letters or taking those prized framed RPMs down off their walls now they are no longer fashionable?

  • Mike the First

    Mick, what happened to my comments on here yesterday calling out Ulick for playing the man on this topic?

  • Robin Keogh

    I don’t really get what all the fuss is about to be honest, the report says that the scheme was not illegal so what’s the problem? The British government made what appears to be a side deal with Sinn Fein, so what? This is not unusual in conflict resolution scenarios.

  • chrisjones2

    Nice to see you back. Have a good break?

    Well, as you study politicslets look a bit at soem revcent issues


    Mr Justice Corry

    ” “to co-operate secretly: to have a secret understanding.”

    “to deliberately ignore; to overlook; to disregard; to pass over; to take no notice of; to turn a blind eye; to wink; to excuse; to condone; to look the other way; to let something ride.”

    “There cannot be public confidence in any government agency that is guilty of collusion or connivance with regard to serious crimes.

    Billy Wright Inquiry

    “the essence of collusion is an agreement or arrangement between individuals or organisations, including government departments, to achieve an unlawful or improper purpose. The purpose may also be fraudulent or underhand.”

    Da Silva Inquiry

    “I consider collusion to involve:

    (i) agreements, arrangements or actions intended to achieve unlawful, improper, fraudulent or underhand objectives; and

    (ii) deliberately turning a blind eye or deliberately ignoring improper or unlawful activity.”


    “While (collusion) generally means the commission of an act, I am also of the view that it should be considered in terms of an omission or failure to act.

    “In the active sense, collusion has amongst its meanings to conspire, connive or collaborate.

    On every definition at every level this was collusion on a grand scale to stop suspects being interviewed and where possible charged and brought to justice. A scummy secret dirty deal deliberately hidden and that colluded to shaft the victims and prevent the prosecution of suspects. Even those involved in operating it didnt know what was going on in the NIO and Downing St – they too were deliberately misled

    Blair and his henchmen should face a criminal inquiry to determine if crimninal offences were committed here

  • Robin Keogh

    I never actually went anywhere but thanks for the welcome. I actually understand why u are peed off by the above but as a student of politics i can assure you chris that when it comes to conflict resolution, side deals and dodgy agreements are usually part of the process. From the middle east to Rwanda to South Africa to Ireland. you may be angry but as the report finds, nothing actually illegal was done. If you want Blair et al. Put in a noose over it all…. I wish you luck my friend

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I love the idea of Kelly getting a royal pardon. Conjures up an image of him kneeling before the Queen and her laying a hand briefly on his sweating forehead, then dismissing him without looking at him. “Thank you ma’am” mumbled repeatedly as he shuffles out the door backwards …

  • Kevin Breslin

    It is shameful that the Northern wing of Sinn Féin can’t even attend a Westminster committee, something Fianna Fáil, Irish Labour and Fine Gael and even some of Sinn Féin’s own Southern representatives have done, (even though they don’t stand there) to speak about an issue concerning those in the Six Counties, yet they will attend fancy feasts at Buckingham Palace instead.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    At last, some straight talking on the issue. This picks up on some of the good work of the Hallett Report that got lost in the reporting of it.

    The problem when Hallett reported was that the summary wasn’t a reflection of the body of the report. The summary seemed to pull its punches; but the body of the report contained some killer findings.

    For example, The Select Committee was right to disagree with section 8.54 of the Hallett Review, where it stated that “there was sufficient information in the public domain to alert the close observer of political affairs in Northern Ireland to the fact that some kind of process existed by which OTRs could submit their names for consideration by the police and prosecuting authorities”. The Hallett Review *itself* contradicted this overall assertion – the body of the report is much more damning of Hain and the “under the radar” nature of the scheme:

    “8.14 … Politicians and government officials have accepted that details of the scheme were not broadcast and were considered ‘sensitive’, drawing a clear distinction between ‘secret’ and ‘sensitive’.
    “8.28 The UK Government did not volunteer information about the administrative scheme in its dealings with other political parties …”
    “8.31 It is clear that the UK Government discussed the generic issue of OTRs with other parties, but specific details of the scheme were not shared.”
    “8.34 I have found no evidence, therefore, of political parties in Northern Ireland other than Sinn Féin being informed of the specific issue of the administrative scheme for OTRs.”
    “8.41 A selection of the most pertinent references to the administrative scheme in the public domain is found at Appendix 9. I now summarise some of the clearer public indications of the existence of the administrative scheme, together with official statements which were less than informative. In considering what information was available to the general public, I should emphasise that it is far easier to put together the “pieces of the jigsaw” (as Nigel Dodds MP described them following the R v John Downey ruling) with the considerable benefit of hindsight.”
    “8.55 The administrative scheme was kept ‘below the radar’ due to its political sensitivity … Government statements on how OTRs were being dealt with after the Belfast Agreement range from those which might be characterised as accurate and helpful to those which are less than informative.”
    “8.56 If there was a lack of clarity and openness, responsibility lies with the UK Government. There were numerous opportunities for the Government to clarify details of the scheme, which it was later prepared to disclose in response to FOI requests.”

    The comment at 8.41 is quite key here. People listing all the information “publicly available”, contending we all therefore “should have known” tend to do so omitting Hallett’s pretty massive caveat on it – it’s only with hindsight you could have pieced together what was going on. It was deliberately under the radar.

    She was very easy on Hain too – she noted what he did, but withheld drawing the natural conclusion from it. I’m glad to see, the Select Committee seems to be more straight-talking on this. But note, even Hallett found:
    “8.44 None of the statements to Parliament made on behalf of the Government identified the unusual circumstances in which the reviews were being undertaken, and certain responses by ministers may have been less than helpful. I give two examples:
    – In October 2006 Peter Robinson requested assurance “that no other procedure will be used to allow on-the-run terrorists to return”. The response of Mr Hain was: “There is no other procedure. There is no prospect of an amnesty.”
    – In March 2007 Lady Hermon MP asked what measures the Government was considering to deal with OTRs other than further legislation or an amnesty. Mr Hain’s written answer was: “None … the Government continue to accept that the position of ‘on the runs’ is an anomaly, and we believe that the anomaly will need to be addressed at some stage. However, the Government do not have any current proposals for doing so.”

    Let’s be clear here – the March 2007 answer is an outright lie to an MP’s question in Parliament. And then the people defending this scheme and this secrecy have the gall to blame those asking the questions because they “should have known”?

    Perhaps Hallett felt more pressure to sit on the fence in the summary than in the body of the report? I write research reports myself and I know how this happens. You can live sometimes with your summary being toned down because you have said your piece in the full report. I wonder if that’s what happened here?

    What Hain did was an abuse of Parliament in my view and he should be subject to criminal prosecution. I understand that may not be possible, but the law should be amended I feel so that ministers deliberately deceiving Parliament in that way can be subject to the criminal law. This is not just a Northern Ireland issue, this goes to the heart of whether the government is accountable to public representatives in Parliament.

    This was not a national security issue – that, I would have accepted – this was a political side deal and a dirty one at that. The unfairness of it to other political parties and its unusual approach to criminal justice were the main reasons for the government not wanting to tell people about it, not national security or any other ‘public good’. Citing ‘the peace process’ won’t wash, because the the peace process works on the principle of open democratic agreement between parties, not hidden side deals. If Blair and Hain were still in position, this would be a resigning issue for both.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Robin, see my post above for why this is important. Ministers giving misleading answers to MPs on something this important is about as serious as you get. People are cutting Hain slack on the basis of their goodwill towards the peace process, yet his tying the decision not to publicise the scheme to the needs of the peace process is, basically, bogus. If anything, a secret deal like this was only ever likely to damage it. Did he hope it would stay hidden forever? Or just until he was out of the firing line?

    The wider problem is that it seems to confirm that SF got special treatment and played to different rules from all other parties. You can see why: the government knew that SF, as the only paramilitary-linked major party and the one that carried out most of the Troubles, uniquely had the ability to plunge NI back into violence and mayhem (though they are supposed to have stopped threatening that in 1997 when they signed up to the Mitchell Principles).

    Reading Alastair Campbell’s “Irish Diaries” recently, you get a clear picture – pacifying SF is priority number one. And pesky unionists and other parties were seen as an impediment to doing that. Only the great visionaries in 10 Downing St could see what needed to be done. Any means used to get there was worth it for the greater good of ‘peace’. Problem was, as Campbell’s diaries reveal, support for the process as a result fell away badly among unionists, a fact which seemed to blindside Campbell. Not as smart as he thought he was, perhaps?

  • Thomas Barber

    Whaooo, thought I was on Slugger O Toole there for a moment, sweet jesus from the look at the posts its more like the Tangled Web.

  • tmitch57

    Morpheus is also absent insisting that there was no pardon scheme.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    enjoying the tumbleweed on this thread – speaks volumes. A lot of people were very keen to portray this as a fabricated issue, I was accused myself of only pretending to be angry about it. I hope after the Select Committee findings we’ll hear no more of that now.

    We can focus now on what needs to happen next, in terms making sure a government is never able to do something like this again. Personally I think some form of prosecution would send a message, but that may not be legally realistic, I’m not sure. I’d certainly like the DPP to look at what it has in its armoury here for this scale and seriousness of ministerial misconduct.

  • Thomas Barber

    Collusion, so did the Queen also take part in this collusion and conspiracy to pull the wool over the eyes of unionism, and did only republicans benefit from all those OTR’s and Royal Perogitives ?

    “The royal prerogative is a body of customary authority, privilege, and immunity, recognised in the United Kingdom as the sole prerogative
    of the Sovereign. Many of the executive powers of British government,
    vested in a monarch, have been bestowed under the mandate of the royal prerogative”

    Whats the difference between a royal pardon and an OTR letter, both came from the same source, and both had the authority of the Queen. Are you questioning the authority and the wisdom of the Queen and are you demanding she be investigated for perverting the course of justice and will you be demanding an apology off her ?

  • Thomas Barber

    So what are you going to do about the Queen handing out a unknown number of Royal Pardons to all sorts of people, well far more pardons than what was supposedly handed out in comfort letters and an amount that even the British government is unable or unwilling to put a number on. Who do you think got all those pardons ?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    well, quite – that’s another can of worms

  • Thomas Barber

    Well do we just hide it under the carpet or treat and judge the Queen like you wish to treat and judge her Ministers its not as if letters of comfort and royal pardons are not connected. Who received most of the unknown number of royal pardons – Members of the security forces possibly and loyalists ?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Ah, I get you.
    Slight misunderstanding of the term ‘royal pardon’ perhaps? These days a ‘royal pardon’ isn’t a decision of the Queen personally. Like the ‘royal prerogative’ it’s a power actually in the hands of the executive, i.e. the government. The language is a hangover from the time when monarchs actually had law-making power and the power to pardon people.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    But shouldn’t misleading Parliament be illegal?

  • Robin Keogh

    I would say that sounds reasonable but then wouldnt one have to prove intent to mislead in order to secure a charge?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    alas the only sanction I think, by convention, is resignation / dismissal. It’s not, as far as I know, a criminal offence. But I think it should be.

  • Thomas Barber

    So a Royal Pardon has nothing to do with the Queen and all to do with the government –

    “The royal prerogative is a body of customary authority, privilege, and immunity, recognised in the United Kingdom as the sole prerogative of the Sovereign”

    So if the Queen didn’t want this pardon bestowed on someone and refused to rubber stamp it the person who the government want pardoned would in your eyes still receive the pardon ?

    You still haven’t answered why there is no similar uproar over the whole issue of who got all those pardons on bended knee and for what. Whats the difference between a letter of comfort and a royal pardon seeing as the same people in government issued both according to you. Why no similar outcry about terrorists getting royal pardons, why no demands for a public inquiry, why no demands for heads to roll ?

  • siphonophorest


  • MainlandUlsterman

    Not too sure it’s the Queen’s fault (!!) but yes the government let the people of the UK down badly there. Happily though, any national pride I have (such as it is – we’re not that exceptional, let’s face it – other countries are available, as they say) doesn’t hinge on what governments do. But yes you’re right, that kind of thing doesn’t make me feel “proud to be British”. The concept of being proud to come from your country is a bit odd though anyway – I mean, all countries are of equal value really because all people are of equal value.

    I’ve never understood people saying they ‘no longer feel British’, after the government does something stupid or even deeply wrong, like the Iraq War. They did something wrong, yes, but what’s that got to do with your Britishness? Last time I checked, you could be British (or any nationality for that matter) and not support the government of the day, let alone a particular action of that government.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Thomas, I’m not sure if you skipped constitutional law classes 😉 You ask, “So a Royal Pardon has nothing to do with the Queen and all to do with the government” Well, yes, in short! I’ll spare you the law lecture, but do look it up if you’re not sure.

    There is a constitutional convention that the Queen does not interfere in such matters. If she refused to sign, there would be a constitutional crisis. Which would be a good thing from my point of view, as I ultimately want a British republic.

    I’m not sure why there has been less uproar over the royal pardons. For me, it’s because my outrage was provoked by the revelations about the OTR scheme, I was focussed on that, with the Select Committee report coming out this week about it. The revelations about the pardons seem more of the same (though a pardon is different and more serious than a letter of comfort). So it is an issue, but maybe it’s got buried a bit amidst the OTR fiasco stuff.

    But let’s be clear, I’m not happy about pardons either.

    Apparently Kelly got one because SF insisted he was involved in the negotiations around the IRA giving up. The government probably thought it was worth it, if Kelly could persuade his fellow numbskulls to stop trying to kill us all.

    To be honest, I’m much more willing to cut the government some slack around the run up to the GFA and getting an end to the IRA campaign than I am in the subsequent period, where the peace deal was done and all parties were supposed to now be dealing on an even basis. SF getting special side deals at that time was undermining of the GFA and it was unfair to other parties, as well as perverting the course of justice.

    We had swallowed prisoner releases – and that was hard to take – but we did so on the basis that was it. You can’t then start doing other further arrangements behind our backs without telling us. That is obviously going to be deeply problematic, which is presumably why Hain, Reid et al were so keen to keep it hidden and why they gave misleading answers in Parliament on the topic.

  • Thomas Barber

    “Apparently Kelly got one because SF insisted he was involved in the around the IRA giving up. The government probably thought it was worth it, if Kelly could persuade his fellow numbskulls to stop trying to kill us all.”

    Lets not let propaganda get in the way of truth eh, he got one because that was the deal arranged between the Dutch authorities and the British government who wanted him extradited from Holland after escaping from the Maze prison.

    Its unimportant that the Queen did or did not know about who received the Royal pardons or if she could have refused the point being that they are given and made in her name and unionism is not as enraged or in a hissy fit demanding inquiries or that heads should roll over the handing out of them even though the British government is on record as stating that they will never disclose who got them and how many. Why do you think that is ?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    On Kelly, the question remains though why he was given one. Presumably as part of ending the IRA campaign? But I really don’t know, I agree it’s a bizarre anomaly.

    I explained above why unionists might take a more lenient approach to pre-98 shenanigans. The story also got overshadowed a bit by the OTR scheme stuff this seek. So, as for pardons since 98, let’s see whether it does go away as an issue. But I think a lot of unionists will be deeply unhappy about it.

    I don’t really understand what you’re saying though at the end there. Why do I think unionists are less up in arms than you were expecting? As explained above, I think, but that’s just my initial take on it. Are you suggesting it’s because the word ‘royal’ is involved?! Seems unlikely …

  • Thomas Barber

    “Are you suggesting it’s because the word ‘royal’ is involved?!”

    Is that not the real reason why unionists feel unable or unwilling to get into a frenzy concerning the issue of royal pardons and royal prerogatives being issued to some of those OTRs who we could say were actually guilty of a crime rather than those OTRs that received comfort letters and who were wanted for questioning in relation to a specific crime.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Um … no … that would be pretty weird.

  • Thomas Barber

    Which bit do you think is pretty weird ?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    the idea that misunderstanding what a royal pardon is would explain the supposed lack of unionist interest in the pardons. It is possible but it would be really dumb.

  • chrisjones2

    As you should know the Queen herself is above the law in the UK and cannot be prosecuted but her Ministers are not