OTR crisis begins to abate: totally inappropriately

The crisis has begun to abate, without the direct threat of Stormont collapsing in the immediate future. Despite various claims from the predictable sources in both former government and pliant media circles this was and remains a major scandal and a colossal indictment of the whole political process. The first suggestion at minimising the relevance of these events has been that the suggestion that these letters to suspected terrorists as arranged by Sinn Fein (was the old term Sinn Fein …

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Ivan Lewis on the OTR Letters

In today’s Belfast Telegraph, Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary, Ivan Lewis attempts to straddle the line between preserving the Labour legacy of peace here and distancing himself from Blair and Peter Hain. In his opening paragraphs Lewis attempts to chart a middle course saying Some have suggested the UK Government and more specifically my party should recant for the introduction of the so called “on the run” administrative scheme. I cannot accept this despite the understandable anger some have expressed. It would …

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Ford accuses Peter Hain of telling “something less than the complete truth…”

David Ford: The system is full of anomalies mostly because the way that the peace process was addressed by the British government making concessions and side deals with whoever was most difficult at the time so that lesser value in our living with those anomalies people like me try to actually get the justice system to work properly today. Mark Carruthers: You can understand how unionists are pretty angry that they can what they perceived the IRA potential people involved …

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“Just to confuse matters, some elements of the tale of the On The Runs appear to have been hidden in plain sight.”

BBC NI political editor Mark Devenport with, perhaps, the best description of the mechanism used to address the issue of on-the-runs.  From Mark Devenport’s BBC blog While republicans insist unionists knew all about what was happening to the On The Runs, that is not strictly true. Senior PSNI officers answered some questions posed by Northern Ireland Policing Board members and the scheme got a glancing reference in the voluminous Eames-Bradley report on dealing with the legacy of the Troubles. But when former …

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If the DUP overdo their anti-OTR campaign, they risk losing more face

Now where are we? On the basis of Mick’s posts and other comment let’s try to find out. On the face of it the terms of the inquiry are broadly drawn. The aim of the inquiry is to: To produce a full public account of the operation and extent of the      administrative scheme for ‘On the Runs’ (OTRs) To determine whether any letters sent through the scheme contained errors To make  recommendations as necessary on this or related matters that are …

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David Ford: #ShinnersList letters are not now and never have been a devolved matter…

So in all the obfuscating fog of war, a little more clarity. It seems the Secretary of State was not correct to suggest this had something to do with the devolved institutions: Stormont Justice Minister David Ford said government officials told him five cases were currently being considered under the scheme, and the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) had accepted responsibility for this. “Now I don’t like the scheme at all – it’s not open, it’s not transparent, it’s not something …

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Mark Durkan finds the real political weakness in the DUP’s (and SF’s) position on OTRs

Two short segments from last night’s The View, cut back to back of Mark Durkan first puncturing a bureaucratic argument between Jeffrey Donaldson and Jim Allister and then turning his guns on Sinn Fein’s Alex Maskey just as the latter tries to claim the moral high ground on the issue. Let’s just say it makes for uncommon viewing… Mick FealtyMick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider …

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David Cameron: “We will appoint an independent judge to produce a full public account of the operation of this administrative scheme…”

The BBC reports that the Prime Minister David Cameron has announced a judicial review of the operation of the controversial administrative scheme to deal with so-called “on the runs” which was highlighted in the recent collapse of the John Downey case.  From the BBC report Mr Cameron told a Downing Street press conference: “I agree with the first minister of Northern Ireland that after the terrible error of the Downey case it is right to get to the bottom of what happened. …

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How the system of “comfort letters” developed. Secrecy was important, Hain admits

Much of the ammunition Peter Robinson needs is already in Mr Justice Sweeney’s lengthy judgment in the Downey case. Key points in this Belfast Telegraph summary. The administrative scheme began in 2000 to rectify the anomaly because as on the runs, they weren’t eligible for the early release scheme. The overall picture is of Gerry Kelly as Sinn Fein’s point man  with the British government on the issue,   coming forward regularly with new names and the legal authorities  led by successive …

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#ShinnersList and the unravelling Chamber of Secrets…

On the principle of blog what you know, publish learn more and then blog more, here’s as much sense as I can currently squeeze out of this OTR business. I’m sure more will emerge over time. 1 After a day of talking up two divergent matters (Hain’s controversial administrative deal with SF, and the general issue of OTRs) and the ongoing issue of the OTRs, it finally became clear from Gerry Kelly last night that Peter Robinson was never let …

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“The Government communicated back the response to Sinn Fein via a letter from the Northern Ireland Office…”

Via the Guardian politics live-blog.  Worth noting the written ministerial statement from the NI Secretary of State, dated yesterday, which details the mechanism of the on-the-runs administrative scheme [added emphasis throughout] The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mrs Theresa Villiers): On 21 February, Mr Justice Sweeney ruled that an abuse of process had taken place in the prosecution of John Downey for offences relating to the Hyde Park bombing which took place on 20 July 1982. Mr Downey was part …

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Downey case and the uncomfortable facts of our Peace Process re-emerge in a different light

Well, like others, I’m keeping my powder dry on all of this Downey affair. There’s a couple of pieces which are worth noting quickly. One, the vixens have dusted down their copy of jonathan Powell’s Great Hatred Little Room to bring us this: And The Pensive Quill has this on why the PSNI may have made the mistake: In a report, Acting Det Chief Insp Neal Graham told his superior, Det Chief Supt Howard [sic] Baxter, that Mr Downey was …

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“The judge, Lord Justice Coghlin, then held a brief private hearing with lawyers representing the Northern Ireland Office”

Gerry McGeough, last seen in April confronting Gerry Adams, was in court today in the latest stage of his trial on a charge of attempted murder dating back to 1981.  McGeough was arrested as he left the count centre after his unsuccesssful run in the 2007 Assembly election.  His legal team have made an abuse of process application. UTV notes the charges McGeough, from the Carrycastle Road, Gortmerron Dungannon, is accused of attempting to murder former UDR soldier Samuel Brush, possessing two Colt revolvers used …

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