OTR letter omitted original mention of live suspect status in post GFA murder…

So here, to re-iterate to those not following what is controversial and what is not controversial about the OTR letter issue here is a case which aptly demonstrates the former. There’s added interest in this case since it involves the murder of someone which took place in the post GFA period, that of Gareth O’Connor.. The PSNI mistakenly gave an on-the-run (OTR) letter to the man whom the inquest was told is the main suspect in the O’Connor murder. It … Read more

UPDATED #ShinnersList not a secret and not an amnesty…

So, the #ShinnersList is real, legal but not an enforceable amnesty… The police had realised they had made a mistake, but the assurance to the County Donegal man was never withdrawn. “Nothing in law or logic” explained their failure to rectify the error, Lady Justice Hallett said. “The administrative scheme was kept ‘below the radar’ due to its political sensitivity, but it would be wrong to characterise the scheme as ‘secret’,” she said. She added: “If there was a lack … Read more

“there was a ‘culture’ in the Northern Ireland Office not to prosecute Republicans…”

In appearing on the first day, Norman Baxter has set a fairly direct tone for the Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee inquiry into the administrative scheme for OTRs (see also), by suggesting that it was the Northern Ireland Office which was indulging in politics over Republican suspects rather than the PSNI: He then claimed pressure had also been exerted from Downing Street in regard to the 2007 arrests of Gerry McGeough and Vincent McAnespie in relation to the attempted murder … Read more

#ShinnersList: PSNI either screwed up, or deliberately closed a case that should have been left open…

This is a very powerful set of testimonies put together by Relatives For Justice. Powerful because along with the words you can palpably feel the suffering inflicted by their, mostly, direct experiences of the Troubles. It came out around the same time as the BBC Spotlight programme which highlighted a very real problem with the Downey case. Note the haste with which a Northern Ireland case in which Mr Downey had been wanted for questioning before the resumption of the … Read more

“why should we as a people even consider absolving you of murder in such circumstances?”

I wrote the following piece last February and it was carried in several papers. But in light of the events of the last few weeks, I’ve asked Mick to post it here in full on Slugger. Someone said recently that Ian Paisley was either right in the ideological principles he was promoting in the 1960’s through to the late 2000’s and the methods he was using and wrong now or wrong then and right now. The same could be said … Read more

Pitch for a selective ‘use of immunity’ sets Sinn Fein at odds with victims groups

Declan Kearney’s blog over at the BelTel on the Secretary of State’s 7th March speech is worth highlighting for a number of reasons. One, it comes a full seven days after the Villiers speech. And two the argument begins with an odd reference to ‘narrative’: By setting out the primacy of a single narrative, and rejecting the use of immunity as one instrument to assist in dealing with the past, the British Government has come out against the Haass compromises. … Read more

“This may involve kicking over a lot of creatively ambiguous rocks…”

And belatedly, here’s Newton Emerson from the Irish News last weekend (£): PETER Robinson settled for a “judge-led review” from David Cameron into the on-the-runs letters, for reasons that may involve kicking the issue into the long grass until after May’s elections. However, Westminster’s cross-party Northern Ireland Affairs Committee was not mollified and has now announced its own parliamentary inquiry, with a far wider remit than Cameron’s wig-adorned paperwork exercise plus the power to compel evidence and witnesses. This may … Read more

MPs could name IRA members who appear on #ShinnersList…

Sam McBride notes that if the Commons select committee gets a hold of the actual #ShinnersList, individual MPs could disclose at least some of its members to the wider public: The committee’s chairman, Conservative MP Laurence Robertson, said that its members were “unanimously” determined to investigate the scheme as the terms of reference for the judge-led inquiry were “too narrow” and its hearings would be in private. Last week, Mr Robertson told the News Letter that the committee — which … Read more

#ShinnersList: “we are in position where it would’ve been better to have left the issue alone”

So, how many crises do you know that last just 24 hours? Peter Robinson getting his inquiry from David Cameron is merely the close of phase one, not necessarily the end of the crisis per se. The Sunday Politics for instance carried this warning from Alex Maskey: I believe that Peter Robinson and others have created a storm they don’t know where it will actually all end up. And they may regret creating that storm because they have created a … Read more

Only amnesties here are de-facto and protect state forces and their agents.

Mark Thompson of Relatives For Justice has a lengthy piece on the OTR issue over at the Compromise after Conflict blog and takes the opportunity to highlight the degree of attention this is getting in the media compared to that given his own organisation. He concludes though: OTR letters are not amnesties but they are of legitimate concern to those affected by republicans much the same that the issues raised in this article are of equal concern to those affected … Read more

#ShinnersList: “I have never heard an explanation as to why Operation Rapid as a term, was never made clear to the board.”

So the Policing Board eh? Not exactly a paragon of the protestant (or even Catholic) work ethic, yet it exploded into life last night with even the normally mild mannered Chief Constable telling his interlocutors: “Can I caution the member that under the code of conduct that he does not have the right to question the integrity of the members of the command team or myself.” Erm, now I know these guys have been conspicuously missing in action up to … Read more

“We’re not trapped in our past; we are trapped in a distrust stoked by our leaders”

Warren Little in his column for the Impartial Reporter makes some critical points on the OTR issue. First, unfinished business: Other questions remain. Why did Peter Hain tell Parliament that he had no proposals for OTRs without mentioning the scheme? Why did he subsequently talk about having to ‘cut deals’ if the letters were merely factual assessments of the OTRs’ current status? Why were victims’ families not informed, at least on a no-names basis? That latter failure is glaring, and … Read more

#ShinnersList: Government had to trust Sinn Fein not to use this private arrangement to their own narrow advantage

I was on the Irish Times Inside Politics with Hugh Linihan and Martin Mansergh. The OTR section starts with an interview with Finola Meredith at about 31 minutes in. I kick off my own remarks with the suggestion that if any political party in the south had been caught striking the kind of clandestine arrangement the #ShinnersList appears to be (jury is still out on just what it was in its fullest extent, the government would have fallen. Why? Exhibit … Read more

Why did no one in Sinn Fein tell the Ballymurphy families the Para’s could borrow Adams’ ‘public interest’ defence?

Gerry Moriarty reports in yesterday’s Irish Times highlights the tragic case of the Ballymurphy families of eleven victims on and over several days after the introduction of internment. One victim’s family has gone to the extreme, and no doubt deeply upsetting, resort of having the body of their loved one exhumed to find evidence that he’d been shot long after having been wounded. John Teggart told UTV on Monday: “I think anybody out there whose parents were murdered in cold … Read more

Clearing up the social mess created by the #ShinnersList is only a first stage…

So one thing the revelation of the #ShinnersList might do is to reset public discussion over policing and justice to something a little saner than heretofore [travel in hope rather than expectation, eh? – Ed]. One problem Unionist politicians have been bombarded with for years is the idea put to them repeatedly by Loyalists that Republicans had some kind of amnesty in their back pockets whilst they, plainly it now seems, had none. [Wonder who told them that? – Ed] … Read more

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 … Read more

#ShinnersList is “a consequence of Sinn Fein’s selfish misdealing…”

Interesting response to the Hain interview this morning from Mark Durkan… “It is no surprise that Peter Hain has now articulated this view. That was clearly his position. Sinn Fein, who have been quoting him in aid this week, know that this was Peter Hain’s view when they were collaborating together to push forward the NI (Offences) Bill in 2005 (which was misnomered as the On The Runs bill). “In the context of the Hain-Adams Bill, which Peter Hain was … Read more

[Updated] Did Blair’s ‘Tonyish’ deal keep the Irish Government in the dark…

And in the Guardian… The ex-minister said that not only was the Fianna Fáil led administration – which lasted until 2011 – unaware of the letters, ministers in Dublin had rejected a similar proposal from republicans: “While Sinn Féin brought up the issue of the ‘on the runs’ regularly with us, we never had any information about the existence of these letters and I think that is the case for all of the cabinet back then. “Clearly they went and … Read more

#ShinnersList: “…old hatreds have not been buried. The old injustices have been replaced by new ones.”

Charles Moore in the Telegraph reprises Peter Preston’s 2007 theme of poisonous foundations: On one thing, Jonathan Powell is quite correct. The indignation of Unionist politicians in Northern Ireland, notably the First Minister, Peter Robinson, is utterly synthetic. Mr Robinson says he was not informed – and that may, strictly speaking, be the case. But he could have found out about these comfort letters in 10 minutes if he had tried. It was much more convenient for him not to … Read more

Rationale for the #ShinnersList: “Preferential treatment of IRA men regarding their potential criminal liability…”

On Facebook yesterday, I saw a query from an old schoolfriend (from P1, as it happens). He’s about as apolitical it is possible to be, but his curiosity was clearly piqued and he asked a question about how on earth the NIO managed to get all those letters out to the OTRs. The answer as we now know was via Sinn Fein. We’ll have to await the outcome of the Review to see just how rigorous the processes were. But … Read more