Spurred on by the generals, the government now admit they’re considering an amnesty

For the first time the UK government have admitted they’re considering a general amnesty arising out of the Troubles.  Although an amnesty is not government policy, the admission came in a Lords debate instigated by the former Chief of General Staff of the Army Lord Dannatt, supported by other former top brass and former secretaries of state. What remains unclear is  how this would affect the Legacy package of the Stormont House Agreement, including the proposal for an independent Historical … Read more

RTE’s celebration of John Hume feels like nostalgia for a time that has gone

RTE have just screened a documentary In the Name of Peace; John Hume in America by Maurice Fitzpatrick which the film maker has kindly drawn to my attention. Being in London I cannot access it yet nor have I read his accompanying book. But from the YouTube trail, this is a major celebration of John Hume’s life and work. Anybody who was anybody is in it, led by Clinton and Blair, although Jimmy Carter was not quite so dazzled.  As … Read more

Veil of secrecy over Special Branch informer system lifted a chink as the Finucanes make their bid to the Supreme Court

The Guardian lead on the Walker report ( no relation), neatly coincides with the opening of the Finucane family’s bid to the Supreme Court to order a public inquiry into Pat Finucane’s murder.  The “secret”  report by a former head of MI5  complied in 1980 – nine years before he was murdered –  was  “the blueprint for making RUC special branch a ‘force within a force’, according to the human rights legal group the Committee on the Administration for Justice … Read more

Where Barra Magrory leads on dealing with the past, others will follow

No longer inhibited by  his former office, the ex- DPP Barra Magrory   isn’t alone in believing that an independent Historical Investigations Unit will produce few results for victims, survivors and families and could be more divisive than reconciling.  The best to be  hoped for is that once a renewed effort to bring cases to trial is made over five years, politicians and the public will face up to the issue of a calling halt to prosecutions, combined with a release … Read more

“In Kenova’s sights are also those IRA leaders on the Provisional Army Council who sanctioned the “executions” for spying…”

The BBC reports that Freddie Scappaticci has been arrested in England by the Operation Kenova team and is being questioned “in connection with the investigation into allegations of murder, kidnap and torture”. [Scappaticci is pictured above – bottom left with dark moustache at funeral of Provisional IRA member Larry Marley] The investigation team confirmed that a 72-year-old man had been arrested. The BBC understands the man being questioned is Fred Scappaticci and that he was arrested in England. The investigation … Read more

At the sharpest end of dealing with the past, whatever the arguments, the Haggarty case takes your breath away

A Loyalist  “supergrass” who admitted the murders of five people among hundreds of offences has had a 35-year jail term reduced to six-and-a-half years for helping the police. Gary Haggarty, 45, was a former leader of an Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) unit in north Belfast. Haggarty was a paid police informer for 11 years The judgment from Belfast Crown Court indicated that the 35-year jail term was reduced by 75% for the assistance given to prosecutors and then a further … Read more

“The truth remains that Adams will only reveal his past if it suits his own agenda.”

We might never know the truth about the suggestion that Gerry Adams was responsible, directly or indirectly, for setting up the Provisional IRA’s East Tyrone Brigade for ambush as they tried to blow up a police station in Loughgall in May 1987.  Sinn Féin have dismissed the claims as “utter nonsense”, and some of the usual suspects have busied themselves playing the man – and/or the media. Meanwhile, Ed Moloney provides some useful background, and reproduces the chapter in his book ‘A Secret … Read more

Belfast man sentenced in Germany for 1996 Provisional IRA attack on army barracks

A timely lesson from the German authorities on dealing with Northern Ireland legacy issues…  Having successfully extradited 48-year-old James Anthony Oliver Corry from the Republic of Ireland in December last year, the Belfast man has now been convicted and sentenced for his role in the Provisional IRA mortar attack on a British army barracks near Osnabrück, Germany, in June 1996. From the Irish Times report A Northern Ireland man has been convicted in Germany of attempted murder for participating in an IRA attack on a British army barracks in the … Read more

Extradited Suspect Admits Role in 1996 Provisional IRA Mortar Attack in Germany

Unencumbered by the Belfast Agreement, ‘comfort’ letters, or any proposals on legacy issues, German authorities sought and, last year, secured the extradition of  a suspect in the Provisional IRA mortar attack on a British army barracks near Osnabrück, Germany, in June 1996. James Anthony Oliver Albert Corry, from north Belfast, had been arrested in Killorglin, Co Kerry, in October 2015, on foot of a European Arrest Warrant issued by German authorities. At the start of his trial today in a court in the city … Read more

Election eve is hardly the time for calm consideration of the future

Say what you like about social media but the old fashioned papers are hard to beat to bring you the feel of the last minute election atmosphere. They’re  all the more frantic for the polls being all over the place and  late tragic dominance of “ keeping us safe.”   Later still, the Guardian’s monster montage of the right wing tabloids   Later, after Mail on Line posted their attack on Corbyn etc  True to form  the Daily Mail devotes … Read more

Sadiq Khan saves growing row over police resources from becoming a farce

The row over Theresa May’s police cuts is going Gothic since Trump entered the fray to criticise London Mayor Sadiq Khan and then typically to repeat  his attack even though May tactfully corrected him. The London Evening Standard (editor George Osborne, the former chancellor sacked by May) details the developing story. It turns out Corbyn was prompted to call for May’s resignation by an ITV correspondent’s question. He in turn  had taken up  the resignation call from Steve Hilton, David … Read more

May’s and Corbyn’s descent to bickering over the response to jihadist terrorism shows their mutual mediocrity

Theresa May  is under pressure  even in her supposed area of expertise. The attacks on her for “police cuts” are election chaff. Her real defence  that cuts  that seemed sensible in 2010 are less so in the light of recent events doesn’t work in the climax of an election campaign, and Jeremy Corbyn’s call on her to resign is almost  laughably hypocritical. Even so she has only herself  to blame  for misfiring in her reaction to London bridge outside No 10 … Read more

Did PSNI just change the script?

One standout take-away from the Belfast Telegraph’s ‘BelTelBomber’ piece was an unexpected response from police which cut to the very core of how large organisations deal with the media in two interesting ways. Firstly, a recap: the Belfast Telegraph’s story followed up on the Manchester bombing by sending a reporter to visit local tourist attractions, complete with a backpack, to check if he could do so without any checks. The newspaper’s front page was given over to the piece along … Read more

They will have to shed cherished illusions about how to deal with jihadist terrorism. We were different, but we know the feeling

Since the Manchester atrocity a lifetime ago on Monday night, we can hear echoes of the Troubles every day.   The elevation of suicide into martyrdom is a common theme but very differently enacted and  very differently received; passively- aggressively by  hunger strike  thirty five  years ago  and bitterly dividing opinion to this day: aggressively only  by the IED of militant jihad today; generally condemned except by their own but probably secretly admired by more than we care  to acknowledge. The … Read more

“No single template to condemn, punish, prevent and understand terrorism at the same time…”

Just putting this from Rafael Behr here… Just as there is no one model that explains the terrorist’s motive, there is no single template that enables a society to condemn, punish, prevent and understand terrorism all at the same time. There is no elegant solution to the paradoxes of tolerant societies harbouring enemies of tolerance, and the defence of freedom sometimes demanding illiberal measures. It is because no one person can get it right that we have rival parties in … Read more

We should envy the people of Manchester their sense of solidarity, but defiance in the face of killers is not enough

British reaction to the Manchester atrocity has not yet reached the level of reproaching the authorities for “ the one that got away.” But it soon will, if the reaction to 7/7 is followed. MI5’s investigation into Crevice threw up 55 individuals associated with the plotters. MI5 said it would have liked to have pursued all of them. But it was a matter of resources and only 15 were seen as “essential” targets. The remaining 40, including those later identified … Read more

Shock horror EXCLUSIVE! MI5 had Jeremy Corbyn under surveillance into the 1990s, for “links to the IRA”

Billed as  “Exclusive, MI5”, the Daily Telegraph  splashes with a predictable twist on an ancient theme, that Jeremy Corbyn had been under surveillance for having “ links” to the IRA. This is the flip side of the super-patriotic  coin that supports army veterans in their campaign, backed by Theresa May, against prosecutions for illegal actions in Northern Ireland and now supported by the Commons Defence Select Committee. It’s so much easier than thinking to take sides and leave it at … Read more

Brendan Duddy RIP. A peace maker in real time

It is remarkable, in an age of sophisticated  back channels and espionage  replete with digital  and satellite communications, how a modest domestic background figured so  significantly in the moves which eventually led to the ceasefires – and all the more effectively for it. The problem was how to establish  trust when contacts had to be deniable, were often dangerous and were frequently interrupted by another  piece of violence. Key contacts were often made in Derry, presumably because the town  never … Read more

Peter Taylor: “Gradually I got used to reporting death. But I never became insensitive to it.”

In advance of the broadcast on BBC Radio 4 tonight, 8pm, of Peter Taylor’s documentary, Fifty Years Behind the Headlines – Reflections on Terror, the renowned journalist has written an article on the subject for the BBC website.  Most revealing, on many levels, is the part in which he recounts the “interview [which] affected [him] personally above all others.” The blanket protest by the IRA prisoners in the Maze started in 1977. They refused to wear prison uniform, insisting they were political prisoners and … Read more

“More important, though, is to never forget the monstrous things that can be done by apparently affable family men, who write poetry and enjoy fishing.”

With former Sinn Féin MLA, Daithí McKay [now a Slugger contributor… – Ed], speculating elsewhere that the, as yet unspecified, illness that caused the Northern Ireland deputy First Minister to pull out of December’s NI Executive Office trip to China at the last minute may force him to step down in 2017, Eilis O’Hanlon takes a pre-emptive look at Martin McGuinness’ “mixed legacy“. McGuinness has been lucky. Adams is widely mocked for denying that he was ever in the IRA. McGuinness was … Read more