UK ♥ IRA

BLAIR, BROWN, CAMERON & THE KIKE MANDELSON gave IRA TERRORISTS letters of IMMUNITY


Details of private scheme for 187 on the run IRA members revealed

[Photo: Dead horses covered up and wrecked cars at the scene after an IRA bomb exploded as the Household Cavalry was passing, in Hyde Park, London in 1982.]

By Sam McBride, Belfast Newsletter, 26 February 2014

A secret quasi-amnesty deal between Tony Blair’s Government and 187 IRA members proposed by Sinn Fein could mean that many Troubles victims have no hope of ever getting justice, a dramatic court verdict has revealed.

The deal – which emerged as the case against alleged Hyde Park bomber John Downey collapsed at the Old Bailey – suggests that Parliament’s rejection of an amnesty for on the run terrorists was surreptitiously bypassed by Mr Blair’s Government.

According to evidence given to the court by Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly, such letters – which were part of a project known as ‘the administrative scheme’ – were being sent out by a Government representative until two years ago.

Mr Kelly told the court: “It is impossible to overstate the importance of the assurances given to the 187 recipients, which included John Downey, being maintained. These were essential in the achievement of the series of agreements that began with the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, and were consolidated in… the commencement of the Northern Ireland Assembly in 2007.”

The court judgment was handed down on Friday but reporting restrictions were only lifted at 4.30pm yesterday when the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) told the High Court in London that it would not appeal the verdict.

The judgment states that in 2000 the RUC estimated that there were 200 on the runs. Allowing for those who have died over the intervening 14 years, the fact that 187 letters exist suggests that almost every IRA member on the run – and perhaps every one of them – has been given a letter similar to Downey’s.

First Minister Peter Robinson labelled yesterday’s court decision as an “outrage” and said it was “a sad day for victims of terrorism”, while Nigel Dodds said that the DUP knew nothing of the letters.

UUP MLA Tom Elliott said the revelation about secret letters was “a disgrace” and TUV leader Jim Allister said it revealed “the rotten skulduggery behind the peace process”.

Downey, who has a conviction for IRA membership but denied responsibility for the 1982 Hyde Park bombing, first became a suspect just three weeks after the bomb when his fingerprints were, according to the prosecution, found on two parking tickets used to park the stolen car used in the bombing.

The judgment states that he was also a suspect in a 1972 bombing in Enniskillen which killed two UDR members.

The judgment also shows that Jonathan Powell, Tony Blair’s former chief of staff, provided a witness statement for Mr Downey’s defence team and reveals that on May 19, 2000, Sinn Fein presented its first list of 36 IRA names to Mr Powell. He passed the list to the Attorney General, who in turn sent it to Northern Ireland’s Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), asking him to try to locate the files of the individuals, trace witnesses and consult police.

However, the following month the then Attorney General, Lord Williams, wrote to the then Secretary of State Peter Mandelson to say: “I am seriously concerned that the exercise that is being undertaken has the capacity of severely undermining confidence in the criminal justice system in Northern Ireland at this most sensitive of times.”

It was then accepted that if the evidential test was met in relation to a particular individual they would be prosecuted.

The judgment also reveals: “In a letter dated January 23, 2001 the Attorney General expressed concern about the making of any statement that implied that Government, rather than Parliament, would seek to influence or even prevent the prosecution of individuals – pointing out that not only would that be constitutionally wrong, but that it would not be possible either – given that neither he nor the DPP(NI) could be influenced by any such statement of Government intent.”

In 2005, the Government attempted to introduce a de facto amnesty for on the runs but that bill was withdrawn in Parliament by the then Secretary of State Peter Hain after it was opposed by every Northern Ireland party – including Sinn Fein, because it included soldiers within its ambit.

The judgment says “it appears...that it was the introduction of, and/or the failure of, the legislation which prompted the restart of the administrative scheme”.

Then, in February 2007 – just three months before Martin McGuinness and Ian Paisley entered power-sharing together – the PSNI set up Operation Rapid to review the files of on the runs. That decision came two months after a confidential letter from the Prime Minister to Gerry Adams, assuring him that he wanted the issue resolved before he left office.

The process led to what the judge described as “direct engagement between Sinn Fein and the PSNI in order to try to expedite the remaining cases”.

Kevin McGinty, who advised the Attorney General on Northern Ireland, said that there had been “reluctance” by prosecutors to get involved in the scheme, partly because “the administrative scheme would only benefit one side of a divided community”.

He said that although the letters meant that prosecutions were very unlikely, they “could never amount to an amnesty of absolute and final promise not to prosecute”.

The PPS argued that the letters did not constitute an unequivocal assurance that the defendant would not, or would never be, prosecuted on the mainland for any terrorist offences committed before the Good Friday Agreement and were never intended to constitute an amnesty. But Mr Justice Sweeney ruled that the assurance meant that Downey could not be prosecuted.

Nigel Dodds last night said that the DUP “knew nothing” about the letters, either when they began or when the DUP entered power-sharing with Sinn Fein in 2007.

But Mr Hain defended the letters as a “critical piece of the peace deal”.

Mr Hain said he was surprised at Mr Robinson’s statement because it was Mr Blair’s actions which had cleared the way for him to be First Minister alongside Martin McGuinness and claimed that it was a view which “in a less charged moment he [Mr Robinson] would probably reconsider”.

Comments

steve67: We all knew what the IRA were about, but the sheer under-handed, vile, insipid deeds of the British government against British citizens, well, you decide who you'll be loyal to from now on.

Hawat1981: Is anyone surprised? Bliar and Cameron have given sinn fein/ira everything they wanted and more while at the same time stabbing the unionist community in the back. The innocent victims of republican terrorism have been denied justice by the UK government. Between amnesty for republican murderers on the run to selling out UK victims of Libyan supplied semtex it is painfully obvious that the UK government couldn't give a toss about the victims, they are more interested in appeasing sinn fein/ira. And Robbo and the rest of the DUP are just as bad, just ask the la mon victims how interested the DUP were in their plight or the victims trying to sue Libya for supplying semtex to the ira. The only time the DUP will even feign interest is at election time....oh is there an election next year...i'd hardly have guessed....

Jinxie123: So at least (and I fear more from blairs lies and filthy deception) 187 terrorist scum have been given an under the counter amnesty . What else went on? How else were we duped? How many more murdering scum are getting away with their crime? Of everything that has emerged since the Good Friday agreement, this without doubt is the most heinous

32counties: Its the psnira's fault, that is what the neanderthals over in england want you to believe. A united ireland or 2 separate irelands mean we keep our natural resources like oil and gas

fazer: Here is a letter that is being sent to everyone concerned about a IRA prisoners.

Dear Concerned Irish/republican Citizen,

Thank you for your recent letter expressing your profound concern of treatment of Seamus the terrorists captured by the PSNI running out of a shop while on fire, who is subsequently transferred to Maghaberry Prison.

Our administration takes these matters seriously and your opinions were heard loud and clear here in stormont . You will be pleased to learn, thanks to the concerns of citizens like yourself, we are creating a new department here at the Department of National Defense, to be called 'Liberals Accept Responsibility for Killers' program, or L.A.R.K. for short.

In accordance with the guidelines of this new program, we have decided, on a trial basis, to divert several terrorists and place them in homes of concerned citizens such as yourself, around the country, under those citizens personal care. Your personal detainee has been selected and is scheduled for transportation under heavily armed guard to your residence in Belfast next Monday.

Seamus is your detainee, and is to be cared for pursuant to the standards you personally demanded in your letter of complaint. You will be pleased to know that we will conduct weekly inspections to ensure that your standards of care for Seamus are commensurate with your recommendations.

Although Seamus is a sociopath and extremely violent, we hope that your sensitivity to what you described as his 'attitudinal problem' will help him overcome those character flaws. Perhaps you are correct in describing these problems as mere cultural differences. We understand that you plan to offer counselling and home schooling, however, we strongly recommend that you hire some assistant caretakers.

Please advise any protestant friends, neighbours or relatives about your house guest, as he might get agitated or even violent, but we are sure you can reason with him. He is also expert at making a wide variety of explosive devices from common household products, so you may wish to keep those items locked up, unless in your opinion, this might offend him. Your adopted terrorist is extremely proficient in hand-to-hand combat and can extinguish human life with such simple items as a pencil or nail clippers. We advise that you do not ask him to demonstrate these skills either in your home or wherever you choose to take him while helping him adjust to life in your home.
You also should know that he has shown violent tendencies around people who fail to comply with the green book . Just remember that it is all part of 'respecting his human rights as described in your letter.

You take good care of Seamus and remember that we will try to have a counsellor available to help you over any difficulties you encounter while he is adjusting to a normal culture.

GOOD LUCK AND GOD BLESS


fornenstye: Since the IRA murderers have already got their amnesty it would be nice if the members of the security forces got theirs. This in the interest of 'equality', ' parity of esteem' and 'mutual respect' that the Shinners keep banging on about. All it it takes is for Hain to send them a letter and no need to waste time with parliament, law, courts etc.



Deception by Labour Government is an affront to our democratic institutions

By Sammy Wilson, Belfast Newsletter, 28 February 2014

I attended a breakfast held by the Larne Rotary Club yesterday morning.

The speaker was a former policeman who only three weeks into the job had both his arms blown off in an IRA rocket attack which also killed his colleague.

Thankfully, he refused to let this destroy his life and is now one of the top psychologists in Northern Ireland and an inspirational speaker.

As I listened to him I wondered whether any of those who were responsible for the attack on his patrol received one of the get-out-of-jail-free cards issued by our government.

It also brought home to me why the anger and disbelief expressed by all parties in the House of Commons on Wednesday was justified.

The role played by the present Government and the previous Labour administration in the shabby, secretive, sneaky and sleekit deal which saw IRA man John Downey walk free from the court where he was being tried for his alleged part in the mass murder of soldiers in Hyde Park at the height of the IRA terror campaign has generated public disgust across the UK.

The Secretary of State was clearly embarrassed as she tried to explain the part which the current government has played in administering the ‘amnesty’ for IRA terrorists brokered by the Blair government.

Peter Hain, the Secretary of State at the time of the dirty underhand deal, oilily tried to brush it aside as something which was “clearing up an anomaly” necessary to keep the peace process on track, a despicable excuse which drew cries of shame from around the chamber.

The Attorney General protested that he was angry at the outcome but gave no explanation to my question as to why the government would not appeal the decision, judicially review it or have the letters which granted the ‘amnesty’ withdrawn, especially since he claimed some had been given by mistake.

The truth is that the previous Labour government connived in covering up a behind-the-door ‘amnesty’ for terrorists.

They deceived the public, the House of Commons, the NI Executive, the Justice Minister and the Policing Board: an affront to the justice system and our democratic institutions.

That in itself should be an adequate measure of the sordidness of this bargain with the devil.

It is also the reason why Peter Robinson raised the stakes so high with his threat to resign unless there was an inquiry into the operation of this deal, who knew about it, the number of terrorists benefitting from it etc, and since the government has claimed it is opposed to those who have evidence against them escaping justice then the letters issued should be withdrawn.

It is essential that whatever was devised in secret is now fully divulged to the public and the role played by ministers, civil servants and the PSNI is revealed and, more importantly, if any more “mistakes” have been made they are undone so that killers cannot escape justice.

The fact that the Prime Minister has hastily moved to accede to these reasonable demands is to be welcomed and is a vindication of the stance which Peter Robinson has taken on an issue which has caused deep anger and resentment.

His judgment on this issue has been proven sound and the outcome should be no more on the runs escaping justice.

Whilst the time has now passed for lodging an appeal, I am disappointed that the government did not take the opportunity to do so when it had the chance.

While Jim Allister engaged in his favourite destructive activity of finger wagging and political point-scoring, the resolute, bold, and – yes – high risk action taken by Peter Robinson backed by the united and collective opposition of all Northern Ireland politicians in Westminster has resulted in the government taking this issue seriously which hopefully will keep the on the runs on the run and eventually see them in jail.



Tony Blair accused of ‘deliberate deception’ over On The Runs

Belfast Newsletter, 28 February 2014

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair engaged in a “deliberate deception by omission” by failing to tell the majority of politicians in Northern Ireland about the agreement his government struck with Sinn Fein to deal with on-the-run republicans, Stormont’s First Minister has said.

Peter Robinson heavily criticised the conduct of the previous Labour administration as he addressed an emergency meeting at Stormont to debate the controversy over letters sent to more than 180 terror suspects informing them the authorities in the UK were not seeking them.

Democratic Unionist leader Mr Robinson said his predecessor Ian Paisley had written to Mr Blair when he was in power asking for assurances that no concessions had been given to Sinn Fein about on-the-runs (OTRs).

He said the reply stated there were no plans to legislate on the issue, and no amnesty had been offered but, Mr Robinson said, it did not make mention of the administrative scheme to send OTRs assurance letters.

“The answer that there were no plans to legislate and no amnesty would be introduced was a deliberate deception, a deception by omission, for the Government could easily at that stage have indicated that there was an administrative process which included giving letters to OTRs was under way,” he told MLAs

The recalled Assembly convened shortly after another Stormont minister claimed applications for five on-the-run republicans for assurance letters were still being considered by the current government.

The disclosure by Northern Ireland’s Justice Minister David Ford has created uncertainty over whether the administrative scheme is still being run by the coalition Government.

Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers has said her predecessor, Conservative MP Owen Paterson, had informed Sinn Fein that no new cases would be dealt with by the current Government, apart from the 38 it inherited on taking office, and had urged the republican party to bring new applications to the devolved authorities at Stormont.

But Mr Ford said his understanding from a discussion with a senior NIO official this morning was that there were five cases still being dealt with by the Government and that those only emerged in late 2012 - more than two years after the Coalition came to power.

Mr Ford said he was assured that the NIO had responsibility for the cases and not his devolved department.

“The senior (NIO) official I spoke to thought there were five cases still under examination and that they were their responsibility,” the Justice Minister said.

Details of 180 plus letters sent to OTRs emerged when the case against a man charged with the 1982 IRA Hyde Park bombing collapsed.

John Downey, 62, from Donegal, denied murdering four soldiers in the attack in London.

The case against him was ended because government officials mistakenly sent him one of the assurance letters in 2007 telling him he was no longer a wanted man.

But the collapse shone the light on the wider policy of sending such letters to on-the-runs, with many politicians in Northern Ireland reacting with fury, claiming the scheme was operating without their knowledge.

Opening the Assembly debate, Mr Robinson said: “The outcome of the Downey case was morally outrageous and an affront to justice, but more than that it exposed to the full glare of public attention a scheme that had been agreed well over a decade ago by Sinn Fein and the UK Government.

“It was followed by outrage, that outrage, I have to say, was not manufactured or synthetic, it was real, it was an outrage felt by victims, it was an outrage felt by those within the political process that they had been by-passed by the British Government and by Sinn Fein.”

The Stormont Assembly was recalled for the additional sitting following a request by Mr Robinson at the height of this week’s political crisis over the scheme.

When Mr Robinson made the announcement on Wednesday, shortly after he had threatened to resign over the issue, there were fears the future of the power-sharing executive would be on the line during the plenary session.

But those concerns receded last night when the Democratic Unionist leader withdrew his ultimatum in response to an announcement by Prime Minister David Cameron that he was ordering a judge-led review of the matter.

Getting to his feet after Mr Robinson, Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness accused the DUP of irresponsibly threatening the stability of power sharing.

He claimed the reaction of the DUP and the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) to the OTRs issue was evidence that their thinking was being influenced by loyalist extremists.

He insisted the recall of the Assembly was more about political posturing ahead of forthcoming elections.

“I am frustrated that the stability of these institutions have been irresponsibly threatened this week and a sense of crisis has replaced the much-needed focus that we needed to get agreement on issues relating to the past,” he said.

“I am frustrated that those historically opposed to the peace process and to power-sharing are being allowed to chip away at the process by using legacy issues as a vehicle to pursue their negative and rejectionist agenda.”

He added: “I am frustrated that those extreme loyalists shape the behaviour of the two main unionist parties.”

The emergency debate has been focused on a motion tabled by the DUP expressing disgust at the deal the UK Government struck with Sinn Fein on OTRs.

Addressing a packed Assembly chamber, Mr McGuinness said: “I am frustrated we are here today discussing a motion which is as irresponsible as the threat to collapse this Assembly.

“Today’s recall and motion is about the upcoming election and about the political posturing within unionism .

“Frankly, I believe the people out there deserve better.”

The Sinn Fein veteran said the peace process had been built by politicians showing leadership.

“At many times throughout this process I could have walked away, I could have threatened to resign. I have not done that,” he said.

“I have sought solutions and agreement and we have progressed to where we are today because of those agreements. The peace and political process needs (to be) defended, protected and promoted by all political leaders - it certainly does not need to be threatened.”

As expected, the debate in the Assembly was heated and at times rancorous, with Speaker Willie Hay forced to call for order on numerous occasions as members exchanged brickbats across the chamber.

Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) leader Dr Alasdair McDonnell said people had the right to know if any other secret deals had been struck.

“It’s impossible to have a proper informed debate on issues that haven’t been fully disclosed - we must know, we must get all the information, we must achieve honesty, openness and transparency around all these issues, starting with rejecting any possibility of secret deals going forward,” he said.

He accused the Labour administration and former Northern Ireland secretary Peter Hain of cynicism.

“The cynicism we were up against was Peter Hain and the British government working with Sinn Fein to demonstrate contempt for our parliamentary democracy and antipathy and disdain for victims.

“The structures of government must be and must feel to be fully accountable to our people - power must fundamentally lie with the people on the street, the citizens. This is far from the place we find ourselves in today. As my colleague Mark Durkan (Foyle MP) said yesterday, we didn’t work so hard to end the dirty war just to end up with a dirty peace.”



Unionists put blame on Tony Blair for ‘amnesties’

By Philip Bradfield, Belfast Newsletter, 26 February 2014

The fact that a convicted IRA member escaped trial for the 1982 Hyde Park bomb due to a Government letter of immunity caused widespread anger yesterday.

First Minister Peter Robinson labelled the outcome a “sad day for victims of terrorism”.

“This conclusion is an outrage and a dark day for justice in the United Kingdom,” he said. “Mr Downey was being tried for one of the most heinous atrocities of the Troubles, but has now invoked a get-out-of-jail free card which he and his cohorts were handed by Tony Blair’s Government.”

He added: “This charade has its origins in the Weston Park talks. At that time, though a smaller party, we warned the then unionist leadership that this type of deal was being concocted behind their back.”

According to Sinn Fein’s Gerry Kelly, 187 letters were distributed to republicans between 2001 and 2012.

Secretary of State Theresa Villiers confirmed yesterday that her Government had carried on cases approved by its predecessors.

But UUP justice spokesman Tom Elliott branded the letters “a disgrace”.

He added: “The fact that this should be revealed in the very week when the PSNI have set up a special unit to re-investigate Bloody Sunday, with the aim of putting 70-year-old ex-soldiers in the dock, makes this even more galling.”

TUV leader Jim Allister said the judgment is “another indication of the price being paid by innocent victims for the so-called peace process. It lifts the lid on some of the rotten skulduggery involved.”

And UKIP MLA David McNarry said the question to be asked now is: “What other letters which are not just amnesties but freedom from justice are in circulation?”

Alliance justice spokesperson Stewart Dickson said that when the previous Labour Government abandoned on the run amnesty legislation his party called for “a clear and transparent system to deal with this issue, which they failed to deliver”.

According to NI Conservatives’ spokesman Mark Brotherston, the fact that a man accused of four IRA murders will not be prosecuted is “extremely regrettable”.

Laurence Robertson, chairman of the Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee, said he was a shadow Northern Ireland minister when the Labour Government dropped the on the run legislation – because Sinn Fein no longer supported it.

“However, at no point did the minister [David Hanson MP] tell me, nor did the Secretary of State, Peter Hain, announce that they would seek to extend some form of amnesty to the on the runs,” he said.

Kenny Donaldson of Innocent Victims United (IVU) said he was not surprised.

IVU has long suspected that “a quasi-policy of immunity from prosecution” existed for republican terrorists for pre-1998 crimes, he said.

On hearing of the letters yesterday, one terror widow asked him, “What have I done to deserve this?” he said.

But Sinn Fein MP Francie Molloy said the charging of John Downey was “a clear breach of commitments given by the British Government at Weston Park and in subsequent negotiations”.

He said that following the Good Friday Agreement both the British and Irish governments accepted that the issue of those defined as on the run was “an anomaly and the two governments committed to resolve the issue. A process was put in place to deal with outstanding cases including that of John Downey.”

He added that Downey is “a valued member of Sinn Fein and a long-time advocate of the peace process” and had taken part in events at Corrymeela.

A soldier who survived the Hyde Park bombing never recovered from the attack – leading to devastating consequences 30 years later.

Michael Pedersen, a former sergeant in the Household Cavalry, stabbed his two children to death before turning the knife on himself just weeks after telling his doctor that he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The 1982 bomb hit as Pedersen’s unit was taking part in a changing of the guard ceremony.

Four soldiers and seven horses were killed in the explosion.

Pedersen was riding Sefton – the horse that became the symbol of the struggle against the IRA after surviving the attack.

Three decades after the attack, Pedersen killed his two children – seven-year-old son Ben and daughter Freya, six – then stabbed himself through the heart. A coroner recorded verdicts of unlawful killings of the two children and one of suicide for Pedersen.

Comments

Spare: There are bad times ahead for IRA victims. Willie Frazer has already signed up to the Hass amnesty for IRA murderers. Victims need to get the best representation they can.

UKVIEW: i share the disgust that these SF/IRA killers should go free (i would be outaged at the cruel slaughter of the horses let alone the human beings involved).However let nobody kid themselves that this is a surprise.The British government (no doubt under pressure from their "friends" (sic) in the USA were always going to sell us out.I am not convinced by the pretend shock/outrage of our Unionist leaders - those involved in the "negotiations" would have been well aware of the implications.Sadly the real cost of the so called peace process is starting to emerge.I would prefer some honesty from our leaders - do they really think we are that naive/stupid ?

Jimmyriddlec: Id vote for stupid. This all a contrived DUP pantomime. 400 prisoners were released Republican and loyalist and 187 got letters...what the he11 is the big deal.

big phill: can unionists not get it through their thick skulls this is all part of the republican agenda set up by Blair, Clinton and the Irish government behind the backs of the unionist public and our stupid representatives went along with it and despite the realisation are still doing so-they remind me of lemmings heading for the cliff.This farcical agreement was built on lies and inequality, the losers on every front being the unionists. There will never be any justice or investigation into IRA crimes or prosecution of the vicious fascist leaders who led the IRA murder gangs. One has only to look at recent revelations about Adams and McGuiness, IRA parades, Gerry Kelly, part of a group attacking a police landrover etc. The only people who are going to suffer the political policing and political application of the law are the unionists. How Peter Robinson can continue with this charade I will never know. A republican told me recently -'there already is a united Ireland, somebody forgot to tell the unionists'. You would nearly surmise Robinson is being controlled!!

fazer: phill. I know another example that despite repeated appeasement and appointment of IRA scum to positions of political power, the truth is coming out about the dirty deeds done behind our backs. But there is no UI, the border has not moved , we need politicians like the TUV to stand up for what is right , time for concession and SF/IRA demands to end.

eastie: losers on every front are unionists?? there was always ira parades.just like loyalist paramilitary parades. so they just offend you now? gerry kelly "attacking a police landrover" is a loss for unionism? wise up.gerry kelly made a fool out of no one but himself here yeah what a blow to unionists this was.

Jimmyriddlec: "the border has not moved" Somebody moved it I can never find it when I drive south..lol

Jimmyriddlec: Nothing quiet invigorating than a good dose of loyalist paranoia. Your inability to live and let live will, as we can see be your downfall. You people danced on the streets when you brought down the Sunningdale power sharing agreement with the SDLP thinking you'd won a victory only to end up in government with SINNFEIN, Ill leave it to you figure out which was the better option from a Unionist point of view. Now yous are busting a gut to make the same mistake all over again simply because yous act like spoilt brats......

fazer: Absolutely nothing about Tony B- Liar would surprise me anymore. Only weeks ago we heard about the "underhanded" way he conspired with Gaddafi , intervening in a multi-million pound compensation deal. I cant wait for Phoney Tony to get his comeuppance for the crimes he has committed here and on the mainland against the victims of IRA terrorism .



Victims conference: Burning rage at lack of justice

Belfast Newsletter, 26 February 2014

Victims’ Commissioner Kathryn Stone drew anger from some last year for shunning the word “terrorists” when describing the IRA or UVF.

And yesterday the language of the post-Troubles landscape came up again, with the commissioner maintaining a carefully-balanced tone.

The conference was made up of speeches until 11am, after which delegates went to workshops (which the press could not attend) to discuss four topics – truth, acknowledgement, reparations and justice.

Before this part began Ms Stone warned those involved to show “heightened awareness” of the words they used, so as not to cause offence.

“We agree that different people have a different world view. And that’s ok. We might not agree with them, but we understand that they have a different world view,” she said.

“The conference is about the commission listening to your views on dealing with the past. It must also be about you listening to each other.”

But as well as urging respect for different points of view, she acknowledged many victims harbour a “burning rage about the lack of justice, the not-knowing, the grief that become all-consuming”.

“Today is your opportunity to have your say,” she added.

“It’s your opportunity to inform what the commission will advise ministers on dealing with the past.”

The First and Deputy First Ministers had been invited but sent an official instead.

Their office said it would have been “unsuitable” to go, because “political discussions on dealing with the past are currently taking place”.



Evidence quickly led to convicted IRA member Downey

Belfast Newsletter, 25 February 2014

Evidence from the Hyde Park bombing of July 20 1982 quickly led police to convicted IRA member John Downey.

But the opportunity to let a jury decide on whether he was guilty or innocent of the IRA attack has eluded authorities and families of the victims.

At the time, it was not considered by the Attorney General or police to be strong enough to secure a successful extradition from the Irish Republic.

Nevertheless, a warrant for Downey was issued by Scotland Yard and remained active for three decades in case he should come into the UK of his own accord.

The evidence centred around NCP parking tickets with Downey’s fingerprints on them, according to an overview of the case set out in his judgment by Mr Justice Sweeney.

Downey, 62, of County Donegal in Northern Ireland, has always strenuously denied he was involved in the bombing which killed four soldiers and seven horses, and injured 31 more people.

It was caused by a remote control improvised explosive device which contained 20-25 pounds of commercial high explosive with wire nails as shrapnel.

The bomb was hidden in the boot of a blue Morris Marina car parked in South Carriage Drive and detonated as the guard was passing en route to the changing of the guard.

The victims were Lieutenant Denis Daly, 23, Trooper Simon Tipper, 19, Lance Corporal Jeffrey Young, 19, and Squadron Quartermaster Corporal Roy Bright, 36.

The Marina had been bought the week before at a car auction in Enfield by a man with an Irish accent who gave false details, according to the court document.

The prosecution case was based on the fact Downey had been convicted in 1974 of being a member of the IRA, according to the judgment.

His appearance in 1982 was allegedly consistent with photofits and artist’s impressions created from three witnesses who reported two men carrying out reconnaissance in South Carriage Drive on June 30 and July 1 1982.

Furthermore, three of Downey’s fingerprints were found on a ticket dispensed when the Marina was driven into an NCP car park in Portman Square, London, on July 17 1982 and surrendered when the car was driven away the following day - two days before the bombing.

And two more fingerprints were found on the ticket dispensed when the Marina was driven into the NCP car park at the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington, west London, at 6.39pm on Sunday July 18 1982 and driven away at 6.51am on Tuesday July 20, just four hours before the bombing, the judgment said.

Downey became a suspect when police allegedly matched his fingerprints on the Royal Garden Hotel ticket with prints taken by the Garda in the Irish Republic in July 1980.

A photograph of Downey was found from a “delicate source” and believed to match a photofit from one of the witnesses, the judgment said.

After he was arrested last year at Gatwick Airport, Downey was charged with the four murders and with causing an explosion.

Members of the victims’ families had sat in the public gallery as lawyers for the prosecution and defence argued over whether a trial should go ahead.

After Mr Justice Sweeney gave his judgment, throwing out the case, Downey declined to comment to reporters in Court One at the Old Bailey.

Comments

fazer: In his memoirs, O'Callaghan describes Downey as a 'front-line operator' in the England Department between 1981 and 1983. During that time the unit exploded five bombs on the mainland, including one at Harrods which killed six. O'Callaghan said Downey was 'very solid, experienced, with a disciplined temperament – the kind they got to do big jobs'. In May 1983, after police issued the wanted poster, O'Callaghan says Downey was withdrawn from the 'front-line'. From now on, John Downey can waltz through passport control with a piece of paper that makes him untouchable. For the families of four cavalrymen, however, there is no escape. Not from the grief. Not from the memories. Nice guy. Rot in hell.



‘Amnesty’ letters to 187 IRA suspects ‘a disgrace’

Belfast Newsletter, 25 February 2014

UUP MLA Tom Elliott said revelations that 187 IRA suspects were given written assurances by the British Government that they would not be prosecuted were a “disgrace”.

He was speaking after Donegal man John Downey walked free from Court in London where he was standing trial for the IRA Hyde Park bombing in 1982. He lawyer said in court that he had been given written assurances that he was not wanted by the British authorities.

But UUP Justice Spokesman Tom Elliott was angered by the revelations.

“This news is an appalling indictment of former Secretary of State Peter Hain and the past Labour Government in their behind the scenes dealings,” he said. “It also raises questions about who was involved in this decision-making process,” he said.

“The fingerprints of the Northern Ireland Office are all over this. Whoever they are, wherever they are, they should be sacked. Who instructed them to write the letter? They had no right whatsoever to do this.

“The scale of this is breath-taking. We are not talking about an isolated cases but 187 letters issued.”

He said Hyde Park represented a brutal and savage crime and added no piece of paper should be allowed to shield Mr Downey from justice.

But Sinn Fein said that John Downey should never have been brought before a court.

While the republican party welcomed the decision not to pursue the prosecution of a man it described as a valued member and long time advocate of peace, the DUP described the outcome of the case as a “sad day for the victims of terrorism”.

Not unexpectedly the Old Bailey ruling has been met with contrasting reactions from the two main partners in Stormont’s mandatory power-sharing executive.

Sinn Fein Mid Ulster MP Francie Molloy said the arrest and charge of Mr Downey was a clear breach of the commitments given by the UK government at the Weston Park talks of 2001 not to pursue so called on-the-runs (OTRs).

“Following the Good Friday Agreement both the British and Irish governments accepted that the issue of those defined as OTRs was an anomaly and the two governments committed to resolve the issue,” he said.

“A process was put in place to deal with outstanding cases including that of John Downey. Sinn Fein made it clear from the outset that the decision to prosecute John Downey was the wrong one.

“This position has been vindicated by the decision of the judge ruling in John’s favour. John Downey should now be allowed to return home to his family immediately.”

However Stormont First Minister and DUP leader Peter Robinson claimed the republican had been handed a “get out of jail free card” by former prime minister Tony Blair’s government. He said justice should not have a “sell by date”.

“This conclusion is an outrage and a dark day for justice in the United Kingdom,” he said.

“It is little wonder that some have lost faith in our justice system.

“Mr Downey was being tried for one of the most heinous atrocities of the Troubles, but has now invoked a get out of jail free card which he and his cohorts were handed by Tony Blair’s government.

“As has been witnessed in recent days throughout the United Kingdom, Blair could not be trusted. The letters his government issued to some terrorists were ill-conceived. No one should be above the law and everyone should be equal under the law however this shortsighted and irresponsible process has now denied justice to victims of PIRA terrorism.”

Comments

Thomas69: PSNI/British Government Collusion with Sinnfein IRA.

CambridgeGary: 187 terrorists, each of them committing scores of atrocities, no wonder the HET could only investigate non-republicans. Peter Hain, a left wing marxist, strongly anti-Unionist, no stranger to politically motivated civil disobedience was put in place, all pieces of a jigsaw to sweeten the IRA deal with Whitehall.

mrmac9: As I've said before here Britain doesn't have principles, only interests to protect. They would ditch 'loyal' Ulster if it was politically expedient. Unionists should always be wary of assurances given to them by British politicians.

Blindside: If nationlists want to vote in their tens of thousands for sectarian murderers and bombers its up to them. They obviously have no morals. At least the Unionist people have consistently rejected the men ofviolence at the poll. The Gfa was sold to the Unionist electorate on the back of a bunch of lies. It was nothing more than the start of a tap that drip fed republicans concessions and allows them to try and destory N.Ireland from within.This is not what Unionists signed up to and most regret doing so.

johnmul: Those Unionists who voted for the Belfast agreement now know the dirty tricks and scheming that went on behind backs. So many Unionists were deceived into voting for it. We all know Tony Blair is a tells is a great deceiver and that snake in the grass Peter Hain. The goverment keep fobbing off victims but in reality it does not seem that they will get justice in this world. The DUP continue to share power with the provos and dance to their tune. What price peace?

big phill: not just lost faith in the justice system, but also policing, the parades commission, the equal application of the law and you Peter for sitting on the top of this pile of treachery along with your friend Martin and keeping the farce going whilst the unionist people you are supposed to represent have there culture etc continually eroded, victims of republican violence ignored and subjected to political policing. You must know you are a party to the republican agenda. If you have any respect left or thought for 'your' people walk away from the shambles at stormont and end this farce!!!

fornenstye: The IRA have already got their amnesty and Leckey and company are free to prosecute former members of the RUC. There is no need for the farce of the Haass talks. The stitch up has already been agreed.

Blindside: Yet again Unionists and the victims of terrorism are made total fools of by the backroom dealings of the British Government and IRA/Sinn Fein. How many more punches must we take before we say enough is enough? The whole "peace process" is rotten to the core and based on nothing more than a steady stream of concessions to Republicans inorder to keep them away from the semtex and Ak's. What other sweeties were secretly put in their goodie bag that we still dont know about?

eastie: whats this got to do with unionists? how were they made a fool of? well we all know that they'll squeal pretend offence at it with not a thought for those killed.

Blindside: Eastie, the amnesty assurances were given out to 'on the runs' without the knowledge of Unionists. It was done behind our back because the Government knew we wouldnt agree to it. As usual they were to busy tripping over themselves pleasing IRA/Sinn Fein rather than stopping and worrying about the concerns of Unionists and innocent victims

CambridgeGary: The dirty secret deal by Whitehall, I can't imagine what they have done behind the scenes to appease the IRA. A total breakdown of justice and law and order. Peter, end this arrangement now. The IRA are marching the streets, undermining our government and eroding our liberties bit by bit. Nobody voted for this back in 1998.



OTR reaction: Victims in ‘heated’ meeting with Villiers

Belfast Newsletter, 28 February 2014

Families of the Kingsmills massacre victims have had a “heated” meeting with Theresa Villiers as the row over on the run (OTR) terror suspects continues.

Willie Frazer of victims’ group FAIR also attended the talks with the Secretary of State at Hillsborough Castle yesterday.

Speaking afterwards, Mr Frazer said the Kingsmills families have been outraged at the perceived amnesty for those living outside the UK jurisdiction for fear of arrest.

He described the meeting as “one of the most heated” he had ever taken part in with the Northern Ireland Office and said the families had “demanded the Secretary of State withdraw the OTR amnesty letters immediately”.

“However,” he added, “Ms Villiers refused to agree to the demand stating the letters were not amnesties and the individuals concerned could be arrested if new evidence became available to the authorities.”

Mr Frazer said some of the families were in tears, and added: “Family members felt totally and utterly betrayed by Ms Villiers’ attitude and response or indeed her lack of response. The families have never felt like this before. Furthermore, they do not accept police are responsible for this current situation. This mess is the direct result of a political directive from officials within the NIO or the OFMDFM and no one else.”

Another victims’ group, Innocent Victims United (IVU), has also demanded answers to what it called the “political chess game” being played away from the main political arena.

IVU spokesman Kenny Donaldson said he supported the idea of an independent inquiry. He said: “This inquiry must include full details of all those who have received these ‘technical escape justice letters’, who authorised the letters and who was privy to this information.”

Mr Donaldson added: “We call on church, civic and political leaders to row behind us and stand up for morality. The soul of this country is at stake and we all must be mindful of the type of society that we wish to live in and which we would wish our children and grandchildren to be part of.”

NIO and Westminster role toxic, says former UUP man

Belfast Newsletter, 28 February 2014

A former Ulster Unionist deputy chairman who was a member of the party’s executive when Peter Hain attempted to get a de facto amnesty for on the runs through Parliament has said that the current situation is the result of a “failing of unionism”.

Terry Wright, who quit the party last year and joined the NI Conservatives, said that “the unscrupulous nature of the NIO and Westminster has proven toxic”.

He said that Tony Blair had been “determined to put whatever pressure was necessary [on unionists] and make whatever deals were required to bring Sinn Fein into the political arena” and added: “Sinn Fein did what it always does. It pursued its agenda relentlessly and put the interests of Sinn Fein above all else.

“This methodology has not gone away, nor will it.

“Unionism collectively and in party terms has proved itself unsure, without vision and without any meaningful strategy or tactics.”



Trimble: I knew absolutely nothing about secret deal

Belfast Newsletter, 28 February 2014

Former First Minister Lord Trimble has insisted that he knew “absolutely nothing” of the letters, and said he believed the Government conspired with Sinn Fein.

The former Ulster Unionist leader, who is now a Conservative peer, accused Tony Blair’s Government of actions which had served to “undermine the Good Friday Agreement”.

“I would dearly love to know who signed off on that,” he said. “I don’t know anybody who knew about it.”

He said the secret deal between the Government and Sinn Fein had “serious implications” for the democratic process in the Province.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he said that on the runs had been discussed in 2005 but that the issue had gone “quiet”. He said: “It went quiet and at some point this has been described as an administrative process that operated independently of Government which came into operation. I would dearly love to know who signed off on the letters. I don’t know anybody who knew about it.”

He added: “The deal was done in such a way that kept politicians in the dark because this is not a part of the process, people make comments that this was all part of the peace process — it was not.”



Former RUC chief quits Victims’ Forum over revelations

Belfast Newsletter, 28 February 2014

A former senior RUC officer who survived the 1985 Newry mortar attack has quit a victims’ organisation over the on the runs (OTR) revelations.

Errol McDowell said he had resigned “with immediate effect” from the Victims and Survivors Forum in disgust at what he called “immoral Government pardons” for terrorists.

The retired chief inspector, who holds the Queen’s Police Medal, said: “I believe that all victims should have the right to pursue justice.

“For a victim to place their hopes in a judicial process and then witness a letter of comfort being produced by a republican terrorist and signed by the British Government would be totally devastating to the individual – without the right for victims to pursue justice on the table then I conclude that all attempts to address the past are sadly pointless.”

Mr McDowell was attending a major victims’ conference in Belfast this week when news of the “comfort letters” – issued to suspected republican terrorists who feared arrest if they entered the UK – became public.

Speaking at the conference, he had outlined his experiences as an officer right from the Troubles’ early days, and also talked of the IRA attack on Newry RUC station in 1985.

”I was having a meal in a canteen in Newry police station,“ he said. “A mortar bomb exploded, and around me was nine people dead; cut to bits. That’s a terrible experience that’s lived with me all my life.”

Announcing his resignation from the forum yesterday, Mr McDowell said: “I find it morally repugnant that terrorism has been acquiesced in this manner.

“I can no longer be involved in a process where such principles have been callously disregarded.”



Amnesty letters and Royal pardons were ‘well known’ to republicans

Former IRA prisoners said the letters and pardons were part of side deals done when they were putting the legislation through on on the runs.


Belfast Newsletter, 28 February 2014

Former IRA prisoners yesterday said “amnesty letters and Royal prerogatives have been known about for years in republican circles”.

The men, who asked not to be named, said news of “the letters and pardons were part of side deals done when they were putting the legislation through on on the runs”.

“The on the run issue was always there, but unionists might not have known they got the letters,” said one.

“I knew people who had left the north 30-years-ago, and then got the all-clear with the letter and were able to come back. People were left now knowing where they stood until the question was asked. They didn’t know what evidence has held against them.”

He said he understood that in some cases Sinn Fein members collected the letters and delivered them to the intended recipient.

“Unionists got deals as well with payouts to the UDR and RUC, although it’s not the same granted,” he said.

Another former prisoner said he would like to see the criteria to receive either an amnesty letter or a pardon “spelt out”.

“No one has ever clarified what the criteria is,” he said.

“There are two systems of government here - the assembly and the Executive which is the public face of government,” he added. “But there is also

a secret government running from the Northern Ireland Office which does these sorts of deals that usurp the local law.

“So you don’t have a truly democratic open accountable system of government which is understandable given our history. But at the end of the day, I would not be surprised if the government precipitated the crisis. They are capable of that.”

Another former prisoner said: “At the Gerry McGeough trial in 2012 the pardons were talked about. McGeough was charged with the attempted murder of Sammy Brush in 1981. He was released from prison last year having served about two years of his 20-year sentence, under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

Comments

fornenstye: The only parties who knew about these letters were the Blair government and the Shinners. All the others, DUP, UU, TUV, SDLP, Alliance and even the Irish government deny knowing anything about their sending. Most said they actively rejected them when an amnesty was suggested at the time. What a sleazy con the Good Friday Deal was.

robbo1: Blair and Haine were always sleazy, untrustworthy characters. As for the good Friday Agreement, the majority of people probably didn't read it but said yes in the hope of peace which, unfortunately, hasn't materialised.



UUP and DUP should quit Executive now, says ex-Trimble aide

[Photo: Peter Hain, Martin McGuinness, Ian Paisley, Tony Blair and Bertie Adern leave Stormont on the first day of the Northern Ireland Assembly in 2007.]

By Sam McBride, Belfast Newsletter, 28 February 2014

A former aide to David Trimble has said that he believes the DUP and UUP should withdraw from the Executive after being deceived over “letters of comfort” to IRA members.

Speaking to the News Letter on condition of anonymity, he expressed utter dismay at what has emerged this week.

He claimed that there had been a deception perpetrated from the top of Tony Blair’s Government, meaning that devolution was restored in 2007 on a “false premise”.

He said: “We [in the UUP] worked hard and took the knocks to make a better Northern Ireland. We tried to be open, honest and transparent as best we could and at some point the electorate decided that wasn’t good enough.

“What you had was another party coming in, building on our work but seemingly doing so in a much less open, honest and transparent method of operating.

“We’ve now discovered that the Government was also being completely duplicitous.”

The former senior political aide said that he feared that the DUP’s famous iron discipline meant that the party leadership was not being held to account by its members in the way that the “open and leakable” UUP had been when problems arose on Lord Trimble’s watch as leader of unionism.

“Why isn’t one DUP MLA standing up and saying: How did this happen?

“If this had been the UUP, Jeffrey and Arlene would have been speaking out, the Ulster Unionist Council would have been called, fingers would have been pointed; none of that is happening because they have all gone to ground.”

The former Stormont aide, who alongside Lord Trimble met Mr Blair over many years, said that “Tony Blair as a Prime Minister and Peter Hain as a Secretary of State were looking for a position in the sun and they were desperate to leave on a high”.

“My personal opinion is that [for Mr Blair and Mr Hain] the people of Northern Ireland, long-term stability, respect for law and order, the views of the victims, the views of the ordinary man in the street who abided by the law, were irrelevant.

“What was relevant was to get a place in the sun. Plenty of people suggest Tony Blair played fast and loose with international law, so why not with a little local difficulty?”



Five ongoing NIO-IRA letters must be halted, DUP demands

Belfast Newsletter, 28 February 2014

The Government has been challenged to immediately stop consideration of five active cases involving on-the-run IRA terror suspects who have asked for assurances they are not wanted by police.

A Stormont minister issued the demand during a fiery emergency meeting of the Assembly, called to debate the controversy over a deal the last Labour government struck with Sinn Fein that saw 187 individuals issued with letters making clear they could return to the UK because police were not seeking them.

While the majority of the cases were dealt with under the last government, almost 40 outstanding applications were taken on by the coalition Government when it assumed power in 2010.

Yesterday it emerged that five cases apparently remain outstanding, with the NIO understood to be still deliberating on whether those applicants should receive a letter.

There were angry scenes outside the chamber when victims of IRA terror, including the 1987 Remembrance Day bomb in Enniskillen, attempted to confront Sinn Fein MLAs in the Great Hall of Parliament Buildings.

DUP Economy Minister Arlene Foster directed a pointed message to Sinn Fein: “They have always had a cavalier attitude to the rule of law but they need not underestimate our continuing determination to rebuild confidence and that must start, I have to say Mr Speaker, with the five cases we have learnt of this morning.”

She then delivered an ultimatum to the NIO regarding the cases: “They must immediately go, they have to be stopped immediately - I think that will be a mark of how this issue goes forward and we will be asking that question of the Secretary of State very, very quickly. I make it very clear from this House that we are not just dealing with the past, as we have learnt this morning, we are also dealing with the here and now in relation to this system.”

Asked about the five cases, the NIO said it would not comment in detail on the scheme due to the judge-led review of the system, which was announced by Prime Minister David Cameron on Thursday.

The five cases were brought to light by Justice Minister David Ford who said he had been informed of their existence by a “senior NIO official” yesterday morning.

Details of letter scheme emerged when the case against a man charged with the 1982 IRA Hyde Park bombing collapsed. John Downey, 62, from Donegal, denied murdering four soldiers in the attack in London. The case against him was ended because government officials mistakenly sent him one of the assurance letters in 2007 telling him he was no longer a wanted man. But the collapse shone light on the wider policy of sending such the letters.

There is some confusion as to when the five cases came to the attention of the NIO. Mr Ford said it was his understanding from his discussion with the NIO official that they came to light in “late 2012”, but that runs contrary to the NIO’s position that the only cases it has dealt with were lodged prior to the 2010 election.

The DUP claims Government assurances about the status of the letters issued has rendered them effectively “worthless”. But Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness insisted “nothing could be further from the truth”. The Sinn Fein veteran insisted rival politicians at have been aware of the scheme for a long time.

The Assembly was recalled at the request of the DUP. During the debate, in which a DUP motion condemning the scheme passed with only Sinn Fein opposition, Mr Robinson accused ex prime minister Tony Blair of a “deliberate deception by omission” by failing to tell most Ulster politicians about his government’s agreement with republicans. The DUP leader said Ian Paisley had written to Mr Blair when he was in power seeking assurances that no concessions had been given to Sinn Fein on OTRs but the reply omitted mention of the scheme.

UUP leader Mike Nesbitt branded the scheme “perverse” and said: “You expected a loved one to phone the police and say ‘do you have any evidence about who committed the murder?’. You do not expect the murderer to be able to phone the police and say ‘do you have any leads that would end up with me going to prison?’.”

Mr Nesbitt said Sinn Fein’s actions over OTR had doomed the Haass process on the past.

SDLP leader Dr Alasdair McDonnell said people had the right to know if other secret deals had been struck. Mr Ford said many questions remained to be answered about the “misguided” scheme.

Comments

Hawat1981: It's a bit rich for the DUP to suddenly care about the victims. It wasn't so long ago that the DUP gave short shrift to the la mon victims, and I haven't heard one peep out of them regarding the ira victims trying to sue Libya who have been treated like garbage by the NIO and Cameron. One could be forgiven for thinking that this outrage is somewhat manufactured...



NI Assembly to hold crisis meeting on immunity deal

Only suspected former republicans given non-prosecution commitments


DUP leader and First Minister Peter Robinson at Hillsborough Castle. After meeting Northern Secretary Theresa Villiers for more than an hour at Hillsborough Castle last night, he indicated there could be serious consequences if his demands were not met.

Gerry Moriarty, Irish Times, Feb 27, 2014

The Northern Assembly has been recalled tomorrow for a special emergency meeting to discuss the political “crisis” over the issue of immunity for republican “on-the-runs”, First Minister Peter Robinson has announced.

After first threatening to resign if a judicial review was not held into the issue, Mr Robinson ratcheted up the political temperature by having the Assembly recalled.

And after meeting Northern Secretary Theresa Villiers for more than an hour at Hillsborough Castle last night, he indicated there could be serious consequences if his demands were not met.

Cameron appoints judge to investigate on-the-run deals

Pressure on Cameron to defuse bomb row

British AG defends IRA ‘letters of comfort’

NI Assembly to hold crisis meeting on immunity deal


“Before Friday we need to have a fairly clear picture on what the [British] government’s intention is,” he said.
Asked if Northern Ireland was potentially heading for Assembly elections, Mr Robinson said he had “high hopes” his concerns would be met by the British government.

He said he had also learned from sources that as well as immunity, a number of republicans had received the “royal prerogative of mercy”, indicating they were effectively cleared of offences.

“We are not just talking about people whom it is believed police did not have sufficient evidence to make a prosecution stick. That makes it a very serious matter,” he said.

Unionist politicians have reacted with outrage to the revelations, following a London court case, that the British government has granted immunity from prosecution to nearly 200 republican “on-the-runs” (OTRs) over several years.

Anomaly

The deal between the British government and Sinn Féin was struck some time after Tony Blair’s government failed to bring in legislation in 2005 to deal with the “anomaly” of the OTRs. Convicted paramilitaries were released from prison under the Belfast Agreement, but the position of the OTRs – suspects who had not been convicted – remained unclear and Sinn Féin campaigned strongly for them to be guaranteed immunity.

A London court ruled last week that a Donegal man, John Downey, should not be tried for the 1982 Hyde Park bombing in London, in which four soldiers died, when it emerged he was among nearly 200 republicans who received letters from the British government telling them they would not be prosecuted.

Immunity

The immunity scheme continued under the current UK government, which has issued 38 letters guaranteeing republicans they will not be prosecuted. The last known such “comfort letter” was issued in 2012.

Mr Robinson yesterday sought an official inquiry into the matter and also demanded the letters of immunity be rescinded. He called for the names of the 187 republicans to be released and details given about the alleged crimes in which they were involved.

The Northern Secretary is under pressure to mollify Mr Robinson and other unionists and victims’ groups who expressed “outrage” at what unionists say was a secret deal.

Reneging

However, if Mrs Villiers or Mr Cameron move to rescind the commitments, it would inevitably lead to Sinn Féin accusing London of reneging on a deal which would also have the potential to destabilise the Northern Executive and Assembly.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said his unionists colleagues should “calm down”.

The NIO confirmed the letters issued to OTRs guaranteeing them immunity only related to republicans.

Mr Robinson said if he and former First Minister Rev Ian Paisley had known of the deal they would not have entered the Executive with Sinn Féin.



The 187 IRA terror suspects who escaped prosecution thanks to Blair's secret deal - and the Troubles victims who will never see justice done

John Downey's trial collapsed because he had a letter giving him secret immunity from prosecution, despite an outstanding warrant against him

It emerged that a total of 187 suspected IRA terrorists currently on the run have similar letters guaranteeing them freedom from arrest

They are thought to include Rita O'Hare, the most prominent 'On The Run' (OTR), wanted in connection with murder of soldier Frazer Paton

Others believed to have amnesty letters include Maze prison escapees Pol Brennan and Kevin Barry Artt

Downey received his letter from the Police Service in Northern Ireland in 2007 in what has been described as a 'dreadful mistake' by David Cameron

The immunity for IRA members suspected of terror offences was agreed in a secret deal between the Labour government and Sinn Fein

Today Stormont First Minister Peter Robinson threatened to resign unless there was a judicial inquiry into the collapse of the John Downey trial


By Harriet Arkell, Daily Mail, 26 February 2014

[Photo: Convicted IRA member John Downey, 62, walked free from court after it emerged he was one of 187 terror suspects who have a letter giving immunity from prosecution]

The secret deal that let suspected Hyde Park bomber John Downey walk free from court means that 187 IRA terror suspects will now be off the hook, too.

Downey was just one of 200 suspected terrorists, known as 'On The Runs' or OTRs, sent a letter guaranteeing that they would not face arrest or have to stand trial if they returned to the UK.

Other high-profile terrorism suspects thought likely to have similar letters include Maze Prison escapees and three IRA members wanted in connection with murders of British soldiers.

Today Prime Minister David Cameron described the actions that led to the collapse of the Downey trial as a 'dreadful mistake', while Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson indicated he was prepared to resign unless there was a judicial inquiry into the trial's collapse.

He said: 'I have to say quite frankly that I am not prepared to be the first minister of a government that is kept in the dark on matters that are relevant to what we are doing.'

Meanwhile Attorney General Dominic Grieve stood by his decision to allow the prosecution to go ahead in the first place and said the allegations faced by Downey were 'of the utmost seriousness'.

The effective amnesty for the fugitives was granted in a secret deal between Tony Blair's Labour government and Sinn Fein as they worked towards a peace deal in Northern Ireland.

The Old Bailey heard how Blair, the then Northern Ireland secretary Peter Mandelson, and Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams conducted secret negotiations to deal with the OTRs - an issue said to be a crucial stumbling block to the decommissioning of weapons.

Under the project known as 'the administrative scheme', an estimated 200 suspected IRA fugitives were sent letters by the Police Service Northern Ireland (PSNI) assuring them they were free from potential prosecution, despite there being outstanding warrants against them.

The court judgement revealed that in 2000 there were an estimated 200 On The Runs, and allowing for those who have died in the 14 years since, it suggests that possibly every IRA member on the run has a letter like Downey's, which he received in 2007.

Sinn Fein politician Gerry Kelly told the Old Bailey in Downey's trial: 'It is impossible to overstate the importance of the assurances given to the 187 recipients, which included John Downey, being maintained.

'These were essential in the achievement of the series of agreements that began with the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, and were consolidated in... the commencement of the Northern Ireland Assembly in 2007', the Belfast News Letter reported.

Downey, a convicted member of the IRA, was on the list of OTRs because of his suspected involvement in the 1982 Hyde Park bombing that killed four Household Cavalry soldiers and four horses and left 31 others injured.

[Photo: Letter of immunity? Sinn Fein general secretary Rita O'Hare, pictured with Gerry Adams, went on the run after she was arrested in connection with the murder of British soldier Frazer Paton]

[Photo: Terror attack: Four soldiers and seven horses were killed by the Hyde Park bomb in the summer of 1982]

He became a suspect three weeks after the attack on 20 July, when his fingerprints were found on parking tickets in the stolen car used in the bombing, but denied responsibility for the attack.

Lieutenant Anthony Daly, 23, Tropper Simon Tipper, 19, Lance Corporal Jeffrey Young, 19, and Squadron Quartermaster Corporal Roy Bright, 36, all of the Blues and Royal, died in the attack as they rode from their barracks at Knightsbridge to Horse Guards Parade when a bomb packed with 30lbs of nails went off.

Other IRA fugitives likely to have been sent letters reassuring them they would not be prosecuted include Kevin Barry Artt, Pól Brennan, and Terrence Kirby, three of the 'H-Block four' who escaped from the notorious Maze Prison in Northern Ireland in 1983.

They fled to the US, from where they have resisted extradition attempts.

[Photo: In September 1983 38 prisoners broke out of the notorious Maze prison in Northern Ireland - some of those who are still on the run may be in possession of a letter giving them amnesty from prosecution]

[Photo: Victim: Captain Robert Nairac of the Grenadier Guards, pictured in beret, was murdered by the IRA in 1977]

Sinn Fein general secretary Rita O'Hare, who was arrested in Northern Ireland in 1972 for the attempted murder of British Army officer Frazer Paton, has been on the run since fleeing when she was released on bail and is suggested as one of the highest profile people likely to have been given secret amnesty.

And Patrick Maguire and Terry McCormick, wanted in connection with the murder of British Army officer Robert Nairac in May 1977, are also names believed to be on the list.

Captain Nairac, 28,was abducted from a pub in Co Armagh and killed by the provisional IRA. His body has never been found but he was awarded the George Cross posthumously in 1979.

Today a Sinn Fein spokesman refused to talk about the names of those who have letters of immunity and told MailOnline it was a 'personal issue'.

He said: 'It's a personal issue for those involved. I don't want to be listening to any names. I don't want to hear any names.'

[Photo: Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) leader Jim Allister, left, said the news about the secret amnesty revealed 'the rotten skulduggery behind the peace process', while Attorney General Dominic Grieve, right, who said he stood by his decision to prosecute Downey, was due to answer MPs questions on the collapsed trial this afternoon]

It emerged today that Attorney General Dominic Grieve would answer MPs' questions after Downey's trial collapsed because of a blunder described by victims' relatives as 'monumental'.

Tewkesbury Tory MP Laurence Robertson, who chairs the Northern Ireland select committee, has been granted an urgent question on the matter by Speaker John Bercow, to take place after Prime Minister's Questions this afternoon.

In a written statement ahead of the Commons' proceedings, Mr Grieve said: 'Before he was charged my consent was sought, as the law requires, for him to face a charge of causing an explosion. I gave that consent.

'I believed then that it was right to do so and I remain of the same view today.

'The allegations faced by Mr Downey were of the utmost seriousness. The bombing was an attempt by the Provisional IRA to bring their terrorist campaign to London and to attack armed forces personnel who were on ceremonial duties.

'Whatever the circumstances in which the letter had been sent, and it is now clear that its assurances were wrongly given, it is right that the matter should be tested in court.

'Neither I nor the CPS were prepared to accept that the letter and the circumstances in which it had been given were such as to automatically prevent Mr Downey's prosecution.'

[Photo: Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson said the collapse of Downey's trial yesterday was 'an outrage']

After news of the letters granting immunity emerged yesterday, relatives of the four soldiers killed in the 1982 Hyde Park terror attack said in a statement: 'It is with great sadness and bitter disappointment that we have received the full and detailed judgement and that a trial will now not take place.

'This news has left us all feeling devastatingly let down, even more so when the monumental blunder behind this judgement lies at the feet of the Police Service of Northern Ireland.'

Northern Ireland chief constable Matt Baggott apologised to the families, saying: 'I deeply regret these failings, which should not have happened.'

Stormont First Minister Peter Robinson said yesterday's decision was 'an outrage', adding that it was 'a sad day for victims of terrorism', while TUV leader Jim Allister said it showed 'the rotten skulduggery behind the peace process'.

Downey has declined to comment.

Comments

The comments below have been moderated in advance.

Mushroom, Petra: Yet again bliar strikes peace at any price was his motto

Yorkscot, Glasgow, United Kingdom: Another instance of Blairs Sticking Plaster Politics. He was so busy stuffing his wallet.

Logik, Worcester: Is their anyone that Blair hasn't sold down the river?

Polos, Melbourne, Australia: Is there nothing sinister that Blair and his Champagne cronies have not been involved in?

Paul1234, Manchester: Looks like we all surrendered to the IRA, and how can a supposed allie like the united states protect IRA terrorists? if the UK were protecting Islamic terrorists from US justice they would be up in arms.

lippylolo, :): Disgusting!

Braeburn, Woking, United Kingdom: What other grubby deals has Tony Blair made? We need a full and frank revelation of his hidden dealings.

flo, London: Disgusting. Absolutely disgusting. I hope you're sleeping at night, Blair as many families won't be because they know those murderers are on the streets. Vile creatures.

Allan, English love it, United Kingdom: Old old fellow TB again one thing one day he will have to meet his maker and I hope the doors will be closed and history will show this man for what he has done to our country and the lives he has cost all for the greed of money.

Diverroy, Worcester, United Kingdom: terrorist and murderers get immunity but our soldiers are still being threatened with being tried for murder.Well done Blair and Labour

Nick, UK, United Kingdom: As I understand it, there is only one person in Britain who can grant immunity from prosecution.

Mel, London: Tony Blair just didn't want any IRA action on his watch so this doesn't surprise me at all.

Ngiri, Kendal, United Kingdom: Another toxic legacy from Blair, Brown and Liebour.

R2-D2, Above and Beyond: Absolutely sickening. Stop bowing down to these IRA thugs, there's supposed to be a war on terror and they are terrorists

JustAnotherPasserby, London: Blair should be brought to justice.

mariner f141, southeast: BLAIR AGAIN, this ex PM the worst PM in history, why is he still free from prosecution?????

Clive, UKIP Supporter Essex: Or victims could pursue the government for compensation , I think they deserve it !

Clive, UKIP Supporter Essex: Use Civil Court and claim compensation !. It won't put him behind bars but there is some Justice to be had !.

Cupcake, Cambridge, United Kingdom: One more thing to add to Bliar's list of "things I should be ashamed of".

ticketyboo, Evesham, United Kingdom: So, all of the security forces and all of the innocent people murdered by the IRA died so Blair could look good on the international stage. Peace at any price is no peace at all.

Tory Boy, Aberdeen, United Kingdom: Can the familes not bring a private prosecution? I know its not much of a comfort but at least they'd get some sort of justice.

MrsF, London: Yet more ghastly betrayals of this country by Tony Blair's government. How much more is there to come out?

andyo46, Beccles: Now let's drop the Bloody Sunday claims against the British Army!!!

marshyman, carlisle, United Kingdom: Just shows terrorism like crime does pay.... Why do we bend over backwards for these people who are scum

flutterby, Belfast: Price of Peace? The daily threat of violence hasn't gone away.

Chele, Renfrew: How can Cameron have the gall to call it a "mistake" when it was clearly a deliberate act that all involved should be ashamed of.

David K, Buxton, United Kingdom: How many more times will we find that Blair and his band of fellow travellers completely let down this country? We need an enquiry into every one of their (double) dealings, wherever that takes us.

R20508143, south, Ireland: As a proud irish person, I'm disgusted that this scum has been absolved of his murdering past. Thought that there was no statute of limitations on murder???

jenros, London, United Kingdom: Should have guessed Blair was behind it

CJSandy, Sandy: Another injustice we can put fairly & squarely at the feet of Tony Blair

Lord Starveacre, Bury St Edmunds: Yet more shameful doublecrossing of this country by Blair and Mandelson revealed.

premixman, north, United Kingdom: Those in that last labour government who sign that agreement should be put on trial.

HypocrisyRulesUK, Derby: Its often said that the first casualty of war is the the truth! It appears that the first casualty of peace is justice! I wonder if the Good Friday agreement would have been so popular if people had known about this at the time? I guess somebody thought it wouldn't be or they wouldn't have kept it a secret. Another one of Blair's legacies that we will now have to live with!

Andrew, Kumasi, United Kingdom: If they fled to the US where they have resisted extradition can someone please explain why the US is harbouring terrorists. Surely they are with us or against us? Or is that only a one way street?

keith, brisbane: Is there no limit to the extent of Blairs cowardice and betrayal.

Bouvie, West Sussex, United Kingdom: Blair will continue to impact this country negatively for a very long time and he is now a multi multi millionaire - go figure!

como6152, ormskirk: Everything that was done and mentioned in this article lies squarely at the feet of Tony Blair and his cohorts in Downing Street. When oh when are we going to gget politicians that we can trust

Meldrew, Ex-pat, Canada: I see the liar Blair's name is associated with something rotten again.

Geordieboy, Bournemouth, United Kingdom: Once again Blair's dirty hands are involved - what price justice? I know peace has a price but whatever deal Blair was involved in must stink - what about the victims of these murderers.

Mich, Hertfordshire, United Kingdom: Blair...you need to go down with him....

jrjrjrjr, basingstoke: And still they try to prosecute soldiers

digby, cleveland: What else has Blair done, This man is a disgrace .

vikihastings, hastings: another shameful Blair government decision .....what a disgraceful legacy he's left ! when all the grubby dirty secrets are out ...will he face justice himself ?

Citizen, Cardiff: What about the soldiers who are still threatened with Prosecution for Bloody Sunday so they should be exonerated immediately

Adrian, Stoke-on-Trent: St Tony - the apologist

USmerchantmarine, Colchester: When do we get the lessons learned speech?

bill, leicester: NULL and VOID

rog24, Swindon: This reeks of nu labour

Steve, Dortmund: yet the IRA and other Irish pressure groups want to continue chasing the soldiers for their actions during Bloody Sunday.... well, if they want to press for charges against soldiers, perhaps we should press for charges against these murderers as well.....

Karen, Southampton, England: So the IRA murder and in return are immune to any prosecution but a solider does their job and are harassed into court and imprisonment ! Tony Blair should be tried in court for the damage he has done to this country and its peoples!

Ian White, newquay, United Kingdom: Some times some things have to be done to create lasting peace even if it's against the law off physics

rob, England: Labours support of terrorism

Lurch, Palma de Mallorca: Blair's legacy will blight the UK for ever.

Waz, Maidstone, United Kingdom: Just like Bliar, they have escaped justice.

Robert Baker, Chichester, United Kingdom: SHOULD BLAIR EVER BE ALLOWED TO SHOW HIS FACE IN BRITAIN AGAIN------W.M.D. and now the problems in Ireland ,it is said this is all down to this man.

leslyg, worksop, United Kingdom: if you pardon murderers you might as well give in,we will be sending blair to negotiate with the taliban

Bob1, Fordingbridge: Given Tony Blair's track record for treating human life with contempt it's little wonder that he was instrumental in allowing this folly, I imagine he's disgusted with himself?

Honest john, Sussex, United Kingdom: The double jeopardy rule was revoked since his letter ! So there's no excuses !

Beau, London: Essential for the peace process so murderers are let off and organisers of murder gain power. How utterly sickening for those who lost their lives innocently, were maimed and for their families. Nice one Bliar, you won again.

EthanEdwards, North Sea Zone EUSSR, United Kingdom: Civil prosecutikn for everything he owns. Ruin him.

dmc, Belfast: Despicable. I didnt think it was possible to hate Blair even more than I did but I do now

townsey, prudhoe, United Kingdom: More appeasement to terrorists, as for the victims, well, they just get ignored as usual.

Fedup, Baldock: Just proves that the Loyalists have been right all along about this one-sided 'peace-agreement'.

Lorra, NI: The Blair government, the US and the pro IRA, have ruined any chance if peace for Northern Ireland. the plain truth is the IRA do no wrong, the British Army and RUC did nothing right in their eyes. Blair should be held for treason for what he has done in the name of he British government. the likes of McGuinness and Adams, and their cronies should all be in jail for their atrocities behaviour!

Millymollymandy73, Hants, United Kingdom: I reckon Blair should now be called to face the music.

Zoo Keeper, Little Budapest London, Dominican Republic: They fought for freedom...they did not fight in vain.

St George, Ipswich: ....... yet again another story emerges about Bliar and his underhand dealings with terrorists, aided and abetted by that idiot Mandelson ........!!!

Trouble, London, United Kingdom: So, AGAIN, Bliar has betrayed both the people and the country he was PAID to represent and protect.

Voice of sanity, Wolverhampton: I always knew Labour did a pay off deal with the IRA to calm things down in Ireland. Now another one of Blairs betrayals is laid bare.

fedupofemall, UKIP or bust: Hell fire! Is there no bloody justice in this country anymore?

jimboin, Preston, United Kingdom: You can't bring the dead back, but you can prevent more of the living from dying. That is what this agreement achieved, irrespective of how distasteful it might appear now.

Susie, Cheshire, United Kingdom: Disgraceful actions by politicians. I am guessing that Clinton had a very strong hand in this.

a bit annoyed, not liverpool, United Kingdom: Disgusting, wrong at the time and wrong now.

VBH, Hereford, United Kingdom: If they can review the sentence imposed on Gill for punching a man to death surely they can review this terrorist murder. They put enough effort into the Plebgate farce. As ever----politicians at the root of the problem

Andy, Edinburgh, United Kingdom: That was Blair's way of being a peacemaker - let the murderers off without charge, without even getting a promise that they wouldn't slaughter women and children again. He was so good at it, he's doing the same job in the Middle East - with predictable results !. AND he on the way to being a billionaire for his efforts.

brian r, great bookham: but they are still going after the paras

Horseman4, Hell, United Kingdom: Blair should be tried as a traitor and war criminal.

Ginistera, Bedlam, Vatican: The painful price of a lasting (if fragile) peace, I guess.......

Ria, Paris, France: Indeed, there is painful suffering on both sides but in the name of peace & stopping further blood shed a line has to be drawn.

Voice of sanity, Wolverhampton: Lasting peace? So it wasn¿t the IRA who sent letter bombs to forces recruitment offices a couple of weeks ago then? Just some random group who happened to know the secret key phrase for media recognition.

Jake, Cheltenham: All these terrorists pardoned and yet they STILL want British soldiers tried for murder.



Blair decision to approve letters was bound to end before judge

Inquiry offered by Cameron distinctly limited


Mark Hennessy, Irish Times, Feb 28, 2014

Ever since he took office in May 2010, British prime minister David Cameron has been determined that his government would not be dominated by Northern Ireland. Northern ministers would not have free or immediate access to 10 Downing Street. Matters that were the responsibility of the devolved administration in Belfast should be sorted out by it rather than being sent to London for final arbitration.

The logic of Cameron’s views was undeniable. In consequence, however, the British government no longer has the same level of relationships or finessed control enjoyed – or more often endured – by the last Labour government. However, Cameron moved quickly yesterday to cope with the crisis caused by Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson’s threat to resign on foot of a London court decision not to prosecute John Downey for the 1982 Hyde Park bombing when it emerged that Downey was one of nearly 200 republicans who had been given letters telling them they did not face prosecution for any offences committed during the Troubles.

The decision of former prime minister Tony Blair to approve the letters was probably always likely to end up under the microscope of some judge, but no one could have expected that it would centre on the Hyde Park bombing, one of the Troubles’ worst atrocities in London.

However, the inquiry into the letters which Cameron offered yesterday is distinctly limited. Even though it will have power to look into “related matters”, it will not look into the policy decision taken by Blair to offer the letters in the first place, a Downing Street spokesman told The Irish Times just an hour after Cameron made his announcement. This is not what Robinson was looking for on Wednesday evening when he was insisting that the letters would have to be rescinded.

Democratic Unionist MP Jeffrey Donaldson also made clear on Wednesday that the decision by the British Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), after talks with attorney general Dominic Grieve, not to appeal the Downey court judgment would have to be reviewed. Neither demand will be satisfied. The actions of the CPS are not reviewable by ministers, while Grieve and others have done everything possible to make it clear the letters will not be rescinded.

The focus on whether they could or could not be rescinded could potentially lead observers down blind alleys since the letters were not an amnesty but a declaration that an individual was not wanted for prosecution on a particular date.

Rescinding such a letter would not change the facts underlying it. However, it may prove far more serious in time that some people were told that they were wanted for prosecution. In effect, they were given an official warning to stay out of Britain and Northern Ireland or they would, if apprehended, be prosecuted for crimes they were suspected of carrying out during the Troubles.

Downey should not have been given a letter because he was a wanted man. There may be others on the list who were also wrongly given letters of comfort. In such cases, it would seem credible that those letters could be withdrawn.

Last night Robinson publicly drew comfort from the fact that people who received letters could not rely on them to save them from prosecution if new evidence came to the attention of the police or if old evidence existed. The letters never said otherwise. Individuals were told no warrants existed and that no police force had interest in them, but “if any other outstanding offence or offences came to light, or if any request for extradition were to be received, these would have to be dealt with in the usual way”.

The letters were clear – even if the letter to Downey was wrongly issued – that prosecutions were possible if new evidence was produced. In reality, the truth is that those responsible for piloting the peace process wanted the problem of the on-the-runs to go away.



Sinn Féin / IRA – you know who you are

John Downey, Irish Independent, 28 February 2014

[...]

The terrorist lovers in Sinn Féin...are showing us their real nature this week. In the febrile, chaotic mood that has existed in the Dáil for the last few years, it's easy to think that they're just another collection of politicians who have benefited from an electorate so pissed off that they are prepared to forget their history. In fact, watching the perfectly presentable Pearse Doherty and his cohort Mary Lou McDonald, you could nearly convince yourself that they belong to a respectable, legitimate party.

We're meant to forget the fact that their leader is a dissembling, fact-fudging terrorist who displays all the insouciance and wounded indignation of a sociopath who thinks he is above the law. We're meant to forget the fact that Sinn Féin represents savages, [communist] [b]fascists[/b], gun runners and killers. We're meant to forget the fact that as their Dear Leader flounces through the Dáil pretending to be [b]Nelson Mandela[/b], families wake up every day missing a loved one because of him.

In other words, we're meant to forget everything we ever thought we knew about Sinn Féin/IRA.

They want us to believe they are a centre-Left party that offers the kind of idiotic economic solutions that would get you laughed out of a first year college debating team. They want us to believe that they are just another regular party representing the common man. Hey, their mantra, goes, we're pissed off just as much as you are. And so they engage in bar-stool politics designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator – and by 'lowest common denominator', I mean morons.

The cynical part of me is even half convinced that they are happy to spout nonsensical policies because it's a deflection that makes them look no better or worse than any of the other intellectually bankrupt political parties. But as much as they would like us all to forget their past and the vast reservoir of blood that still drips from their hands, every now and then their mask slips and they remind us exactly what they are – terrorist lovers [they love Mandela] masquerading as democrats.

[...]

John Downey...was not convicted of the 1982 Hyde Park atrocity that left four people dead.

In fact, Downey was so completely and totally innocent of involvement in the murders that the British Government even went so far as to write him a nice letter informing him that he wouldn't face prosecution – yet another example of how the price of 'peace' is exorbitant.

That's the ugly, unvarnished truth of the peace process and it's something people are told they must accept. If that doesn't stick in your craw and cause your moral compass to start oscillating wildly – to borrow an old Cure song – then it should.

But as the North heads into a full-blown crisis as a result of the collapse of Downey's trial last Friday, Doherty and his cohorts are having a bit of a do for him in the Lagoon Bar in Donegal tomorrow night to: "Thank the hundreds of people in Ireland and further afield" who helped pay for Downey's legal team.

Frankly, I would have thought they had enough spare cash floating around after the Northern Bank job to pay for a defence, but that's a story for another day.

...

Just when they were beginning to convince some credulous fools that they were a legitimate party with legitimate points to make, they show their true colours and those colours are drenched in red.

And before the Shinners get up on their hind legs and start barking about the media being unfair to them, maybe they should ask themselves one simple question – would any party, in either of the Irelands or on the British mainland, throw a hooley for a suspected terrorist and suspected murderer who is only not facing trial because of cynical, political expedience?

I think we all know the answer to that..

Remember that the next time one of these clowns knocks on your door looking for your vote.

Because this is what a vote for Sinn Féin really means.



UK to Open Probe on Secret Deal for IRA Fugitives

By Shawn Pogatchnik, Associated Press, February 27, 2014

The British government announced Thursday it will appoint a judge to investigate its long-secret policy of supplying letters to Irish Republican Army fugitives promising them protection from arrest. The issue is dividing Northern Ireland's unity government. Why? The AP explains.

MAKING PEACE WITH IRA

The main branch of the Irish Republican Army, the Provisionals, killed nearly 1,800 people during a 27-year campaign to force Northern Ireland out of the United Kingdom. The Provisional IRA's 1997 cease-fire enabled its political front, Sinn Fein, to enter talks on Northern Ireland's future.

The Good Friday peace accord in 1998 put Sinn Fein on a slow path to sharing power with leaders of Northern Ireland's British Protestant majority. As part of the deal, Britain and Ireland freed hundreds of IRA prisoners by 2000; the IRA surrendered weapons in 2005; and Sinn Fein accepted police authority in 2007. In response, Protestants that year formed a coalition government with their Irish republican enemies.

ON THE RUN

All the while, Sinn Fein demanded a criminal amnesty for IRA members who were "on the run," having fled Northern Ireland decades ago to avoid arrest for shootings, bombings and prison breakouts. Most lived in the Republic of Ireland and expected the same lenient treatment as IRA members recently freed from prison.

But the Good Friday deal had no agreement on this point. Britain said it could not deliver the demand, partly because of Protestant opposition and partly because Sinn Fein refused to grant the same concession to police and British soldiers involved in Northern Ireland killings.

This debate apparently ended in 2006, when a British parliamentary bill to grant amnesty from prosecution for pre-1998 crimes was abandoned. Until this week, Northern Ireland citizens believed more than 200 IRA veterans still could not travel into the U.K. without fear of arrest for outstanding charges or investigations.

Publicly, the British government and Sinn Fein gave every impression this remained the case.

COURTROOM SURPRISE

Then a London court judgment, published Tuesday, revealed that Britain and Sinn Fein had misled everyone else — and cut a secret side deal.

The judge revealed that governments led by Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron, the current prime minister, had provided 187 IRA veterans with official letters vetted by police and prosecutors reassuring them that, should they return to Northern Ireland or travel to Britain, they would not be arrested for suspected involvement in IRA attacks. Those provided letters included men linked to the slaughter of Protestant civilians.

The process started in 2000 and accelerated in 2007 shortly before the Northern Ireland coalition's creation.

PROTESTANT FURY

The Protestant leader of Northern Ireland's government, Peter Robinson, described himself as "incandescent with rage," and his party would not have formed a government with Sinn Fein had it known Britain was conceding IRA amnesty on the sly. He threatened to resign as government leader Friday unless Britain agreed to open an investigation explaining who took the decision, why it was kept secret, and how it could be reversed.

If Robinson were to quit, the Northern Ireland Assembly must either be suspended or dissolved for new elections.

BRITISH RESPONSE

Cameron announced Thursday that he was giving Robinson part of his demand. He said a judge would investigate the letters program and report findings — publicly — by May.

In Belfast, Cameron's Cabinet minister for Northern Ireland, Theresa Villiers, offered new commitments that weakened the reported value of the IRA veterans' letters.

"No recipient of such a letter should be in any doubt that if evidence emerges in the future in connection with terrorist offenses committed before the (Good Friday) agreement, they will be liable for arrest and prosecution," Villiers said in a statement.

POSTPONING A CRISIS?

A beaming Robinson, holding a copy of Villiers' statement, declared victory and said he wouldn't pull the plug on power-sharing. "If you get what you want, why on earth would you resign?" he told reporters, crowing that IRA fugitives now had "a fairly worthless piece of paper."

Sinn Fein, which also could topple the government by withdrawing, dismissed Cameron's probe as pointless and said the 187 IRA veterans "are not wanted for questioning or charge. That fact can't be changed."

Comments

Blair will get what they deserves, but not in this corrupt world.



Former Ministers for N.I.

The Kike Mandelson
Peter Hain (South African anti-Apartheid change-agent; 1976, Hain was tried for, and acquitted of, a 1974 bank robbery; 1977, switched to Labour and helped found the Anti-Nazi League; 1999, Africa Minister, Robert Mugabe: "I know you are not one of them, Peter; you are one of us", next day Mugabe called Hain Peter Tatchell's "wife"; a prominent supporter of Unite Against Fascism).

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