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The police’s blunder over John Downey is one thing, the government’s cravenness another

26 February 2014

4:00 PM

26 February 2014

4:00 PM

So, the IRA terror suspect, John Downey, will now not face a trial for his alleged involvement in the Hyde Park and Regent’s Park bombings of 1982, in which eleven soldiers (as well as seven horses) were murdered by nail bombs. The former Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain seems to be delighted about this and expressed his astonishment that Downey had been arrested in the first place. Downey mistakenly received a so-called ‘comfort letter’ as part of the Good Friday Agreement, informing him that he was now effectively immune from prosecution. For what it’s worth, Downey denies the charges.

It wasn’t a very good Friday, was it? I suppose we should be happy that most of the IRA content themselves these days with the black market cigarette trade, but there are still plenty of the rat-faced hooligans causing mayhem in Northern Ireland. Still, we should all be delighted that Peter Hain is happy.


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  • roger

    Yet another piece of sh*t to lay at Blair’s feet, is there no end to his evil legacy. ..er No!

  • Nick

    Isn’t that Peter Gabriel?

  • Barakzai

    ”I know from personal experience just what a big ask that could be.”

    Shouldn’t that be:
    ”I know from personal experience just what a big ask that could be, babe.”

    • GUBU

      Indeed it should.

      Which leads me to a more serious point. The view that this curious crew – Blair, Mowlam, Hain, Powell, Campbell et al – took of Sinn Fein coloured their actions, and inevitably led to nonsense like this.

      Some of them (like Mowlam) clearly felt a greater affinity for republicans that they did for others involved in negotiations. Others clearly took Adams and his associates more seriously because they had guns, or at least knew people who did. Perhaps you should take such people seriously, but that’s entirely different from actively ingratiating yourself with them.

      Campbell and Blair, judging by the former’s memoirs, may have occasionally confused Sinn Fein’s leadership with the Sopranos.

      Is it any wonder that republicans ran rings round them over issues like this?

      • Barakzai

        No wonder the Sinn Fein leadership have smirked – as Downey is undoubtedly doing now – for the past twenty years. Doubtless all Shinners regard Downey’s actions as heroic. Didn’t Adams openly insist that IRA activism could not be construed as criminality? Blair and his crew weren’t practising realpolitik, their naive eejitcy was no more than appeasement at any price.

        • GUBU

          Indeed. These people took themselves very seriously, but they were not serious people in any meaningful sense. Yet they were running our country. Isn’t that reassuring?

      • Jambo25

        Hain has always had Republican/Nationalist sympathies. Blair’s children travel on Irish passports.

  • Peter Stroud

    There needs to be some Inquiry into this sorry matter. It seems, according to some sources, that the policy was deliberately kept from the sight of politicians. Was it cooked up by Blair and Hain in secret talks: then handed down to civil servants, with a Secret plus limited to named politicians, caveat? This has happened before, with some very sensitive matters.

  • Rockin Ron

    The blood of those who were murdered is crying out for justice. That justice will be served, in the next life, if not now. Ultimately, we must all give an account. Books will be opened, scales will be weighed and true justice will be served. That has to be the ultimate comfort for those denied justice today. There will be a final reckoning.

    Meanwhile, any denial of justice today shames and demeans the whole nation. This is what Mr Cameron should be addressing with urgency. Denial of justice can lead to anarchy.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    Looks as though Plod didn’t get the memo.

  • Noa

    It would seem that the best legal defence open to the BBC stars and DJs’ in the face of continued persecution by the Crown’s incompetent Prosecution Service would be to obtain ten pounds of semtex and a large bag of nails from B&Q, before decamping to the nearest army base.
    Or perhaps Dave Lee Travis, like the government-made millionaire Moazzem Begg, might care to visit Syria on a peace mission.

  • Cosmo

    Hain is a oily individual, of questionable parentage.

  • In2minds

    The police should concentrate on the important things, like the Jimmy
    Savile inquiry.

  • john p reid

    I see amnesty international are saying it’s right,That’s the same Amnesty who said the IRA were being given a hard time from the Tory press portraying them badly, what were the press supposed to do when the IRA killed 3,600 people, ay they all committed suicide as away of making the IRA look bad, after all they always admitted to it ,

    • FrankieThompson

      “what were the press supposed to do when the IRA killed 3,600 people,”

      Responsibility for killing
      Responsible party.

      Republican paramilitary groups 2057

      Loyalist paramilitary groups 1019

      British security forces 363

      Persons unknown 82

      Irish security forces 5

      Total 3526

      Of those killed by British security forces:

      187 (~51.5%) were civilians

      145 (~39.9%) were members of republican paramilitaries

      18 (~4.9%) were members of loyalist paramilitaries

      13 (~3.5%) were fellow members of the British security forces

      Of those killed by republican paramilitaries:

      1080 (~52%) were members of the British security forces

      728 (~35%) were civilians

      187 (~9%) were members of republican paramilitaries

      56 (~2.7%) were members of loyalist paramilitaries

      10 (~0.4%) were members of the Irish security forces

      Of those killed by loyalist paramilitaries:

      868 (~85.4%) were civilians

      93 (~9%) were members of loyalist paramilitaries

      41 (~4%) were members of republican paramilitaries

      14 (~1.3%) were members of the British security forces

      • Pootles

        Pretty awful all round. There are difficulties with interpreting these raw figures, but, roughly speaking, various Irish terrorist groups (of different persuasions) seem to have kiled 1,997 Irish people (not counting Irish men and women in the British security forces). So, around 57% of all killings were Irish people by other Irish people, then if one adds in deaths among the RUC, it would probably be over 60%.

      • Jambo25

        Nobody said the Loyalists were nice people but its worth pointing out that Republican paramilitaries killed nearly 2/3 of the total.

  • john p reid

    Are they still trying to prosecute soldiers for Bloody Sunday, one rule for one, one for another

  • Frank

    Why has Peter Hain not returned to South Africa to save it? Go man, your country needs you.

  • john p reid

    Not advising people to read the guardian, but it has an article from Hain,saying that he’s astonished it went to court in the first place, and all I put was that Hain disgusted me, and would they drop the prosecutions against Gerry Adams brother for child abuse, and they deleted my comment

    • Pootles

      Mr Reid, sir, we may have a disagreement of sorts on another thread, but on this, I agree with you. Top banana!

    • Jambo25

      I used to post on the Guardian as ‘North’ and was banned sine die for describing one of their staff reporter’s (Libby Brooks) articles as “a load of old femo tosh”.

      • GUBU

        You can now get ‘old femo tosh’ here, you’ll be glad to know.

        • Jambo25

          There’s quite a lot of it about.

      • john p reid

        I’ve got a feeling the guardians going to get itself banned,the way the Sun is in Liverpool,if it continues the way it’s going,

    • Jambo25

      There’s a Sinn Fein MP’s name which keeps coming up in relation to the Elm Guest House Paedophilia scandal as well. Mind you all sorts of interesting names come up in relation to that.

  • Daniel Maris

    I’ve always been quite impressed by Hain. He gave some honest answers yesterday.

    The truth is, unless we were prepared for a hard fight against the IRA, then something like the Good Friday settlement was necessary.

    The IRA had to make some serious compromises as well.

    • GUBU

      I too have always been secretly impressed by Mr Hain. I doubt I would be able to carry off that absurd tan with the same conviction as he does, and I admired him for his misunderstood but well intentioned efforts to keep his elderly mother active in her retirement.

      However, in this case there is a very real difference between the compromises that may indeed be necessary to end violence, and the shoddy incompetence that has apparently gifted a number of potential suspects in historical crimes with what appears to be not so much a ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ card as a ‘Never Be Brought To Court In The First Place’ card.

      • Daniel Maris

        Why don’t you just go ahead and accuse him of stealing a typewriter ribbon?

    • Major_Eyeswater

      ….apart from an honest answer to the question “so why did you just go ahead and issue the notices without telling anyone”…

      • Daniel Maris

        Well he didn’t answer that head on, I accept. But the answer was implicit: realpolitik. He was saying you could not have peace without those letters . If you want to criticise Hain I think you have to disprove that thesis.

        • Jambo25

          Blair and Hain were warned not to do these side deals by Mark Durkan of the SDLP as it would eventually cause problems.

    • john p reid

      They’d lost, the UDA was killing more Catholics than they were killing ,the army was stopping. Most of their bombs, they were mainly getting caught, and they’d run out of money, they only had to give up the request for a united Ireland, which wasn’t go ing to happened, we’ve give up justice for those they killed,

      • Daniel Maris

        Perhaps you don’t live in London. Perhaps you didn’t see the huge damage they did in the City. If you did, you would understand why the UK government (both Tory and Labour) sued for peace.

        • john p reid

          No I live in London saw the lot, just as we’d got them, on the run, at the peace table, we gave I to all their concessions, and got very little in return

        • Jambo25

          I don’t live in London but the darling boys almost killed my wife, son and I when we were visiting the place. Mr Reid is correct. PIRA had lost. By the end there were probably as many British agents on the IRA Army Council as there were genuine Republicans.

        • roger

          A lorry bomb was stopped shortly after driving past my house ( the Lord Majors show bomb), mainland bombing for a united ireland group was an act of international war and should have been treated as such.
          I always think the Yanks leant on the British government to stick to the weak police primacy idea.

    • Fergus Pickering

      The IRA had to make some serious compromises? Which ones were those then?

      • GUBU

        Senior republicans had to spend time in a room with Mo Mowlam. Does that count?

        • Daniel Maris

          Does that count as humour? No.

          • GUBU

            I wasn’t necessarily joking.

            I know from personal experience just what a big ask that could be.

          • Jambo25

            Not far off though. Apparently some of the Sinn Fein/PIRA negotiators (Good, devout, Catholic boys all.) were a bit appalled by ‘Mo’s’ foul language.

      • In2minds

        Kill fewer people?!

      • Daniel Maris

        Well operating in an elected assembly in one part of Ireland rather than a national assembly for the whole island is a huge compromise for them.

        • Jambo25

          They simply agreed to something which was a fait accompli anyway.

        • roger

          Can you imagine if the whole island was run by the Dublin government, not even PIRA liked them.

    • Frank

      …prepared for a hard fight? We had had a hard fight and had won. That is why they came to the table. Trouble is our esteemed leaders, including Hain, didn’t realise just how beaten the IRA / PIRA were.

      • Daniel Maris

        Won? you must be joking. The truth is one of the big Japanese banks said they would pull out of the City (after the Bishopsgate bombing I think it was) and the government sued for peace with the IRA. I don’t deny the IRA were on their knees as well – but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t have brought London to a standstill.

        • Jackthesmilingblack

          It took a long time before the IRA found HMG’s soft under belly. The killing of soldiers, police and civilians was essentially collateral damage. But threaten the City and John Major and his ministers couldn’t get round the negotiation table fast enough. Fortunate timing for the IRA as they got the negotiations squared away before 9/11 came along.
          Jack, Nepal

      • john p reid

        So losing one Japanese bank would have brought London to a stand still?

    • Jambo25

      Blair and Hain did side deals with terrorists. If you piece together the answers which have come from Hain and others it goes something like this. 1) A deal was done with the paramilitaries for early release. That was made public and the various N Ireland parties held their nose and swallowed it. 2) There was then the problem of the ‘on the run terrorists’. At first Blair, Hain and the equally oleaginous Powell apparently proposed a general amnesty. 3) This was turned down by Sinn Fein as it would have also covered Crown Servants. 4) Blair and Hain then offered these letters to Sinn Fein but did not tell the other parties to the GFA or the UK parliament. 5) What has to happen now is that ALL investigations into past crimes in N Ireland must be ended. We could start by drawing the curtain on ‘Bloody Sunday’.

  • GUBU

    As Mr Hain appears more or less permanently pleased with himself, I doubt his happiness on this occasion offers much consolation.

    • HookesLaw

      Hain in charge of northern Ireland … That’s new labour for you. We will note that that branding has been dropped BTW.

  • Pootles

    It just goes to show what is possible if you keep murdering people. It might take time, say thirty years, but if you can keep a group of active killers in being, there’s no knowing how far democratic politicians will go to draw a line under things. The politicians may be right, and they may be wrong, but those tasked with fighting terrorism should remember that politicians have form in this respect. In contemporary, largely British terms, we may be heading for the same thing re our Jihadis…

    • Peter Stroud

      A very good point.

      • FrankieThompson

        It is no such thing . It is a very stupid point. The IRA, after long internal discussion( I suggest you all read The Fight for Peace by Eammon Maillie and David McKittrick incidentally if you want to know what really happened) decided to disarm and use a entirely political route due to the fact that they knew that the violence, although sustainable by them, would never ever achieve their political objectives and was therefore futile.

        The jihadis, on the other hand, have no such thought process available, even if they wanted to avail themselves of it, which they manifestly do not. Their ideology is entirely different from the republican ideology and does not permit, by definition, of any form of political compromise, due to the essence of the ideology not being political , or only political in an incidental fashion.

        This is a fundamental difference and trying to extrapolate lessons from the experience in Ireland is very daft indeed.

        • FrankieThompson

          And one other salient difference.
          From 1922-73, Northern Ireland was run on institutionally sectarian lines, openly and formally,with hardly a whimper from “the mainland”. Political, economic, and religious discrimination was widespread and condoned, where not actively promoted. Despite being “Unionist”, a separate Parliament operated, with a Prime( not First) Minister, and a Cabinet. It was , as stated, “A Protestant State for a Protestant People”.

          Just in case anyone had forgotten.

          • Pootles

            I don’t think anyone has forgotten. From the Unionists’ point of view, of course, their Northern Irish set up was a mirror image of Eire’s, then the Republic’s arrangements – with the South’s Constitution being given the OK by the Vatican, and the Catholic Church having a priviliged place in the life of state and nation. More importantly, I suppose one might question whether an acceptable response to the institutional Protestant ascendancy in the North was to pursue a three decade long campaign of murder, lynchings, torture, disappearances, beatings, and general mayhem. Was it?

            • FrankieThompson

              No. That’s exactly the point I was trying to make.

          • Jambo25

            The problem with your post is the year 1973. After that date the N Irish statelet was no longer formally discriminatory against Catholics yet the vast bulk of the killings in N Ireland and the rest of the UK took place after that date. In other words over 2,000 people were killed in a vain attempt to change the colour of pillar and telephone boxes. I believe pillar boxes are still red.

            • FrankieThompson

              I chose the date 1973 advisedly but I’m not sure you could paint your non-discriminatory picture very convincingly. The “armed struggle” ultimately arrived back at the Sunningdale Agreement and that can be successfully argued . But it is fair to point out that it wasn’t the IRA that scuppered Sunningdale.

              • Jambo25

                It’s also fair to point out that Republicans boycotted the elections posited under Suningdale and that PIRA kept on killing all the way through it.

          • victor67

            Indeed the IRA were a symptom of the problem. You create an artificial state where 33% of the population are persecuted and discriminated against then your asking for trouble .The solution was always to end that and the tragedy was it took 35 years and thousands of deaths to realise it.

            • roger

              The UK government should have handed power to Dublin in 1971, then they really would have had a civil war.
              Britain’s main problem was it didn’t strong-arm the USA with the threat of losing their bases, the Americans were very ‘involved’.

              • victor67

                In the 1970s the troubles in Ireland were small potatoes compared to the cold war.

          • roger

            Yes, the UK government should have kicked the Stormont government into touch as soon as it saw the civil rights marches. I visited Ireland in the late 60s and Belfast looked and felt as if WW2 had only just finished.
            No people in decent houses with good well paid jobs and good (integrated) schools care about abstract constitutional or theological issues, those only feed on division and deprivation.

        • Pootles

          You’ve read far too much into my post. I wasn’t attempting any assessment of the rationality (in Western, post-Enlightenment terms) of the IRA’s approach. My point was that faced by long-term terrorism, democratic politicians may well find themselves (for one reason or another) willing to do deals with terrorists that many might find distasteful. In that light, and being pessimistic, should the ‘British’ Jihadis (a large number of whom – certainly more than the IRA typically had in terms of active members – are currently killing people in Syria) manage to wage a terror campaign for severa decades in Britain, then we may see British politicians doing deas with the in the future. That, of course, is just black speculation.

    • Colonel Mustard

      It’s fortunate for him that Downey didn’t pat any women on the knee or try to “steal a kiss” ten years earlier than 1982. He’d be in deep trouble now.

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