IS THERE ANY POINT TALKING TO ARLENE AGAIN?

There is a pattern to the politics of this place; a pattern that tells us that the process is bigger than any one individual.

David Trimble did the heavy lifting of the Good Friday Agreement, but could not carry the Ulster Unionist Party – not all of it and not enough of it.

Ian Paisley took the once unthinkable step into government with Martin McGuinness only to be replaced by Peter Robinson as DUP leader a little over a year later.

Now, there is a focus on Arlene Foster; RHI, that ‘crocodile’ comment, the Assembly Election of 2017 when unionism lost its overall Stormont majority, the negotiation that could not be closed a few weeks ago and the issue of legacy inquest funding.

BAD HEADLINES – TOO MANY OF THEM

Think about a question posed by a senior republican in recent days: “How do you deal with these people in the future?”

It relates specifically to that latest negotiation – the “draft agreement text” of February 9th that Arlene Foster and the DUP negotiators could not deliver.

It is just nonsense to suggest this negotiation was still in a phase of exchanging papers and ideas.

It had moved to fine detail, decision time: “It was down to presentation at this stage,” a talks insider insists.

The visit of Theresa May on February 12th was viewed by Gerry Adams as a clumsy intervention and, by others, as a distraction. May’s visit also forced Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to be present at Stormont.

IT BACKFIRED

The deal was not yet ready, but it was very close. Perhaps the NIO was trying to rush and push things – keep the momentum in the process.

By February 9th there was not only a draft agreement text, but draft legislation also.

Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann, writing elsewhere on this website, commented: “The accommodation that has been produced is significant and detailed. The fact that we have been informed that both parties had access to the Office of the Legislative Counsel during the process suggests that the yet unseen legislation contained within the annexes is not simply a wish list but has had legal testing.”

Think also of a legacy agreement on paper. Yes, in writing, and set in the context of “overall agreement”.

Funding for legacy inquests at £7 million a year for 5 years.

The consultation on the legacy structures agreed at Stormont House in 2014 – including the new Historical Investigations Unit (HIU) and Independent Commission on Information Retrieval (ICIR) – to begin within two weeks of the formation of a new Executive.

Within that consultation, a controversial question on a statute of limitations for armed forces was to be removed.

These are not ideas; not part of some wish list, but commitments “on-the-record” that, I am assured, can be proven.

The above detail on legacy was worked out in separate discussions involving the NIO and Sinn Fein.

Put the pieces together – this legacy agreement, the draft agreement text and the draft legislation and you see the advanced stage of this negotiation – and the deal the DUP could not sell.

Instead of facing up to the facts, that party has engaged in an unconvincing wordplay; an attempt to downplay the standing of the elements outlined above; and, in this, there is the danger of the process moving beyond Arlene Foster and further away from the devolved space that is Stormont.

A DRAFT AGREEMENT THAT FAILED THE TEST OF IMPLEMENTATION CERTAINTY

Republicans spent the latest phase in a 13 months-long negotiation trying to make this deal – and lowered the bar to make it a much easier jump for the DUP; no certainty about a Bill of Rights, no certainty that the Petition of Concern would be changed; no certainty that marriage equality would be delivered, and accepting DUP proposals to ensure greater stability within any restored political institutions.

Sinn Fein had achieved progress on the Irish language and on legacy matters – but had not delivered the implementation certainty that was set as the test for this negotiation.

The budget of recent days is another step onto the ground of direct rule.

No one should be in any doubt about that.

Is it too late to talk to Arlene? The DUP leader is not going to get a better deal – a better chance than the one just botched.

Yes the ten DUP MPs at Westminster have considerable influence – but for how long?

At some point, they will need Stormont again and need it more than others.

Listen to what Sinn Fein and the SDLP are asking for. A meeting of the British-Irish intergovernmental conference to decide next steps, including agreeing legislation on the issues of language, legacy and marriage equality.

Stormont has become lost in its political limbo. In the here-and-now, there will be no Executive. Arlene Foster will not be First Minister. The NIO has no strategy – hamstrung by the Tory-DUP relationship at Westminster. Brexit is the bigger issue and focus.

What will Dublin and London do next?

For how long can they allow the farce of a pretend parliament?

Soon, they will have to do something.

With many thanks to: Brian Rowan & Eamonn Mallie for the origional story.

NIO Silent on Alternatives to Stormont deal.

WHATS GOING ON AT THE HOUSE-ON-THE-HILL?


http://www.irishnews.com/news/2017/06/29/news/nio-silent-on-alternatives-to-stormont-deal-1070211/
With many thanks to: Irish News, for the origional story.

FIND IT IN YOUR HEART TO HELP A POOR PROD

TODAY we launch an appeal for much-needed funds for loyalist paramilitaries and Loyalist Communities Council (LCC).

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After giving up their criminal campaign, 20 years after they last promised to give up their criminal campaign, the Re-home a Red Hand and Adopt a UDA Man (RRHAUDAM) appeals urgently need your help. For just £50,000 a year could give idle buggers like Sammy from the Shankill a community worker’s job.
It would help to pay for the three holidays a year and the top-of-the-range car which he and his family so badly need. In return, he’ll promise to enrich the culture of his community and lay off doing anyones’ knees. Obviously he’d still be good for a bit of blow (weed) but keep it to yourself. But the suddenly contrite paramilitaries aren’t looking for charity. They will be bringing important job skills to any cushy number they’re offered. They have maths skills from years of working out if Jonty has a kilo of weed how many half ounces can he knock out if he expects a 50 per cent mark up.

Or if a local businessman refuses to pay his £80-a-week protection money how many bricks will it take to do his windows. They have invaluable people skills, honed over decades of dealing with the local community – the bookies, the bar men, the travel agents, the car dealers, the wee girls in the off-licence. And all they want is the chance to give back to their community by getting the jobs few of them have ever bothered getting before. They long to experience life on minimum wage and a zero hours contract because who needs qualifications when you have an overwhelming sense of entitlement. Our appeal so far has raised £1 million from the Tony Blair’s an Angel Who’s Still Fixing the World Foundation.

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VITALLY

It’s a tiny amount compared to the £26 million which was raised by the PIRA in their Northern Bank fundraiser but it was either that or cupcake sales for the next millennium. It’s vitally important that the paramilitaries are shown our love because otherwise they might just keep doing what they’ve always done for the last 20 years. There will be some strays from the path of peace, like Tyrone, South East Antrim, East Belfast and the UPRG who aren’t ready to leave the old ways behind. They will be humanely arrested for blatantly breaking the law, even though they’ve miraculously got away with a life of crime up to now. So please give what you can – support your local loyalist so he doesn’t have to.
With many thanks to: Roisin Gorman. http://roisin.gorman@sundayworld.com. Sunday World.

HAMSTRUNG HISTORICAL INQUIRIES UNIT (HIU) HAS NO CHANCE OF SUCCESS

YOU probably didn’t notice and there’s no reason why you should, but the same day that a certain loyalist blogger and serial self-publicist was giving evidence to Stormont’s Nama inquiry the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) snuck out its policy paper on implementing the Stormont House Agreement.

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Needless to say it got it got virtually no coverage in the tidal wave of sensational allegations made about the alleged recipients of money from the Cerberus deal. If you’ve ever wondered why the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) decided to draft the Stormont House Agreement Bill 2015 and bring it through Westminister rather than allow the clowns in the big house on the hill to legislate, once you read the policy paper all becomes clear. Quite simply the British government intends to control the Historical Inquires Unit (HIU), on what information it can have and what it can reveal. Anyone who beleives that the Policing Board will hold the HIU accountable is living in cloud-cuckoo land. “The secretary of state will have oversight of the HIU regarding reserved and excepted matters.” The UK government will prevent disclosure of any material or information ‘likely to prejudice national security (including information from the intelligence services)’. None of this material can be published ‘without the consent of the secretary of state’. Now as we all know from past experience, ‘likely to prejudice national security’ is whatever our proconsul for the time being decides is national security. When you look at the policy paper you see it begins with a questionable statement and continues to ignore all suggestions and recommendations made by interested parties, nationalist political parties, NGOs like the Committee for the Administration of Justice and university academics. In short, it’s a classic NIO document. It begins with the unconvincing claim that ‘the institutions have the needs of the victims and their families are at their heart’. No. The needs of secrecy in the Ministry of Defence, the NIO and the Home Office are at their heart. It has never been any different in the secretive British state.
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For example it was only in 2002 after Freedom of Information requests that details of Special Branch investigation into Charles Stewart Parnell and other Irish MPs were released and even then only in restricted fashion. The names of informers (touts) and amounts paid are still secret 125 years after the fact. Academics at QUB, Sinn Féin (Shame Fein) politicians and the CAJ among others recommended that former RUC and RUC Special Branch personnel be not employed in the HIU partly because they may have been complicit in collusion or cover up or both. The great merit of the Historical Enquiries Team was that its personnel were seconded from English forces and we all know why. However, ignoring all that, ‘the bill does not prohibit the HIU from recruiting persons who have previously served in policing or security roles in the North of Ireland.’
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So the HIU won’t work and the NIO has made sure it won’t work because it will only investigate and publish what the NIO allows it to invstigate and publish. Then there’s the Independent Commission on Information Retrieval (ICIR). It’s modelled on the Independent Commission on the Location of Victims’ Remains (ICLVR) which has worked extremely well. However, the NIO policy paper goes out of its way to make clear that while information given to the ICIR is inadmissible in court, if that information is obtained or can be obtained by other means then prosecution may follow.
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That puts the kibosh on the ICIR because given the record of the PSNI over the past four years, starting with the Boston College fiasco (all hearsay) and continuing with their apparent trawling after the killing of Kevin McGuigan with almost a score of people arrested and released, who is going to risk giving information to the ICIR to pass to families? Inevitably individuals in the PSNI/RUC would be working backwards from the material a family recieved. In mitigation it has to be said on the basis of evidence so far, that’s only likely in the case of prominent Sinn Féin figures. Buried in the policy paper is our proconsul’s admission that ‘on some detailed questions covered in the bill, there is not yet a clear consensus between the five main North of Ireland parties. Work will continue to build consensus on remaining points of difference.’ Yeah right.
With many thanks to: Brian Feeny, for the origional story, The Irish News.

Unionists protest at SF guard over shot Adams

Confidential files released

TODAY sees the release of previously confidential files from Stormonta and the NIO (Northern Ireland Office) covering the two years 1983 and 1984. This marks a change as Public Records Office be gains to phase towards a new ’20-year rule’. In total 1,047 files are released today of which 225 are subject to full closure while 366 are subject to ‘redaction’ or blacking-out. Those partially closed include files on the use of baton rounds, ‘political developments’ and ‘compensation to innocent victims’. Many are of these files are partially closed until 2067 (I wonder what they are hiding about the Shame Fein sellouts). Reporting on the Belfast files for the Irish News is Dr Damon Phoenix, a political historian and broadcaster and author of Northern Nationalism 1890-1940 (1994) and co-author of Conflicts in the North of Ireland 1900-2000 (Four Courts Press, 2010). Irish government files are released today under the ‘30-year rule.’ Reporting from Dublin is the Press Association‘s Ed Carty. The next lot of pages will be dedicated to these newly released files.

STATE PAPERS Belfast and Dublin

ON March 14 1984 Gerry Adams, the new Shame Fein MP for West Belfast, and three companions were shot and wounded by the UFF while driving back from a court appearance in Belfast city centre. Mr Adams was rushed to the Royal Victoria Hospital for emergency surgery.

Show your anger at Shame Fein ‘VOTE INDEPENDENT’ !!!

Mr Adams stay in hospital was the subject of a series of complaints by the Ulster Unionist MP for South Belfast, Rev Martin Smyth alleging that Shame Fein leader was being ‘guarded’ by republicans at the RVH. In a note on file for the NIO uunder-secretary, John Patten on March 22 1984, R F Sterling, an official at the DHSS reported that Rev Smyth had phonened the minister’s office to complain about reports that Shame Fein members were gaurding the West Belfast MP and his colleagues. According to Sterling, Rev Smyth was “particularly indignant that these people were reported to be stopping and questioning members of the public within the hospital”.

Sterling explained to the minister that Adams and his companions had been housed in a secure ward and placed under the protection of armed police. All four, he noted, were material witnesses to an armed assault and “clearly their lives were at risk”. Questioned by Rev Smyth in the House of Commons on March 21, 1984 about the alleged ‘Shame Fein guard’ over Mr Adams, secretary of state Jim Prior insisted that the Shame Fein leader “was given medical attention under the protection of the RUC”. He also rejected a claim that British Intelligence had been aware of the murder bid on Mr Adams in advance. In a letter to Rev Smyth on March 22 1984 Mr Prior admitted that the hospital authorities believed that during Mr Adams ‘ stay at the RVH some members of Shame Fein might have been present but that they were confined to the public areas and “were not guarding” the Shame Fein leader.

With many thanks to: Dr Eamon Phoenix, The Irish News.

Related articles

The growth of secret ’evidence’ and the case of Marian Price

The Detail

Daniel Holder is Deputy Director of the CAJ

Daniel Holder is Deputy Director of the CAJ

There were two significant reminders last week about the creeping use of secret ‘evidence.’ The first was the continued imprisonment of Marian McGlinchey (née Price) despite her three co-accused walking free when a judge threw out charges against all four. Marian Price was technically speaking already ‘out on bail’ in relation to these charges (which the Prosecution Service may now seek to resurrect). Her continued imprisonment relates not to a decision by a Court, but a separate procedure involving a government Minister and a Commission which can rely on secret evidence.

The second reminder was the UK Coalition Government’s inclusion of an ominously titled ‘Justice and Security Bill’ within the list of laws it announced it would introduce in the next Parliamentary session. The Bill would allow government Ministers to instruct ‘CMPs’ – Closed Material Procedures (i.e. secret evidence) be used in civil court processes. Our local circumstances were not for once the impetus for such a dramatic change (although as it could include the likes of ‘Troubles’ Inquests, it would have serious repercussions here). The move is in response to MI5/6 involvement in ‘war on terror’ practices such as ‘extraordinary rendition’ (i.e. the kidnap, torture and unlawful detention of persons) being increasingly challenged in Court, and in particular the compensation settlements being paid to Guantanamo Bay detainees. The Government argues it needs CMPs in order to allow secret trials to protect ‘national security. ’ They also conveniently reduce the potential to hold the Security Services accountable for malpractice or human rights abuses in which they are implicated.

There is general outrage from human rights groups over the proposals. Amidst this, we should not lose sight of the fact that secret evidence procedures already exist– many piloted and specific to this jurisdiction. Persons who have their fair employment discrimination claims blocked by a ‘national security certificate’ issued by the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) can only have their claims heard in a ‘special tribunal’ involving secret evidence – which predates its better known counterpart tribunal for persons subject to ‘Control Orders.’ CAJhas asked under the Freedom of Information Act how many certificates have been issued and how often the ‘special tribunal’ has convened – only to be told that the NIO ‘did not record’ such information. Should you be subject to such processes, you can expect that both you, your lawyer, and the public will be excluded from your court hearing. Secret ‘evidence’, usually based on security force intelligence data, is then presented against you, which you cannot challenge. A ‘Special Advocate’ is appointed to represent you but cannot discuss the secret ‘evidence’ with you. At best, you and your representatives are given a ‘gist’ of what is being alleged.

Similar procedures also apply for recalling to prison persons with conflict-related convictions who were released under the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement. Such releases were ‘under licence,’ conditional on no re-involvement in paramilitary activity. The question which arises is how the conclusion is reached that someone has returned to such activity. The decision is not on the basis of a fresh conviction for a similar serious offence proved beyond reasonable doubt in a competent court, but rather a variation of the above CMPprocess involving the NIO, Secretary of State and a Commission, which can rely on secret ‘evidence’ in a closed ‘Special Advocate’ procedure. Marian Price was released long before the 1998 Agreement, having been convicted of bombing the Old Bailey in 1973, but issued with a royal pardon in 1980. A similar process exists under the Life Sentences (Northern Ireland) Order 2001 whereby the NIO Secretary of State, Owen Paterson, can provide the Parole Commissioners with evidence and invite them to make a recommendation to return an individual to prison. Such decisions can also be based on secret ‘evidence,’ including intelligence data, and do not require a conviction or even a charge. At worst, therefore, the process could be used selectively against ex-prisoners engaged in political activity outside the mainstream, rather than just against those genuinely involved in unlawful activity.

The case of Marian Price is particularly striking, as on the same day a Judge released her on bail in May 2011, a government Minister returned her to prison. There are other due process issues in relation to this case, not least the fact she was given a pardon under the Royal Prerogative of Mercy. The NIO claims this document only related to Marian Price’s fixed term and not life sentence for which a licence applied. Her family contest that the pardon related to both, and hence believe that the NIO had no licence to revoke. It would seem a relatively simple matter for the NIO to produce the document to settle the matter. However, apparently the pardon and all copies of it have gone ‘missing.’ Given that it could possibly change a decision as to whether a person is deprived of their liberty, one would think an investigation would have taken place as to how and when the information disappeared. CAJ has been told that the NIO have decided not to investigate this on the grounds that the pardon is ‘not relevant’ to this case. Whilst decisions in ‘special tribunals’ are made on the basis of evidence that defendants cannot see, it is difficult to understand how the NIO reached this conclusion without itself viewing the document.

The dangers of secret ‘evidence’ within the justice system were set out succinctly in the case of Al Rawi, and others v the Security Services. Here, the government tried to argue that legal norms over the years (the ‘common law’) meant that it had a right to hold civil trials in secret, despite no law permitting this. The UK Supreme Court threw this out, with Lord Kerr arguing that the “right to be informed of the case made against you is not merely a feature of the adversarial system of trial, it is an elementary and essential prerequisite of fairness.”

It is this case that has led to the present Justice and Security Bill introducing CMPs. In response, Special Advocates themselves have argued CMPs “represent a departure from the foundational principle of natural justice that all parties are entitled to see and challenge all the evidence relied upon before the court and to combat that evidence by calling evidence of their own.” Put simply, evidence cannot be relied upon if you cannot challenge it.

CAJ expressed concerns about the CMP proposals, given our experience that measures which effectively bypass rule of law standards and establish, in essence, a parallel justice system, lead to human rights abuses which can exacerbate conflict as well as contributing to the growing marginalisation of ‘suspect communities.’ A further problem highlighted above is that secret evidence tends to consist of intelligence data which the Police themselves are often keen to (rightly) point out does not necessarily constitute evidence. However, under the present recall arrangements, ‘intelligence’ can effectively be used as ‘evidence’ to put an ex-prisoner behind bars.

This is of course not the first time that intelligence rather than evidence has been used to imprison; previous policies of mass arrest and internment involved lists of suspects based on ‘intelligence’ data. The lesson needs to be learned that illegitimate state practices outside the standard rule of law do not prevent but rather fuel conflict. Further growth in procedures allowing secret ‘evidence’ would have serious consequences, but in Marian Price’s case, such consequences are already apparent.

Daniel Holder is Deputy Director of the Committee on the Administration of Justice

CAJ wrote a detailed response in January 2012 to the ‘Justice and Security’ Green Paper setting out the organisations concerns about the proposals – this is availablehere

WITH MANY THANKS TO : THE DETAIL.

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