Guest post from a Unionist Perspective of recent developments by Carrickally
The Downey letter of comfort has a set of serious implications, depending on your particular viewpoint and how far you’re prepared to follow the logical conclusions. It also matters on your perspective so I’ll try to take the situation and discuss how it has impacted on my worldview.
I’ve always been a believer in perfidious Albion. And perfidious anyone else in a position of power. It’s doubtful they came to it through honest means but in some cases this has been forgotten due to the passage of time. The French lopped off a few thousand heads, caused untold carnage across Europe, the Germans multiplied that, the Russians added another zero to the end. Closer to home, the Irish murdered plenty of fellow Irishmen to get 3 and a bit green fields while in the time of Victoria the British perfected skulduggery with gunboat diplomacy and moral superiority creating an irresistible force to ensure economic rule of more than just the red bits on the map.
So I’m rather cynical when it comes to British politics. However, even I’m flabbergasted that a British minister (or rather series of Secretaries of State) has been allowed to circumvent Parliamentary democracy and offer up notes of comfort to people who have fled investigations into their innocence or guilt of terrorist atrocities. If that sounds too strong for your shade of green, re-word it towards innocent Irishmen have had to flee arbitrary arrest on flimsy grounds based only on their activist stance. The outcome is still the same at the other end. A single head of a single Department, presumably with the tacit agreement of three Prime Ministers over the period 2006-2012, has been allowed to write a carte blanche for people who have been investigated in a background manner (in most cases, I am assuming that some have been questioned at some stage).
This means that a politician has interfered in the legal process of the United Kingdom. Now that sounds bad, and I’ll give you that as legislators politicians actually do make – some of, thanks to the EU – the law so that in and of itself is not necessarily a terrible thing. However, even in the laziest of Parliaments there is still a quorum required in order to vote on a Bill. What we have here though is the continuation of Direct Rule, with the SoS taking on the Order in Council job that was in place from 1972-1998, and the extra bits in the noughties due to suspensions. Is he or she an eminence gris?
We then have to question the PSNI. At Policing Board level, this should have been known about. It would seem that some members, members of SF, did know. Only because they were members of SF. The Chief Constable appears to have known, as would his predecessor. The Justice Minister did not. We have heard cries of political policing, and again with the Policing Board that is in and of itself not necessarily a terrible thing. However, it is when only one party and the CC (probably plus senior staff) are the ones who know about it.
And moving on to the HET, this surely gives an explanation to the figures for republicans investigated. No wonder loyalists were crying about one-sided policing, the truth of it is now out for those who have connected the dots quickly enough.
Follow this up with Larkin’s amnesty kite-flying. Did the AG recently find out about this, had he been in on the act? It is agreed that John Larkin is not a stupid man. His motive needs to be questioned; was he horrified that there was no input by the justice system or were the, to use Peter Hain’s words, “legal officers” known to him?
So on to the part that will probably vex republicans and nationalists the most. Did this deal scupper any chance of specific soldiers standing trial for their actions in Northern Ireland (or elsewhere)? Did SF wash their hands in the blood of the innocent victims of Bloody Sunday or the not so innocent of Loughgall and Gibraltar? Will Finucane’s family ever see the convictions they rightly deserve?
Now on a political front, will unionists accept the DUP (and UUP) statements that they didn’t know and it was a secret deal? Personally, I think they will. I believe they didn’t know until the last few weeks, with Larkin’s kite possibly being the earliest indication.
Will nationalists punish SF for making sure that their volunteers were alright but leaving victims from the Catholic community out to dry? Personally, I think there will be minor dents but there seems to be a firm belief in nationalist politics that the Shinners look out for their community, stand up for them. Again my view but there are none so blind.
If the NIO are playing a long game of attempting to undermine Unionist confidence in Britain, I’m afraid they are barking up the wrong tree. We’ve never trusted them, we don’t owe our allegiance to them and they don’t quite understand the concept of conditional loyalty, a central tenet of Presbyterianism. We are not, in our eyes, colonials who must depend on the metropolitan to know what to do. We are equal stakeholders in the UK, a tiny number of the 60 million but given a pass to hold, it matters not how many are behind that first line.
I have no doubt that the NIO believed the OTRs were a price worth paying to get SF agreement in 2006. What they didn’t reckon on was that the English media have a view that the seven horses killed in Hyde Park are much more worthy than six people in Coleraine and so back to Downey and why he was the lead story on the national news. It’s all about perspective