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On The Run letters – A sham crisis

The grandstanding by the DUP and other unionist politicians over On The Run letters (OTRs) is a sham crisis which has more to do with upcoming elections than with dealing with and resolving legacy issues.
In recent days there has been deliberate misrepresentation about the OTR issue and the provision of letters by the British government.

Unionist leaders have intentionally engaged in hyperbole and feigned anger over an issue that has been on the political and public agenda since the Good Friday Agreement negotiations.

The fact is that there was no agreement between Sinn Féin and the British government on how to resolve the issue of OTRs. Those who received the letters, as they are entitled to, were citizens who were not wanted by the British forces and they received their letters because this was the case.
Others who were wanted by the British for alleged offences would have been released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement if they had been in prison. If they were tried and sentenced at any time after the Agreement they would have served only two years in prison.
Despite accepting that the position of OTRs was an anomaly under the Good Friday Agreement the British government did not produce a satisfactory way of resolving the matter. Jonathan Powell, Tony Blair’s Chief of Staff has acknowledged: ‘As we were not able to find an across the board solution that worked we had to deal with the ‘On the Runs’ as individual cases through an administrative system …’
The administrative system is an entirely legal process, compliant with the law, involving all of the relevant senior law officers of the north and of the British state.
It is important to understand that the letters provided cannot be rescinded. If you’re not wanted – you’re not wanted.
The anomaly of OTRs has been referenced to publicly on countless occasions.
“The British and Irish governments acknowledged this at Hillsborough Castle in March 2001.
Several months later the issue of resolving the issue of OTRs was covered in Paragraph 20 of the Weston Park Agreement.
In May 2003 following negotiations at Leeds Castle the two governments issued a Joint Declaration, including a separate paper dealing specifically with OTRs.
And in October 2005 the then British Secretary of State said in the British Parliament that the government planned to legislate in respect of OTRs.
In January 2006 Sinn Féin and the other parties, for differing, reasons rejected the legislation but the OTR issue continued to be the focus of discussions publicly and privately.
“It has been the subject of discussion at Policing Board meetings at which SDLP and DUP members, some of whom are lawyers, were present; was referenced in the Eames/Bradley proposals; and is covered in Jonathan Powell’s account of the negotiations.
Powell for example, acknowledged talking to the DUP on this matter and that they accepted the implementation of the Joint Declaration proposals on OTRs provided they had a letter from Tony Blair effectively blaming Trimble.
The British government should ensure that if anyone else comes forward seeking clarification of their status that they are treated in the same way as the others covered by the administrative system Under Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Human Rights Act all persons have a legal right upon request to be informed if the police require them for questioning.
The letter that those who made application received makes it clear that if any evidence emerges of any offence then the person receiving the letter can expect to face due process.
Clearly, despite all of the feigned brouhaha and hot air generated by unionist leaders this process is not an amnesty.
It is also worth recalling that the Good Friday Agreement, which the people of the island of Ireland overwhelmingly voted for in two referenda, saw the early release of over 400 republican political prisoners, and loyalist prisoners from jails in Britain and Ireland, north and south, many of whom were serving lengthy prison sentences.
The referenda vote reflected the desire of citizens north and south for an end to conflict and for peace and a recognition that the issue of prisoners was one that had to be resolved.
While the DUP campaigned against the Good Friday Agreement they lost that vote and are obliged to respect the democratic wish of the Irish people, including at that time a majority of unionists.
The DUP also signed on to work the power sharing institutions in 2007 and now share the Assembly and the Executive with former political prisoners
In an effort to ensure that our past does not undermine the peace and the hope for a better future Richard Haass and Meghan O Sullivan produced a comprehensive compromise package to achieve this. Sinn Féin signed up for these. The DUP and other unionists thus far have refused.
The legacy of the past and parades issues and other matters are of such critical importance that the opportunity presented by the Haass proposals needs to be seized and seized now.”

9 Comments

  1. John reid says:

    If there was no agreement between the Govt and Sinn Fien/IRA over on the run letters, how come they exist, are you really saying it’s hyperbole,by Unionists,not to want those suspected of Murder to face trial, great, call for the soldiers of Bloody Sunday to be cleared then ,saying that it’s a sham, to not want justice ids a disgrace,and as for those who were released under Good Friday, I dont think anyone who voted for Good Friday,was aware that suspected killers wouldn’t face justice,

  2. John reid says:

    If all non affiliated union members on email,have been sent the link for this it can’t be bad

  3. Well Jr,I’m afraid parallels have to be drawn here between post Good Friday and post Apartheid in South Africa.

    We had the Truth and Reconcilation in South Africa and these letters part of what happened after Good Friday.

    Now it has to be said that people in South Africa were forgiven for even more heinous crimes!

    Think about it?Lets move on!

  4. John p Reid says:

    That’s the point william, they were more Henious crimes in South Africa, that he sate inflicted, than those the State did, and the IRA retaliated more so,butt Sinn Fein had the vote! and black South Africans didn’t , the reconciliation in South Africa, was m because one side , had fought for he vote, not bombed their way into letting he’s Tate forgive them ,for un punished crimes,

    Lets move on, did a time say that after Nuremberg trials

  5. John p Reid says:

    That’s the point william, they were more Henious crimes in South Africa, that he sate inflicted, than those the State did, and the IRA retaliated more so,butt Sinn Fein had the vote! and black South Africans didn’t , the reconciliation in South Africa, was m because one side , had fought for he vote, not bombed their way into letting the state forgive them ,for un punished crimes,

    Lets move on, did a time say that after Nuremberg trials

  6. I’m with Peter Hain when he said the letters were a necessary evil to avoid further conflict.

  7. John reid says:

    Hain, single state view on Israel led, to Swantantra, here calling for loyalists to run a Northern Ireland, Hain talks nonsense on most things Apartied excluded,

  8. swatantra says:

    I’d rather NI were integrated back into Eire and the Republic of Ireland was the ‘Single State’ which included Catholics and Protestants running the show together. Similarly the Jews and Islamics running a One State of Palestine, and we kiss goodbye to the State of Israel and the Bantustan Territories.

  9. John reid says:

    To work with them was to Conspire with wrong doing for evil purposes, saying that they not linked as away of justifying unfounded reasons as an organisation to collude can only be described if you use thedefenition of collusion, like the RUC and the UDA did

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