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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
One Sweet Deal for Some, but for The Rest of Us?...


Mick Hall • 24 November 2005

The deal that seems to have been cut between the PRM and the British government over the PIRA volunteers, described in the media as the On The Runs (OTRs), highlights the danger of an organization that sees itself as the harbinger of a more open, equal and democratic society becoming involved in secret negotiations with its old enemy.

Whilst it is perfectly understandable the PIRA leadership wants to complete its internal housekeeping after standing down its volunteers, surely when doing so it has a responsibility to look at the wider picture and the affect any such deal will have on the nationalist community as a whole.

There is no doubt in my mind that volunteers who have outstanding charges against them, or who escaped from British custody during the 'troubles', should if they so wish, be allowed to return home without fear of state prosecution and harassment. Whether this should come about due to a back door trade off with the British State is another matter.

During the years 1969-97, the law in the north of Ireland became an arm of counter-insurgency operations as prescribed by Brigadier Frank Kitson and his ilk, whether it was internment without trial, the Diplock Courts, the manipulation of Coroners Courts and paid perjurers with the system of super grasses. The British State recognized this fact when they opened the doors of its jails to release both Republican and Loyalist inmates at the end of the 'troubles'; thus by so doing they all but admitted that these men and women were political prisoners, not common criminals as successive British Governments had been claiming for the previous thirty odd years.

However, when on the 9th of November, the 'Northern' Ireland Secretary of State Peter Hain announced to the British Parliament the details of the deal for the OTRs and how the legislation will pan out in practice, it appears the Brits have either pulled a fast one or, not for the first time, Republicans have fallen victim to the sleight of hand of Perfidious Albion.

Mr Hain said, "On-the-runs wanted for offenses committed before the Good Friday Agreement will face a two-stage legal process. If they are granted a certificate allowing them to take part in the scheme, they will be brought before a special tribunal which will have the same powers as a Crown court. They will, however, be exempt from arrest, questioning and remand in relation to the offenses. There will be no jury sitting at the tribunals. In the event of a conviction, the person will be eligible to receive a license guaranteeing that he or she will not be jailed. The same amnesty applies to members of the security forces wanted for crimes committed on civilians before the Good Friday Agreement."

There are two major problems here, one for Republicans and a second for those within the wider community who have suffered at the hands of the British security forces. If OTR Republicans are to put themselves through this process and gain immunity from imprisonment, they first must recognize the legality of the northern state-let's judicial process, something they and their comrades have always refused to do down the years. Indeed in the past, unless special dispensation was given by the PIRA leadership, it was a disciplinary offense for volunteers to recognize the British legal system in Ireland. Many Republicans, whilst accepting the ceasefire and the Good Friday Agreement still believe to do so is a step too far, the more so if one is expected to have a begging bowl in one's hand when doing so.

For the wider Nationalist community there is an added problem with what Mr Hain announced and it is this. It all but gives those members of the British Security Services, RUC Special Branch and Army Intel, who were party to grievous crimes in collusion with Loyalist and Republican Paramilitaries and their political masters, amnesty from their criminal acts. Thus, those who were behind the murder of Pat Finucane, the FRU handlers of Stakenife and those who allegedly helped organize the bombing of Dublin and Monaghan and countless other acts of State collusion in criminality will never be punished.

Plus, not only will the victims and their relations of any State collusion in criminality never recieve closure, let alone justice, but also lessons will not be learned by the State. Indeed, it is therefore hardly surprising that talk is already emerging from Iraq of British Army Intel and the Security Services acting in collusion with Iraqi terrorist groups; when those who have committed such acts in Ireland have been guaranteed a soft landing by the State if their crimes come to light...

Sinn Fein leaders may well claim such amnesties are par for the course in conflict resolutions situations and point to South Africa as an example. But to compare the out-come of the conflict in SA with the north of Ireland today is nonsensical; for in South Africa there was a changing of the guard.

At every level of the Apartheid State Apparatus, there was a transfer of power. This was especially true across the upper echelons of the state's machine; whether it were in the Judiciary, the Chief of Staff of the South African Armed Forces, heads of the Security Services and Police or the Parliamentary Committees that had oversight over these bodies.

In SA, it was out with the old order and in with the new, whilst in the north of Ireland the British State still reigns supreme. The same judges sit on the bench and the same is true of much of the security services, police force and army personal. True, these days they may all talk the language of social inclusion but bar the window dressing, it is the same old state machine.

If Republicans wish to have any say within this state-let they will have to recognize this fact and if they do so, those lower down the PRM food chain will have to doff their caps accordingly, if they wish to spend their old age in the home-towns from whence they came.



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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



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Index: Current Articles

25 November 2005

Other Articles From This Issue:

Political Policing
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One Sweet Deal for Some, but for The Rest of Us?...
Mick Hall

Who's In Charge Around Here, Anyway?
Eamonn McCann

Playing the Game
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Dr John Coulter

RSF Presidential Address 2005
Ruairi O Bradaigh

To Go On: Irish Travellers meet Academia
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Genius decommissioned while Stupid keeps the guns
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Cut Off Aid to Regime in Uganda
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Sticks and Stones
Anthony McIntyre

7 November 2005

Mary McGurk — Giving Voice to the Abandoned
Anthony McIntyre

It Is Only the Intellectually Lost Who Ever Argue
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Prospects for the Left in Ireland
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Bartering the Infinities
Eoghan O'Suilleabhain

The Political Police
Anthony McIntyre

Herrema's Kidnapper Explains Motive
Eamonn McCann

Revenge is a Dish Served Cold
Dr John Coulter

Causes and Effects
Mick Hall

Speaking Truth to Power
Fred Wilcox

The Bush SATaff Goes to Morals School
Mary La Rosa

A View of the H-Blocks
Anthony McIntyre



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