[What follows is an item posted yesterday on baz’s blog The Masonic Verses:]
1. There has been considerable and on-going controversy concerning the collapse of the trial of Mr John Downey who was suspected of involvement in the 1982 Hyde Park bombings. The Judge brought proceedings to a halt when Mr Downey's solicitor Gareth Peirce produced a letter of reassurance issued by the Northern Ireland Police Service informing him that the police did not propose to proceed against him for any crime.
2. This letter was one of 183 letters known as "On the Run" letters issued to suspected IRA members (it is not known if they were also issued to INLA members) who were described as being "On the Run" (apparently a polite euphemism for being resident in the Irish Republic - indeed how do you correspond with somebody "on the run" unless of course through an accommodation address). A speaker on BBC4's Law in Action programme described these as "disguised amnesty" letters.
3. The letters arose from a perceived anomaly in the Good Friday agreement in which convicted terrorists on both sides of the sectarian divide had been released. Had these persons described as "On the Run" been convicted they too would have been released. While the Blair Government was unable to carry a general amnesty bill through parliament the "On the Run" letters were used instead.
4. In setting up a judicial inquiry Prime Minister Cameron described Mr Downey's letter as "a mistake" and declared the object of the inquiry is to ascertain if there were any similar "mistakes". Apparently the Northern Ireland Police Service were unaware that the Metropolitan Police had applied for a warrant for Mr Downey's arrest! However as should be blindingly obvious these letters served two purposes. If an applicant received such a letter he would be in the clear. However if the applicant did not receive a letter then he or she would be forewarned that it would be unsafe to travel to the UK or a jurisdiction from which they could be extradited. Perhaps this was the intention.
5. Mr Downey was arrested at Gatwick apparently while transferring to another plane. It emerged he had previously travelled to Canada and had made several trips to Ulster.
6. This blog is not about "The Troubles" but primarily the Lockerbie bombing. It is the author's view that the "Libyan solution" to Lockerbie did not arise from real evidence but that evidence was created to implicate the two Libyan suspects (notably the claim the primary suitcase was introduced at Malta not Heathrow and the faking of key exhibits.) The motivation of the British Government in general and MI5 in particular arose from the Libyans having supplied prodigious quantities of weaponry to the PIRA, a discovery only made from the interception of the Eksund.
7. The "On the Run" letters demonstrates the quite remarkable lengths the British Government went to in order to make and sustain the Good Friday agreement. In comments made to Radio 4's World at One former Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain staunchly defended the letters and the policies of the Blair Government arguing that the rule of law did not apply in the Northern Ireland situation as it did in England, Scotland and Wales. He also alluded to (without going into specifics) extraordinary measures taken by previous British Prime Ministers. While the Lockerbie indictment supposedly came about as a result of a criminal investigation and a judicial process the involvement of the security services, MI5 and the CIA is almost entirely outside the public domain. The indictment was the pretext for imposing UN sanctions on Libya, which was in the author's view the primary purpose of the indictment. Mr Megrahi's eventual (and freakish) conviction was just the icing on the cake.
8. (An earlier post on this blog The (not so) Secret Rulers of the World (Aug 2009) notes the curious affair of former Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson's trip to Syria in December 2000 during the recess of the Camp Zeist trial.)