Below is Jim Allister’s speech during today’s Assembly debate:
“The affirmation that justice in a democracy must be done and must be seen to be done is not only a catchphrase but a fundamental principle that underlies the operation of a judicial system. The sordid arrangement that the Government perfected with the spokesmen and representatives of murderers, terrorists and some of the vilest criminals goes to the very heart of undermining our judicial and justice system. It subverts not only the political process but the judicial process, and those who perfected it were the British Government and the IRA through its surrogates, Sinn Féin. Of course, it is made worse by the fact that it was kept secret. It was something that was done in secret, behind closed doors and to be kept secret, and it has done great despite not only to the justice system but to the citizens who rely on that justice system, particularly the innocent victims who plaintively believed that, one day, they might get justice while not knowing that some of the victim makers were walking around free of that threat and obligation.
“It is made worse by the fact that, in Operation Rapid — well named, perhaps — we now have evidence that it, too, was perverted. Mr Baxter, the senior police officer who headed up that inquiry, appeared before the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee in November 2009 and said:
“You see, you would have to be so naive to think that the Secretary of State, and his predecessors, sits in Stormont Castle and does not tamper with policing.”
“Lady Hermon, with great surprise, said:
“Tamper with policing?”
“Mr Baxter replied:
“Yes, I would use the word ‘tamper’. One of my responsibilities before I retired was to conduct a review of on-the-runs, that is persons who are outside the jurisdiction. I can assure the Committee that there was an extremely unhealthy interest by officials in the Northern Ireland Office about prioritising individuals who were on the run and about ensuring that they were cleared to return to the North.”
“It indicates the political interference and the meddling, and the secret deal was so important that the Secretary of State was prepared to bastardise the policing system in this manner.
“On Wednesday, the First Minister said:
“I want a full judicial inquiry into all of these matters so that we can see who knew, when they knew and what they knew. Those are vital questions to be asked and answered. I want to know who the 187 people are that received these letters … I want to know who they are, what crimes they were believed to have committed.”
“He ended by saying:
“I want all of the letters rescinded.”
“When he said that, I supported him because, at that point, he was threatening to do the right thing if he did not get it.
“He established two resigning matters.
“He established that there had to be a public judicial inquiry, and there had to be a rescinding of the letters. What did he get in his climbdown? He got none of that. He got an administrative investigation.
“A public inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005 is something in which witnesses can be compelled to give evidence under oath, in which they can be cross-examined and in which those who have interests, like the victims, will be represented.
“Where those who have interests, like the victims, will be represented and will be entitled to cross-examine. There is none of that in the behind-closed-doors, secret review. It will not, it seems, even be in public. There will be nobody capable of being compelled to attend and no one required to give evidence under oath. It is a farce and a whitewash.
“As for the demand that the letters be rescinded, I think that Mrs Foster was on the run herself yesterday after saying on ‘The Nolan Show’ that the rescinding of the letters was a resigning issue. Now we find that all the Secretary of State had to do was repeat what is in the letters. Read paragraph 123 of the Downey judgement. It is already there.
“If those letters are not worth the paper that they are written on Downey could be convicted. If the First Minister is right, Downey should still be prosecuted.”
Note to editors
Norman Baxter’s evidence to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee can be read online here http://www.parliament.the-stationery-office.co.uk/pa/cm200910/cmselect/cmniaf/374/9111107.htm