I helped write crucial Gerry Adams peace process speech, says Tony Blair fixer Jonathan Powell

Jonathan Powell

The key passages in one of the most important speeches made by Gerry Adams during the peace process were written for him by a top official in the British Government, it has been claimed.

The explosive revelation comes in a new book by the man who says he wrote the passages, Jonathan Powell. Powell was Tony Blair’s chief of staff in Downing Street and played the leading role on the British side in negotiating peace in Northern Ireland.

In the book, Talking To Terrorists, which is published today, Powell says that he wrote the speech for Adams at a critical point in the peace process and that he did so at Adams’ request.

Mr Adams added to the text provided by Mr Powell but the key passage in which Gerry Adams said he could see a future without the IRA was written by Powell.

Mr Powell says in the book that the Adams speech – a keynote address given by the Sinn Féin president at the Hillgrove Hotel in Monaghan on Saturday, October 26, 2002 – came at an absolutely critical time in the peace process.

The Good Friday Agreement, which had been signed in 1998, was in danger of collapse at the time because of the failure of the IRA to decommission.

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“Constructive ambiguity made the Good Friday Agreement possible, but it became destructive over time,” Mr Powell writes.

“We could have sat for three years rather than three days and nights (in 1998) if we had insisted on resolving the issue of decommissioning of IRA weapons there and then. The unionists and the republicans just weren’t ready to reach an agreement on it. Instead we had to reach for language that could be interpreted in different ways by the two sides.”

Mr Powell writes: “We felt that we had to address the ambiguity or lose the agreement, so Tony Blair made a speech in Belfast in which he demanded that Sinn Féin choose between the Armalite and the ballot box. We were nervous about the response but Adams called me a few days later and said, to our relief, it was a good speech. To my surprise he asked me if I would draft his response.

“I tried to write in republican-speak and composed a passage that ended with ‘People ask me do I envisage a future without an IRA? The answer is obvious. The answer is yes’.

“I turned on the television a few days later to see Adams deliver the speech unchanged.”

The full text of the lengthy Adams speech is available online on various websites.

Quote

“I want to see an end to all of the armed groups on this island. That has to be the aim of every thinking republican. So if you ask me do I envisage a future without the IRA? The answer is obvious. The answer is Yes. And who can influence the IRA most? The British government – the unionists – the Irish government and us as well of course. All of us have to make politics work.”

A passage from the Gerry Adams speech which Jonathan Powell claims he wrote.

With many thanks to the: Belfast Telegraph for the origional story.

 

High Court rules Arlene (don’t feed the crocdile) Foster liable for costs in legacy case.

A High Court judge on Friday compelled authorities in Belfast and London to reconsider providing funds for legacy inquests in Northern Ireland.
With no 🎽 currently in place at Stormont, Sir Paul Girvan said his order will provide civil servants running the departments with certainty about their legal duties.

He also ruled that former First Minister Arlene Foster is liable for costs in a case where she was found to have unlawfully blocked a plan to aimed at clearing a backlog of nearly 100 Troubles-related killings.

Setting out his reasons for compelling action, the judge said United Kingdom authorities have failed to effectively deal with delays and shortcomings in carrying out legacy inquests.

With mere declarations held to lack impact in addressing the issue, the point has been reached for more intrusive, coercive steps to address continued breaches of human rights law, the court was told.

Sir Paul said: “In the absence of ministers where a mandatory order is in place civil servants running the departments will know what their precise legal duty is and will not be restrained or influenced by the belief that they are in some way bound by the actual or potential views of past ministers and/or future ministers.”

On that basis he directed the Executive Office, the Department for Justice and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to reconsider their duties in providing extra resources to the Coroners Service for legacy inquests.

They must also consider what steps should be taken to ensure the tribunals can be carried out in a way which complies with legal requirements.

His final ruling came in a case brought by the widow of an innocent civilian shot dead along with eight IRA men.

Brigid Hughes, whose husband Anthony died after being unwittingly caught up in the SAS ambush of an IRA unit at Loughgall, Co Armagh in May 1987, challenged the failure to fund outstanding legacy inquests.

Proceedings were issued against the Secretary of State, the Stormont Executive and Mrs Foster personally due to her alleged responsibility for the logjam.

More than 50 legacy inquests remain outstanding, with potentially 72 more cases on the Attorney General’s desk for consideration.

Although the Stormont House Agreement includes a £150 million package to deal with all legacy issues, the Government has said financial resources will not be released until political consensus is reached on dealing with the past.

In 2016 a paper was drawn up by the DoJ to bid for funds based on a five-year plan devised by Northern Ireland’s Lord Chief Justice, Sir Declan Morgan, to deal with all cases.

Lawyers for Mrs Hughes went to court alleging Mrs Foster stopped it from being discussed by her Executive colleagues for political reasons.

Earlier this month Sir Paul held that the former First Minister wrongly took into account the absence of an overall agreed package to deal with outstanding issues from Northern Ireland’s violent past.

He said the Democratic Unionist Party leader’s decision to refuse to put a funding paper on the Executive basis was unlawful and procedurally flawed.

Following Mrs Hughes’ victory lawyers returned to court to deal with costs and what further declarations should be made.

Counsel representing the Northern Ireland Office, the Department for Justice and the Executive Office argued against making an order compelling action.

Attorney General John Larkin QC also contended that the case against Mrs Foster should end without any order for costs against her.

But rejecting all those submissions, Sir Paul confirmed that First Minister, Deputy First Minister and Minister of Justice will be bound by his order of mandamus if and when they are appointed to a future Executive.

Making an order for costs against all respondents in the case, including Mrs Foster, he ruled she will also be separately liable for making earlier applications to be taken out of the case and to have him stand aside as the judge.

Outside court Mairead Kelly, whose brother Patrick Kelly was also killed at Loughgall, said: “Today’s result is of crucial importance to all those families, like ours, who have been waiting on the release of the funding needed to progress in a timely manner.

“We now urgently call upon the respective departments to enforce the order made by the court without any further delay.”

With many thanks to the: Belfast Telegraph for the origional story.

Fake council posters calling for the release of ex-IRA man from jail angers unionists

The posters were erected in Derry and Strabane, and support the release of Tony Taylor.

The erection of fake council posters calling for the release of leading a Londonderry dissident republican has outraged unionists.
Yesterday afternoon two large posters calling for the release of Tony Taylor and bearing the official Derry City and Strabane District logo were erected.

They were placed on the roundabout outside the Guildhall and at the ‘Let the Dance Begin’ tin sculptures in Strabane by people in official high-visibility council jackets.

The council has denied it commissioned or erected the posters.

Mr Taylor is a former IRA man who was sentenced to 18 years in prison in 1994, and again jailed for three years in 2011.

However, his licence was revoked in March 2016.

Nationalist and republican councillors have long called for his release, stating there is no evidence of any wrongdoing. Back in 2016, the council backed a motion tabled by independent councillor Gary Donnelly to call for Mr Taylor’s immediate release.

The message on the poster mirrors that of Mr Donnelly’s motion, stating: “Former British Secretary of State Theresa Villiers, in conjunction with unaccountable intelligence agencies, has ordered the incarceration of Derry Republican Tony Taylor without charge or trial. This council calls for Tony’s immediate release.”

A large blue Derry City and Strabane District Council logo sits below the statement.

DUP councillor David Ramsey said that the posters were “insulting, dangerous and damaging to community relations”.

“It is strange, to say the least, that an official council logo would be used to promote the release of a convicted terrorist,” he said. “This man clearly wasn’t reformed by his time in prison. For unionists, we just see this man as a danger to our community and to everyone in our city.

“I’m a councillor with Derry City and Strabane District Council.

“Our official council logo is there calling for the release of an unrepentant terrorist, which is very shocking.

“I would also say that it is dangerous because it’s like saying that the council – although they did pass a motion to support the campaign for his release – is promoting his release.

“It’s labelling the council as supporting a known terrorist.

“It’s like putting two fingers up to the law.

“There are major questions to be asked on how someone can use the logo in this way. It is not good for community relations at all. It is an insult and it is dangerous.”

A spokesperson for Derry City and Strabane District Council said that it did not commission or erect the posters.

Taylor has been in jail since March 2016, having previously been released on licence under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

He had been sentenced to 18 years in jail in 1994 for planting an IRA bomb in Londonderry.

He was also jailed for three years in 2011 for possession of a rifle.

Taylor was released from Maghaberry Prison in 2014, but two years later the then Secretary of State, Theresa Villiers, revoked his licence “because of the risk he poses to the public”.

No formal charges were laid against him.

Last year, Sinn Fein Mayor of Derry and Strabane Council Maoliosa McHugh came under fire for addressing a rally supporting Taylor’s release while wearing his chain of office.

The move sparked unionist anger, with accusations that the mayor was unable to represent the whole community. However, Mr McHugh said there was “a corporate position as far as Tony Taylor is concerned and I was reflecting the corporate position of the council as mayor”.

With many thanks to the: Belfast Telegraph for the origional story.

Brigadier Kerr must be questioned over secret British army unit in the North of Ireland say victims

Sinn Féin’s John Finucane

Victims have called on police to quiz the army officer who commanded a secret military intelligence unit during the Troubles.

Scottish Brigadier Gordon Kerr (70) ran the Force Research Unit (FRU), whose officers handled top level paramilitary informers during the Troubles and has been dubbed the mastermind of ‘Ulster’s Dirty War’.

Last Tuesday, the unit’s top agent in the IRA, Freddie Scappaticci, codenamed Stakeknife, is believed to have been arrested and questioned in connection to dozens of murders as part of Operation Kenova, which is being headed up by Bedfordshire Police. On Friday, chief constable Jon Boutcher confirmed that a 72-year-old man who was released on bail will “return to police custody” in the near future.

“This arrest was a significant step in what continues to be an incredibly complex and wide-ranging investigation,” he added.

Sinn Fein’s John Finucane (37), whose solicitor father Pat was shot dead by loyalist paramilitaries in collusion with State forces in 1989, has demanded “greater scrutiny” of Kerr’s role at the time of his father’s death.

“Given the unit Kerr ran has led to the deaths of so many people, we have always found it strange that there hasn’t been any scrutiny of what Kerr was doing,” he told the Glasgow Herald.

“Gordon Kerr is very much at the centre of the actions of the FRU… Kerr’s role in all of this needs to be examined.”

Mr Finucane said if allegations that “Scappaticci was killing people at the behest of those in charge” prove to be true, then “the question is no longer who pulled the trigger, it’s who pulled the strings”?

“We may not necessarily get justice, but we want the truth,” he added.

Mark Thompson of Relatives for Justice also called for Kerr to face tough questions in order to expose the “murky backdrop” in which the state “effectively decided who lived and died.”

With many thanks to the: Belfast Telegraph for the origional story.

There can be no amnesty for British troops, speaker tells Bloody Sunday event

The annual Bloody Sunday march in Derry

An amnesty for soldiers will not be accepted by the families of those who died in the Ballymurphy Massacre, a Bloody Sunday commemoration has heard.

A special Mass dedicated to the memory of the 14 people who died after Paratroopers opened fire on civilians in Derry’s Bogside on January 31, 1972, was celebrated at St Mary’s Church, Creggan, on Friday.

Wreaths were laid at the Bloody Sunday Memorial in Rossville Street following a prayer service attended by the relatives of those killed.

Several hundred people took part in a March for Justice organised by the Bloody Sunday March Committee.

This culminated at Free Derry Corner where Eileen McKeown whose father, Joseph Corr, was shot dead by paratroopers in the Ballymurphy massacre in August 1971, addressed the crowd.

She said that after 46 years the Ballymurphy families were now preparing for the inquests in September into the deaths of 10 of those killed in Ballymurphy, and warned they would reject any proposal to introduce an amnesty for soldiers.

Ms McKeown said: “In September, at last, the inquests into the deaths of 10 of our loved ones get under way.

“This is another significant achievement that took a long time to come but finally, direct result of many years of hard work from families, we will have our day in court.

“It will provide us with a legal process to uncover the facts about how our loved ones died.

“The attempts by the British Government to introduce an amnesty for British soldiers is totally unacceptable to the Ballymurphy families.

“This Thursday a delegation of Ballymurphy families went to Westminster to make our views known about this and we told the Chairperson of the Defence Select Committee, Julian Lewis, that an amnesty in any guise will never be acceptable to the families of the Ballymurphy Massacre.

“This is yet another attempt by the British state to stand in the way of truth and justice. And for what? To win a few votes.”

A recent defence committee report favoured a controversial statue of limitations for members of the Armed Forces, coupled with a truth-recovery process to help families bereaved during the Troubles.

However, the report, published last month, stopped short of recommending the proposal for all sides during the Troubles as it “would be for the next government to decide”.

The concept of an amnesty has gained traction among a number of Westminster backbenchers, who claim recent prosecutions of former British soldiers were tantamount to a “witch-hunt”. However, prosecutors and police in Northern Ireland insist such allegations simply do not stand up to scrutiny, with a breakdown of figures showing no disproportionate focus on ex-security force members.

Meanwhile, the Museum of Free Derry this week hosts a poignant exhibition of shoes, called In Their Footsteps. John Kelly, whose brother Michael was among those who lost their lives 46 years ago during the Bloody Sunday Civil Rights march, said: “These shoes were gathered during the island-wide In Their Footsteps campaign for truth, with over 200 pairs donated by families bereaved in the conflict and exhibited in Dublin, London and Belfast. This year we relaunch In Their Footsteps with a call for families to contribute to this ever-growing display, highlighting the lack of progress in historic cases.”

With many thanks to the: Belfast Telegraph for the origional story