From Irish Political Review: April 2006

Editorial Commentary

Cory: Taoiseach Ahern has revealed to the Dail that the Inquiry into the Finucane assassination has been delayed because no reputable Judge is prepared to conduct it under the constraints of Tony Blair's Enquiries Act. The British legal profession has rejected the provisions which enable the State to control the direction of the Enquiry and limit the evidence presented. Judge Peter Cory recommended two years ago that there should be a Finucane Enquiry, and has continued to put pressure on the British Government to stand by its undertaking to him to abide by his findings. Visiting Belfast in February to deliver a lecture on Public Enquiries, he said:
"I was disappointed and heartbroken, not for myself but for the families of the people who died and for the wider community in Northern Ireland…
"I was disappointed that the rules seemed to be changed which I delivered my report" (IN 23.2.06)
Apparently the security services refuse to cooperate with a public inquiry.
This column tried to find a report of Cory's lecture, but could only find this brief summary from Jane Winter of British/Irish Rights Watch:
"On 22nd February Judge Peter Cory delivered the McDermott Lecture at Queen’s University in Belfast.  In a spirited defence of public inquiries based on Canadian experience, the judge said it was better never to hold an inquiry than to leave the public believing there had been a whitewash.  He identified four key elements for a successful public inquiry.  First, it must be held in public so that the public could see the evidence, hear the witnesses, and be satisfied that the truth had been established.  Secondly, it must be timely, so that matters do not fester.  Thirdly, any recommendations made must be followed through.  Fourthly, the public must be able to trust and rely on the tribunal to act fairly and to get at the truth.  When these conditions are met, he argued, public inquiries are a force for good in the world, and there will always be a need for them.  Although he did not refer to any of the five inquiries he himself recommended as a result of the invitation from the British and Irish governments to examine collusion cases, he gave several interviews in which he said that the government had moved the goalposts in the Finucane case."
Billy Wright: Looking for the Cory lecture, we found that Tony Blair has also interfered with the Wright Enquiry, recommended by Cory. Jane Winter reports:
"Billy Wright’s father, David Wright, was given leave on 17th February to challenge the Secretary of State’s decision to convert the Billy Wright Inquiry to an inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005.  Leave was given on the following grounds:
· The applicant had a legitimate expectation that the government commitment to accept the recommendations of Judge Cory included an expectation that the form of the inquiry comply with his recommendations.
· Arguably there was a commitment given to Mr. Wright and an intention [that] this inquiry would be compliant with Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights.  Whether the legal structures governing the inquiry allow for this is also arguable.
· Arguably a mistake as to the law has been relied on by the Secretary of State in converting this inquiry.  He and the tribunal panel may have misunderstood the scope of the powers of the respective tribunals under the Prison Act and under the Inquiries Act.
· Arguably it was procedurally unfair that the chair of the inquiry and the Secretary of State had exchanged correspondence prior to the Inquiry’s public statement on its intention to convert (made by Lord McClean on the 22nd June) but the applicant was not consulted.
This is thus likely to be a very important test case.  David Wright has appealed the judge’s refusal to grant him leave on two other points:
· That conversion was a nullity as section 15 of the Inquiries Act (which requires the consent of the person who caused the Inquiry to be held) was not complied with.  The applicant argued the present Secretary of State should have obtained the consent of the Paul Murphy, the Secretary who set up the inquiry.  Mr Justice Weatherup upheld the constitutional convention that all holders of the post of SOS were the same person.
· That the conversion was irrational.  Given the grave concerns expressed by Amnesty International, British Irish RIGHTS WATCH, CAJ, Liberty, the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights and senior judges from three international jurisdictions, including Lord Saville and Judge Cory, that the Inquires Act was fatally flawed, it was unreasonable to hold any inquiry where Article 2 was engaged under this legislation.  Mr Justice Weatherup held that in this circumstance the court’s role was in determining the compatibility of legislation with human rights standards and the decision of the Secretary of State to act under legislation lawfully enacted by Parliament could not be irrational.
"My thanks to Maggie O’Conor of CAJ for setting out the legal points so clearly."
Irish Times Anti-Semitism: "…the knife in [Joe] McCarthy's reputation is twisted by calling him an anti-Semite—though this disingenuously conceals the unhappy truth that the vast majority of Soviet agents in the US were Jewish" (21.3.06, Kevin Myers).
Jericho's Walls: Dan O'Brien of the (British) Economist Intelligence Unit wrote a column in the Irish Times denying that 1916 Rising could be regarded as legitimate under the Just War doctrine (13.3.06). Though also dealing with Iran, he had nothing to say about the undeclared war of attrition being pursued by Israel against the Palestinian population. And the paper's normally Oh-so-moral editorial (15.3.06) had nothing to say about the continuing collusion by the American and British Governments in what is going on. The latest disgraceful episode had the Imperialists breaking an international agreement which ended the Siege of Arafat's headquarters. Under this they provided oversight over the imprisonment of a number of Palestinians in Jericho Jail, which is nominally under Palestinian control. In a move coordinated with the Israelis, American and British guards withdrew and the Israelis immediately laid siege to the prison. After bombarding it and killing two, the jail surrendered and the Army made off with the 5 prisoners they wanted. All that Geraldine Kennedy could find about this flagrant breach of what she described as "international law" was: "It is… disquieting how rapidly the Israeli army acted" after the Ameranglians withdrew. She didn't even describe what happened in plain language.
1916: Stuart Eldon, the British Ambassador who has such an intimate relationship with the Irish body politic, has accepted an invitation to the GPO reviewing stand during the 90th anniversary celebrations. It is not suggested that he will be apologising on behalf of the British Government for subjecting Dublin city centre to a naval bombardment during the Rising and killing some hundreds of civilians. This event is described in a reprint of an eye-witness account by John Redmond's nephew, L.G. Redmond-Howard, reprinted by Aubane Historical Society to coincide with the event.
Dublin Riot: After going to press last month, it emerged that the core of the rioters were not political activists—republican or otherwise—but football supporters and disaffected working class youngsters. This has given the Establishment of every hue something to think about.
Policing Board: Peter Hain has angered political parties, except Sinn Fein, by changing the make-up of the Board which oversees policing in Northern Ireland. In future members nominated by elected parties will be outnumbered by people appointed by the Secretary of State by 9 to 11. The UUP threatens to boycott the Board as a result (IT 14.3.06). Sinn Fein continues to boycott the Board. It is possible that the Board as now constituted will be more sympathetic to the Restorative Justice programme, which comprises one leg to a policy to bring Sinn Fein consent to the way policing is administered in the province. The other leg would be to devolve responsibility for policing to any future local administration.
Lord John Alderdyce: submitted himself to a lengthy interview with Jarlath Kearney of Daily Ireland (17.2.06). The Chair of the International Independent Monitoring Commission could not explain why his appointment was not the result of open competition, a requirement under Fair Employment legislation. Nor could he say how he came by the job, but suggested that "in an appointment of this kind it's very common for people, if you like, to be head-hunted, you know".
A second point clarified was that there is no redress procedure for those with a complaint to make about IMC reports, beyond complaining to "the two governments who are the appointing people". While the Commission avoided naming individuals, particular groupings were named, such as the Sinn Fein leadership. Daily Ireland asked:
"do you believe it is right that you should be absolutely free from suit and legal process?
JA: Yes. It would be impossible to do what we are doing if we did not have [sic], that's why parliament, both parliaments, conferred immunity on us an an international body, very specifically because it would not be possible to do what we are doing. You see, if the normal administration of justice was able to address these questions there would be no IMC.

DI: Now, you're immune from suit or legal process. You have absolute immunity.
JA: Yes.
DI: So the legal process is in fact a very, very limited, if not nullified form of complaints mechanism. Do you accept that.
JA: That remains to be seen, because legal action has been commenced and, therefore, it will be for the courts to decide. My understanding of it is that there is immunity, but, and I think that was parliament's understanding when it voted on it in London and Dublin, but the courts will make the decision, not either of us."
It is not clear what legal case Alderdyce is referring to here. Conor Murphy of Sinn Fein is currently challenging the membership of John Grieve, the British representative of the IMC, on the grounds of a clash with his other interests. (Readers will recall that this former British police officer was in charge of an operation in which an unarmed IRA suspect was shot dead in his Earls Court bedsitter some years ago.)
Alderdyce was also asked about possible conflicts of interest between his political affiliations and IMC Chairmanship. He remains a member of the Alliance Party, is a member of the (British) Liberal Democrats and is current President of the umbrella group, Liberal International of which the (Irish) Progressive Democrats are Observer members. John replied he'd never had any complaints.
Was Milosevic Murdered? No one can be sure, but prejudiced press coverage did its best to dispel that belief held by his family and observers. Here were some of the Irish Times headlines: Milosevic Death 'A Great Pity For Justice' (Derek Scally 13.3.06); Milosevic 'Took Drug To Get To Moscow' (Derek Scally, 14.3.06; Tyrant Who Turned Balkans Into A Bloodbath (Chris Stephen 13.3.06).
An expert on 'international law' said on Channel 4 that the difficulty with the Milosevic Trial was how to strike a balance between conducting a fair trial and delivering justice. What he meant was that a Guilty verdict was the necessary outcome of the Trial, but the evidence to support such a verdict had not been presented because it could not be found. In death Milosevic could be said to have cheated 'Justice' of a verdict which it seemed increasingly unlikely to be achieved, even by the methods of a Show Trial.
Begrudgery: Geraldine Kennedy welcomed ETA's permanent Ceasefire in an editorial (IT 23.3.2006), without once mentioning the encouragement given to that movement to embark on the peaceful path by the Provos.
Green Greens? Trevor Sargent, the leader of the Green Party, recently wrote:
"Waste and corruption are a legacy of the current Government and I fear that corruption in Fianna Fáil runs so deep that it would be difficult to join it in government without compromising our party's principles.
"Last year, after I announced that the Green Party would not enter government with Fianna Fáil under my leadership, many people asked me if I would change my mind if they cleaned up their act. My view remains that Ireland urgently needs a change of government.
"Fianna Fáil is still beholden to powerful vested interests and until they decide to remove those particular monkeys from their backs, they cannot be considered as a possible coalition partner…" (IT 22.3.06).
So far the Greens have refused to join Labour and Fine Gael in a pre-Election voting alliance, but Sargent hinted that Sinn Féin might be a possible partner:
"I have more confidence that Sinn Féin will eventually sever its links with blue-collar crime than I have in Fianna Fáil breaking its links with white-collar crime".
Despite the regular appearance of Fine Gaelers, and even the odd Labour man, before the Tribunals, Sargent had nothing to say about their suitability as partners.

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