Richard O’Rawe RFÉ 17 August 2013

Radio Free Éireann
WBAI 99.5 Pacifica Radio
New York City
Saturday 17 August 2013

Sandy Boyer (SB) interviews Richard O’Rawe (RO), author of Blanketmen: An Untold Story of the H-Block Hunger Strike, via telephone from Belfast about the Democratic Unionist Party’s unilateral decision to cancel the proposed Peace and Reconciliation Centre at the Long Kesh prison site. (begins time stamp ~ 12:10)

SB:   And momentarily we’re going to be going over to Belfast to talk to Richard O’Rawe about the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), Sinn Féin’s partner in government, decided unilaterally this week without even telling Sinn Féin, that there will be no Peace and Reconciliation Centre where the H-Blocks of Long Kesh used to sit and where the hospital was where Bobby Sands and nine of his comrades died on hunger strike – Nooo, that cannot happen, says the Democratic Unionist Party – never mind the fact we agreed to it before. It doesn’t matter. We are not going to have a Peace and Reconciliation Centre. We are not going to allow any monument whatsoever to the hunger strikers. So that is the great news from Belfast this week and it must come as a bit of a shock to Sinn Féin. But now, we are going over to Belfast to speak to Richard O’Rawe. Richard, thanks very much for being with us.

RO:  It’s a pleasure, Sandy. Thank you so much for having me.

SB:  And Richard, you were on the blanket. You were the PRO, the Public Relations Officer, for the hunger strikers. You knew men who died on hunger strike.

RO:  Yes.

SB:  How does it make you feel that there can’t even be a Peace and Reconciliation Centre where they died?

RO:  Well it makes me feel very, very angry to be quite frank, Sandy, because it is indicative of the myopic, tunnel vision view that Unionists have of what happened during the struggle. I mean the reality of the matter is that ten very selfless men, ten heroes gave their lives in Long Kesh for us, their fellow blanketmen, who were on protest against criminalisation. And they gave their lives and ended up with a horrific death and we’re not even allowed to visit (the site). They’re actually talking about rasing the hospital wing in which Bobby Sands and the other nine hunger strikers died. They’re talking about rasing it to the ground – an attempt to wipe out all memories of the hunger strikers. And I think it’s absolutely diabolical.

SB:  Richard, you would think that no one could be against peace and reconciliation. Here we have a saying that it’s ‘like Mom and apple pie’. But suddenly, the Democratic Unionist Party from out of nowhere – and despite the fact they agreed to it already – says you can’t do it. You can’t have any monument to the hunger strikers.

RO:  Well, it’s not even that Sandy because they’re now talking about dismantling the monuments to Republican IRA Volunteers, Republican freedom fighters, throughout The North. I mean, what’s actually happening is that the Unionist/RUC-type section of this population are of the opinion that they were the only people who suffered here – that they were the only people who had legitimate dead – that everyone else who died here were gangsters or terrorists or whatever you want to call them. I mean they’re actually now coming to a position where they’re trying to deny Republicans any outlet at all – they’re denying them the right even to show respect for their own dead.

SB:  But this is just adding insult to injury. There has been a sustained Unionist offensive, I would say, against Nationalism, right back- you had the flag protests – where they insisted that the Union Jack has to fly over the Unionist Belfast City Council even more times than it flies over Buckingham Palace! They’re saying: we’re more loyal than the Queen herself. But then you got last week, Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, the Sinn Féin Lord Mayor of Belfast, tried to dedicate a park. He got attacked by a mob, a Protestant mob – frankly that’s all you can call it – his Unionist colleagues on the Council stood by – did nothing. And of course last week you had the attempt to commemorate internment without charge or trial and a Loyalist mob just blocked it from getting anywhere near the city centre. So this is not just an isolated incident.

RO:  No, it’s not. But at the heart of all of those incidents is a supremacist attitude. And it’s an attitude that is vibrant within the Unionist population. And that has never changed from the formation of the state of Northern Ireland which, we must remember, was a gerrymander in that the Six Counties was deliberately, geographically picked because it would ensure that there would always be a Unionist majority within. And from that came this supremacist attitude. And that supremacist attitude hasn’t gone away simply because there’s a peace process. It is still there and they are of the view – and that’s why they wouldn’t let anyone march down – weren’t allowed on the main street in Belfast – because in their view that’s their street. They can walk up and down it every Twelfth of July and any time the notion takes them. But Nationalists are not allowed to walk down it. And if they try to there will be riots – as there was. And it’s the same with the Union Jack flying over Belfast City Hall. The Union Jack is their flag. Someone suggested: Now why not put up the Tricoulor, the Irish flag, up beside it? They went absolutely nuts. Then someone else suggested: Well, why not just put all the flags of the European Union up? And again they went nuts. The only flag that they wanted is the Union Jack because the Union Jack is a supremacist flag. And it’s a flag that tells Nationalists that they’re second-class citizens. And that is really the crux of the matter. They have a supremacist attitude. It hasn’t gone away and it’s not going to go away. They have no interest in sharing power. They’re doing so because they have to. But they are absolutely convinced that Nationalists are second class citizens and should be treated as such.

SB:  And are being treated as such.

RO:  And are being – absolutely!

SB:  But Richard, what happened to parity of esteem and power sharing? Look, you’ve got Sinn Féin, the largest Nationalist/Catholic party, is in government with the Democratic Unionist Party, Ian Paisley’s party, the ones who just canceled this Peace and Reconciliation Centre. I can’t get over it. I can’t help thinking no one could be against peace and reconciliation. But how come? I mean you’re supposed to have parity of esteem. That’s what they tell you!

RO:  There is no parity of esteem. You made a point earlier I’m going to come back to: This was going to be a peace centre. This wasn’t going to be a monument to the hunger strikers. Sure the hunger strikers died in Long Kesh but there was also prison officers who died during the struggle, who were shot dead during the struggle by the IRA, who were going to be remembered as well. There was all sorts of different outlets. So in fairness, it probably would have been a legitimate peace centre. However, they scuttled it. The fact of the matter is that they scuttled it because they can. In actual fact what they did they checkmated Sinn Féin. They just came out and they put it up to Sinn Féin – we’re closing this – this is never going to happen. See, this business, it’s put back until Richard Haass, the American diplomat, comes over.

It will never, ever be opened in my view. The fact of the matter is they pulled the plug on it because they could. Because it was a step too far for them and they would not have ever been comfortable with it. They don’t want the IRA remembered in any shape or form. And Sinn Féin now have an awful, awful dilemma: they either swallow this, in other words they say: Well there’s nothing we can do about it and they march on and accept this second-class sort of citizenship. Or, the alternative to that, is to pull down the institutions at Stormont. And I don’t think they’re going to do that. So the reality is they’re going to have to just accept it and they will. I’ve no doubt about that.

SB:  But, Richard, Sinn Féin has been, I don’t know, for months and months if not years, telling everybody there was going to be a Peace and Reconciliation Centre there. It will be in effect, if not in name, a monument to the hunger strikers. That’s what they’ve – I haven’t researched it I don’t know how many months they’ve been saying it but a good long time.

RO:  Yes, they have. The DUP, even prior to this being scuttled, the DUP was saying the exact opposite. The both of them can’t be right. The DUP was saying there would be no mention of hunger strikes. Jeffrey Donaldson actually said it on television. There would be no mention of hunger strikes in this Peace and Reconciliation Centre. They were actually diluting the whole hunger strike event. Had it not been stopped they were of the view that they were going to dilute it to the point where it would not be a monument to the hunger strikers. So no matter what Sinn Féin said the DUP would have had the upper hand in this one. They did have the upper hand. And now they’ve pulled the plug on it.

SB:  This sounds like a microcosm for the peace process.

RO:  It is.

SB: You tell Loyalists what they want to hear, Protestants what they want to hear. You tell Nationalists, Catholics what they want to hear and then, eventually, reality intervenes.

RO:  You’re absolutely right. The peace process itself is ambiguous because nobody really know what it means. We could have had power sharing, as we know, back in 1974 and we had it at Sunningdale and it was pulled down. But setting that aside, we now have power sharing again but it’s a power sharing that is forced. And there’s no doubt that Unionism, at its core, does not believe in power sharing. They believe that as they are the majority of the people in this gerrymandered state they are entitled, as they have always been, to be at the centre of government – to be in control of the government. And that power sharing, to an extent, has been forced on them. But they still have the upper hand. You can talk about the peace process – yeah – there’s nobody’s being killed – this dissident campaign, which in my view, is nonsense and should be stopped immediately – but this dissident campaign is not having a major impact politically. But nonetheless, Sinn Féin – they’re like drinking ducks, they have no choice but to keep on swallowing their pride, swallowing their pride because to do something against it – the only radical thing that they could do would be to walk out of government – and they’re never going to do that. In my view they’re never going to do that. They didn’t do it over internment, when Marian Price was interned, or that young man Coney is interned – or Corey, I beg your pardon, Martin Corey – he’s interned. And there’s other people in…

SB:  …Martin Corey’s interned for years and there’s no prospect of his getting out.

RO:  And they’re doing absolutely nothing for him. And I mean, the radical Sinn Féin of twenty years ago or twenty-five years ago would have been mobilising on the streets, would have been absolutely making a nuisance of themselves – these guys don’t want to do nothing. They don’t want to rock the boat. They’re getting good wages. They’re getting a good living. Those who are with them are getting the handy jobs, etc – well paid jobs – and they don’t want to rock that boat. And they don’t want to confront the sectarianism of Unionism. And it’s there. They don’t want to confront it. So what they’re going to do now is they’re going to swallow it and say that’s tough.

SB:  Well you know, Richard, if you read the Belfast Telegraph, the mainstream Northern newspapers, the ‘respectable’ press, they’re all saying – Oh my God! there’s a crises in the peace process. Sinn Féin has been insulted. The DUP didn’t even give them a call and say: Just want you to know, boys, we’re going to cancel this. They put out the press release and said: That’s it! They asked Martin McGuinness, who’s the Deputy First Minister, if he was going to talk to the Unionist First Minister of Northern Ireland. He said: Well, first of all – he’s in Florida so I can’t really reach him and even when he’s in Belfast I can’t really reach him. So what future can there be if they can do this to Sinn Féin and Sinn Féin says well we can’t even get in touch with these people? What does that say about this coalition government?

RO:  Well, it shows you how useless, not useless – useless may not be the right word – how inept Sinn Féin is and how inadequate their involvement with this process is. Stormont itself is a talking shop. I mean Westminster does most of it – they give them the money and all they do is hand it out. But the point of the matter is, Sandy, and it keeps coming back to the same point and Robinson demonstrated it very vividly when, as you say, he didn’t even take the bother or he didn’t even have the manners to tell Martin McGuinness that he was going to pull the plug on this. McGuinness heard it when all the rest of us heard it on the news.  So you have to say to yourself: What respect has Robinson for his co-counsel? For his fellow leader? There’s absolutely none. Again, it’s done because he still has this supremacist attitude that Nationalists, per say, are people who are not worthy of respect and they’re certainly not worthy of having equal status to the Unionists in this statelet.

SB:  Richard, but what does it say about the future of this coalition? Because it seems to me, if Sinn Féin can’t get a, now it’s symbolic but a little, tiny, and I would think, uncontroversial thing like a Peace and Reconciliation Centre – I keep thinking that – a Peace and Reconciliation Centre – nobody could be against that – but they can’t even get that. So what are they able to get?

RO:  They’re not going to be able to get anything. Ultimately Peter Robinson knows that and he has this well thought out. He knows that Sinn Féin aren’t going to walk away from this because if they walk away they’ve nowhere to go and he knows they’re going to have to come back – probably come back to the same situation. So he knows that there’s nothing they can do about it. The only way that the situation would change would be for Sinn Féin to walk out – that would be the drastic measure that may be needed to maybe interject some reality or shake up Unionist thinking. But they’re not going to do that. Sinn Féin will go on and they will go on taking the slaps in the face. They will go on taking the insults. They will come off with jargon that tries to allay the justifiable concerns of their constituents but they will stay in power, Sandy, because don’t want to give it up under any circumstances. And Peter Robinson knows that.

And he knows that these guys, at their core, haven’t got a great sense of moral fibre, that they’ll do whatever they have to do to stay in power and if that involves swallowing pride again and again and letting things absolutely spiral out of control in terms of state security things like internment, etc they will just take it. And Robinson knows that. And that’s why he can be so flippant and so bad mannered. Sinn Féin knows there’s no choice but to take it.

SB:  Richard, it seems to me that having gotten away with this, having gotten away with the attack on the internment march, having gotten away with repeated attacks on Nationalist areas like Ardoyne and, as you say with interment, it would seem to me that there’s going to be more attacks on the Nationalist community. It’s going to get even worse!

RO:  The violent streak in Unionism in my view, and I’m almost loathe to say this, it seems to me that paramilitary Unionism isn’t that far away from actually lifting up guns again and starting to kill people. Because a lot of these riots are being led by the paramilitaries, the paramilitaries that led the UVF (Ulster Volunteer Force) etc. They’re very much into – and it wouldn’t be beyond the imagination of some of these guys to say: Come on, we’ll go and shoot a Catholic. There is the potential there, Sandy, for things to get worse. I don’t see it getting any better and I don’t see how the issues that are so salient now are going to be removed.

For example, the Unionists want to parade and walk wherever the hell they want irrespective of whether it upsets other people or not. They don’t want the Peace and Reconciliation Centre. They don’t want Catholics walking in the city centre of Belfast. They actually don’t want IRA monuments now throughout the country. They don’t want the IRA to even honour their dead. This is the reality. It’s humiliating. It’s humiliating to be a Nationalist here because we all thought that the Good Friday Agreement that we had moved into a new era and the mindset of the people was changing and we now know that that was an illusion. The mindset of Unionism has not changed one iota, that it’s still ‘croppy lie down’, that’s the way they think and that’s the way they’re actually acting. And that’s what we’re seeing…that’s what we’ve seen right throughout the Summer and what we’ve seen for years. And the problem is that Sinn Féin is lying down. Sinn Féin has no teeth. And they know that.

SB:  Before I let you go – I was talking to Eamonn McCann, the journalist whom you know very well.

RO:  Yeah, I know Eamonn well.

SB:  And he was saying: You know, I was going to write that if this keeps up the next step will be assassinations. He said then I didn’t do it because I thought I might be putting the idea in somebody’s head. Is that what we’re coming to?

RO:  I was of the same view as Eamonn and that’s why I said that I’m reluctant to say this. I mean, I said it there two minutes ago but I think that is not that far away. I think that some of these eejits would think nothing of lifting a gun and shooting some Catholic and come up with some blind reason for it. I hope, I pray with all my heart that it doesn’t. But I’m saying that it’s not beyond the realms of possibility. Like Eamonn, I hope I’m wrong. This is one where I really do hope I’m wrong. I mean, the situation is very fraught, very, very fraught at the minute and it’s very, very dangerous and everyone’s pinning their hopes on Richard Haass. I tell you – he would need to be a magician because only a magician could pull this off.

SB:  Well, Richard, we’ll get back to that and thank you very much. We really appreciate you coming on.

RO:  You’re welcome, Sandy. Thank you so much for having me. It was lovely to talk to you again. (ends time stamp ~ 35:08)

Phil Scraton BBC Sunday Sequence 22 July 2012

BBC Sunday Sequence
Sunday 22 July 2012

Presenter Mike Philpott (MP) hosts an interview/discussion with former Ulster Unionist Party leader Tom Elliott (TE) and Queen’s University Belfast law professor Phil Scraton (PS) about the imprisonment of Marian Price and Martin Corey and the issue of ‘closed material procedures’.
(Begins at 0:49:49 time stamp)

MP:   There’s a bit of a justice theme running through the program this morning and the continued detention of Marian Price and Martin Corey poses some fundamental questions of ethics and justice. Most particularly, when does the public interest or a perceived threat to public safety override the core of the justice system – that it should be seen to be done and that everyone deserves a fair trial?

With us now is Queen’s University Belfast Professor of Law Phil Scraton and the former Ulster Unionist leader Tom Elliott. Tom Elliott, Republicans see the continued detention of Marian Price and Martin Corey as ‘selective internment’. How would you see it?

TE:   I think, Phil, we need to look at this in the round and these are not school children who are being detained for small misdemeanors. These are ruthless terrorists and criminals who have been locked up in gaol in the past for some of their actions. Now I think there is, obviously, intelligence. And we must give some credibility to the intelligence that comes forward and we can’t hear all of that intelligence…

MP:   …They may have past convictions but they’re not currently being held on a conviction.

TE:   No, but what I’m saying is there is obviously intelligence there. And public safety, the safety of our citizens, must come paramount in this. And you know, when you look back at the history of these people, and particularly if you want to look at Marian Price, and she was actually released in 1980 and got a pardon at that stage or was released anyway. And you have to question: She was released because she was on her deathbed was the indication at that time. Now, that’s quite a number of years ago and Marian Price is still alive and well. And obviously it’s been suspected that she has been involved in some very, very devious and terrorist acts and we have to take that into account.

MP:   But you can’t say that without seeing any evidence.

TE:   Well, obviously she has been detained in connection with the murder of two soldiers in Massereene. Obviously there have been other issues around the Easter Rising Commemoration…

MP: …No. She wasn’t charged. She wasn’t convicted.

TE:   She was detained and obviously imprisoned because of suspected involvement of those murders. But quite clearly, you don’t be locked up for nothing I have to say.

MP:   Tom, this is incorrect. We don’t know what reason she’s being held for.

TE:   No, but she was arrested. I think we have to accept she was arrested in connection with the murders of two soldiers.

MP:   But if a person is arrested and released – you’re saying that they’re not innocent?

TE:   No indeed. I’m not saying that whatsoever. But what I’m saying is there’s obviously intelligence there of which the intelligence services are concerned with the public safety of the wider community. Now I think that anybody in this community would want to ensure that the public safety is paramount. And I’m quite clear and I’m convinced that these people are being held because of the concerns of public safety and that I support.

MP:   Phil Scraton?

PS:   Well, with all due respect to Tom Elliott, I don’t know how many times in that brief response he used the word ‘obviously’.  And I think there is the tripwire for all of this. We are putting our faith in a system that is operating outside of due process. I think we have to go back to basics here. And we don’t have the death penalty. The most serious punishment that we can inflict as a state on behalf of its people is imprisonment. Everybody who goes to prison has the right to know the reason for their arrest/their detention. To be charged with an offence in a reasonable amount of time. The case has to be heard in a court and it has to be heard promptly. The proceeding have to be conducted fairly, thoroughly, speedily and with the evidence supplied to the defence. The defence should always know precisely what the person is being accused of.

And all of us in any situation, regardless of our past, we are innocent until we’re proven guilty. And that is the foundation of a system that we operate, whether Tom likes it or not, of natural and open justice. It’s enshrined on our law. It’s there within in the Human Rights Act. It’s there in the European Convention on Human Rights, Article Five, the right to liberty. And it’s important because these are incredibly emotional and emotive cases. It’s important we think about how this has operated already in the UK under the Anti-Terrorism Crime and Security Act.

When people were released, having been held indefinitely in Belmarsh Prison, Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead in his ruling stated: ‘Indefinite imprisonment without charge or trial is anathema in any country which observes the rule of law.’  He went on: ‘It deprives the detained person of the protection that a criminal trial is intended to afford.’

And that issue, along with Article Six, the right to a fair trial, is at the core of these cases. And what we’ve seen invented since 1997 is this this phrase: ‘closed material procedures’.  And what they mean is that now we can now hold a detainee without revealing to them, their legal representative or to the public, the case against them. In other words, the most fundamental issue, that we have a right to disclosure of the case against us, is put into abeyance.

MP:   Those ‘closed material procedures’ weren’t even introduced as an anti-terrorist measure.

PS:   No. They were introduced in terms of immigration. Now the serious issue here is that they’re currently being extended and the proposal is to extend them under the UK Justice and Security Bill. Now this widens the net. It takes it beyond. It’s the same with all of these situations. They’re introduced, sometimes, for good reason. I don’t think there was actually good reason for these being introduced.I don’t think there’s ever a good reason for putting ‘on hold’ due process and open justice. But, they were introduced in terms of immigration and now they’ve been extended to include a whole range of issues.

There are plenty of people who are out there that we would want to see pulled out of every day life for whatever reason. We would think that as individuals that’s our prejudice. Politicians might actually argue for that. But we have to have due process. What ‘closed material procedures’ gives is exclusive discretion to government, usually a minister of state.

Now the issues there is, we always say: Oh, this is Owen Paterson (who) has taken the decision. Owen Paterson hasn’t taken the decision. He is the front person of the political process. The decision is being taken by those who are actually responsible for security.

TE:   I think Mike, to be fair here, Owen Paterson’s not taking it for a political decision, as Phil seems to indicate. Surely this is an intelligence decision. And you can’t just expect him not to take that decision whenever the intelligence is there and whenever there is good reason. I would like Phil to clarify: If he thinks public security and public safety should be paramount?

PS:   I think the issue, Tom, is that it’s really important in these situations that we have a full form of accountability for these kinds of decisions otherwise that intelligence, as we’ve seen in the past, can put people away for a long period of time without any rights. Now of course, it’s always a balance. Nobody would disagree with that. But the issue from my point of view is that we always look to due process. Well, not my point of view, it’s enshrined in our law.

What we have here is a situation through ‘closed procedures’ of advocacy or legal representation, which we all have a right to fundamentally in our law. It’s impossible! They can’t access the intelligence report that you’re talking about. In fact, Lord Chief Justice, Lord Bingham, now retired, died in fact: ‘It’s like taking blind shots at a hidden target’ was his phrase as Lord Chief Justice. In other words, your representatives have no way of knowing what the case is against you.

TE:   But surely Phil you must accept that this is not a widespread activity.

PS:   I agree.

TE:   This is activity that is in specific and certain cases. Now you must accept that there is intelligence information. That there is information out there and probably in the long term, evidence that will secure possible convictions against these people. And you must accept that there is some of that information that cannot be released at this stage for whatever reason. And that these people, in the best interest of public safety and the wider community, need to ensure that these people are not on our streets. How many times have we witnessed in the past that terrorists have been released and given those various opportunities and what they do is they go back and they re-offend?

MP:   Tom, isn’t there a danger that this becomes bogged down in the issue of personalities? I mean we saw a lot of intemperate coverage in the national newspapers over the case of Abu Qatada and this is similar.

TE:   Yes, I think that’s right. Obviously there are personalities in it. But that’s what I’m trying to say: It’s down to specifics. And I’m not saying it’s just this personality or another one. It is down to specifics. And we have to rely somewhat on intelligence and information that is there that may not always be possible to publish.

PS:   I’m very concerned when I hear a senior politician come out with the phrase: ‘probably in the long term it could lead to a conviction’.  We cannot operate a judicial system on the basis of ‘probablys’ or ‘obviouslys’. We have to know what the cases are in all of these situations.  What is absolutely clear is that when somebody is convicted of a serious crime, whatever it is, in these cases they’re very serious convictions. However the person serves their time. They’re finished with that. They’re then released. In one case, on a pardon which is obviously disputed and the in other case in terms of licence. So that life sentence stands over them for all time. If they are being recalled they have a right to know, and so do their legal representatives, the precise reasons for that. Otherwise we do end up with ‘probablys”obviouslys’ and all the other equivocations that Tom is giving here. This is…

TE:   …But I hope Phil you’re not suggesting in any way that people should be released at will who may be a danger to the wider community and society…

PS:   …You see, Tom…

TE:   …Hold on! I think we must establish that if there is intelligence, would you accept that if there is intelligence and information there in place that these people should be held to protect the public and give the public safety?

PS:   I have absolutely no question about that issue. But you again use those emotive phrases like ‘at will’.  Nobody’s released at will. They’re released under very clear guidelines through Parole Commission. They’re released under very clear circumstance….

TE:   (Over-talks and interrupts)

PS:   Now let me finish. I let you finish so let me finish. So they’re not released at will. The issue is of course we have a right to protection, as a people – as a citizenship, we have a right to protection in all situations. No question about it.

But we cannot ever go down the track of the thin end of the wedge of allowing people to be held in situations where the case is not even established to their legal representatives or in the wider context. Otherwise all we do – it’s a act of faith then to put our assumptions and presumptions into the hands of security services which in this case I have to say, not these particular cases, but in terms of issues in Northern Ireland, do not have a good, sound track record.

MP:   Tom, Tom Elliott, Martin Corey was released to go to a funeral. If he’s such a threat, why would that have happened?

TE:   Well obviously again that was information that was held there at that particular time. So I’m assuming that he was given the opportunity to go to the family funeral. I’m not saying I agree with that but that is how it was at that particular time.

MP:   But he wasn’t a threat that day but he could be a threat the next day. Is that what you’re saying?

TE:   Well obviously I’m assuming he was allowed out to the funeral under some sort of security – under some sort of management process. Whereas if he’s allowed out at will then he’s allowed to roam as normal people are. But I think we have to go back to the argument that Phil was trying to make there and he’s actually duplicitous in his argument – in one place he’s saying he supports the public safety aspect but on another case he saying oh, well it shouldn’t be allowed to happen at will.

PS:   That’s not duplicitous.

TE:   I think there needs to be clarity here. Public safety must be paramount in this case and that is why I believe these decisions have been taken. And I do have to go back to the point: Marian Price was obviously was released on licence or a pardon, as Phil says is disputed, in 1980. Now it’s is quite clear that that was a licence and there is the opportunity to put her back in prison at any stage during the time of her life if she revokes that licence.

PS:   It’s the opportunity is (scoffs) I’m not too sure I like your use of the word ‘opportunity’.

TE:   Well I have to say Phil you don’t seem to like much of anything of what I say.

PS:   I think that your argument is absolutely flawed. I mean, the bottom line about public safety is this: Of course I would be the first person to argue for public safety in all situations. But we cannot rely on people behind closed doors making arbitrary decisions. We have to have a fair and open justice system. That is what we’re signed up to. That’s what democracy is all about. We cannot have security services driving the force of the judiciary and we can’t rely on that. And when you talk Tom, and I have to say that the kind of phrases that you use: ‘assuming;’ – ‘presumption’ – all of those kind of comments – ‘obviously’ – these are issues where you as a politician are putting your trust in security services over and above what we have in our democratic society which is the separation of powers so that the judiciary themselves make those decisions on our behalf.

And the final comment I’d would want to make on public safety is: If we’re really concerned about cases like this have to tread very, very lightly because when we put people away who we are saying ‘we have intelligence on’ that has an impact on the community. That has an impact within our wider society. In actual fact, in putting people in prison without trial, in detaining them without them knowing the circumstances of their detention, can in actual fact lead to greater unrest in our communities and jeopardise public safety even further.

So it’s not a duplicitous argument at all. I believe in the wider remit of public safety and the understanding of how the rule of law connects to that. In these instances, regardless of these two people’s past, we have to go through a process that is due, that is accepted and that is part of our democratic society, including the separation of powers.  And to be frank, I’m absolutely shocked that a senior politician could sign up to and agree with any kind of procedure that enables security services via a minister of state to create a case against people that nobody can see (and) that completely denies the objective of what our legal system and our judicial system is about.

TE:   I will say, Phil, that I will put my trust in security services’ assessments. We have to. They’re put there to do that. They’re put there to give the politicians and the senior political representatives that guidance, that information and that intelligence that is required on these types of people. We as politicians do not have any other opportunity to assess that. That is why there must be some reliance put on those security services and their briefings and their intelligence.

MP:   Tom, the logical extension of your argument is that internment worked.

TE:   No, indeed I’m not saying that whatsoever. But let’s not forget, these are in specific cases. And I’m not personalising it. These are in specific cases. This is not widespread. And what I’m saying is we must rely on these intelligence services because that’s what they’re put there to do.

MP:   Did internment work or was it a failure?

TE:   Sorry, is that to me?

MP:   Yeah.

TE:   Well, I’m not saying it worked at all.  But it was an operation at the time that was attempting to help the situation. And it may not have helped it at that particular time. But I think we’re dealing with a totally different scenario here. We’re dealing with a totally different situation here at this time. And we’re dealing with two individuals whom the intelligence services obviously believe it would be not in the best interest of public safety to release them.

MP:   Phil, is there ever a time when it’s okay to detain people without trial? I was reading a piece by Robert Lambert of the University of St. Andrews and he said he opposed detention without trial but he said it was right to detain British supporters of Nazi Germany during the Second World War. So is it just a case of degrees or personal opinion?

PS:   I think every case has to be taken on its merits. Of course, there will be a situation where people need to be withdrawn from society without trial for a period of time where there is a known, clear threat and that threat is established.  But you cannot detain people indefinitely without trial. That’s the core issue. One of these two people has been in prison for two years. The other has been in prison for one year. It’s a completely unacceptable use of those powers.

The logic of Tom’s position, which is the dangerous logic, is that somehow and for some reason that I can’t fathom, he is willing to put his faith as a politician within the security services’ judgment, who then advise politicians in cases such as this, without there being any clear line of accountability. Now again this is another key principle of our system; both legal accountability and political accountability.

And my feeling here is that again it’s another thin end of the wedge. It is actually saying that there comes a time when we just throw out all of our commitment to democratic accountability within our society and we turn to a process which is run by people whose identity we don’t know, it’s behind the scenes, and we give them these extensive powers.

Now I’m not saying we that shouldn’t withdraw people from society. But the principles are: Swift, appropriate, due process justice. And that is what has not happened in these cases.

TE:   I’m sorry, Phil, but again you’re again arguing against yourself. Of course I have said and I have relayed this. We have to put our faith in intelligence services on occasions. And there is no doubt about that. That is what they’re there for. If we didn’t have those intelligence services how would we ever had made any captures in the past?

PS:   Of course.

TE:   How would we ever have dealt with terrorists in the past?

PS:   Of course. Of course. It’s about swift justice, Tom.

TE:   You’re actually being duplicitous in what you’re saying, Phil. I have to say all that you’re trying to do is discredit me and discredit the security services for what they’re doing and you’re failing abysmally.

MP:   Okay gentlemen, we have to leave it there. Phil Scraton, Tom Elliott – thanks very much indeed. (ends at 1:09:49 time stamp)