Unionist community will welcome news of Barra McGrory’s resignation 

The resignation of Barra McGrory QC as Director of Public Prosecutions will be widely welcomed by the majority of the Unionist community.
  
I have been highly critical of Mr McGrory for almost 5 years. Indeed the DPP even once engaged a private legal firm in an attempt to have me remove a number of online postings relating to his role. A freedom of Information request later confirmed that this initial legal action, undertaken by a private firm, was paid for out of the public purse. This led Kate Hoey MP to challenge Mr McGrory publically about whether this was an appropriate use of public funds. The threatened action never proceeded. 

There had been whispers within the legal community from the middle of 2007 that Mr McGrory was destined for bigger things. In 2007 he had become the first ever solicitor to become a QC and in 2009 was called to the Bar. This impressive rise ran, perhaps coincidently, in parallel with the restoration of the Northern Ireland Assembly and the road to the Hillsborough Agreement in 2010, which saw the devolution of policing and justice powers to Northern Ireland. 

Under Section 30 of the Justice (NI) Act 2002 the Attorney General- who was by then John Larkin QC- appointed West Belfast solicitor Barra McGrory as Director of Public Prosecutions. 

At the beginning of his tenure Mr McGrory took up post without a whimper of protest from the mainstream Unionist parties. Indeed there is a school of thought that there was a DUP-SF understanding that the DUP would get John Larkin QC, who was appointed jointly by OFMDFM and is robustly conservative on social issues, as Attorney General and in return they would raise no objection to Barra McGrory being installed as DPP. A move that would further ease Nationalist concerns in relation to their acceptance of the policing and justice apparatus. 

From 2011 onwards it was the loyalist community that arguably felt the full force of what many would contend were questionable prosecutorial decisions. This ranged from a largely discredited supergrasstrial to a number of contentious prosecutions of Unionist bandsmen and flag protestors. Despite the failure of the Stewart brothers supergrass trial, Mr McGrory defended the use of the system and in March 2012 told the BBC that the supergrass system “will continue”. There were also serious concerns within the loyalist community around the issuing of non-jury certificates for some cases which did not relate to terrorism and the issuing of such certificates were based almost solely on ‘intelligence’. 

It was not however until the explosion of the OTR scandal, when it was revealed that Mr McGrory acted on behalf of the individuals put forward by Sinn Fein as ‘on the run’, and the relentless pursuit of former armed forces personnel, that the mainstream Unionist parties were forced into joining the chorus of concern. 

Perception matters in Northern Ireland (our very system of Government is set up in such a way as to provide the two largest communities with an effective ‘safety lock’) and the filtering into the public domain that Mr McGrory acted on behalf of IRA volunteers on such a contentious issue caused a perception of bias to grow within the Unionist community. Mr McGrory has robustly rejected all such allegations. 

There is, however, a crucial and as yet unanswered question around the whole OTR scheme and Mr McGrory’s role. Who was his client? 

Mr McGrory told the NI Select Affairs committee that he was passed names by Sinn Fein and he then proceeded to write on their behalf to the PSNI to seek information on whether they were ‘wanted’ or not. That would suggest no direct contact with the individuals themselves, but rather instructions given via the conduit of Sinn Fein. If Mr McGrory did not personally deal with the individuals, then they could not personally instruct him. This leaves open the possibility that Mr McGrory was retained not by the OTR’s themselves, but by Sinn Fein corporately. Put bluntly, who paid Mr McGrory’s fees? 

If Mr McGrory was instructed corporately by Sinn Fein, then this leaves the door ajar in relation to two matters. The first being, at least in the interests of public perception, whether Mr McGrory should then have taken steps to recuse himself in relation to all matters involving individuals involved in Sinn Fein? 

The second is to what extent legal privilege covered his communications with Sinn Fein or IRA personnel in relation to the OTR scheme. Given we do not know who the instructing ‘client’ was, it is difficult to ascertain what conversations and advice was covered by legal privilege and what was not. 

The big questions will not go away with Mr McGrory’s resignation and it will take a long time to repair, at least in the eyes of the Unionist community, trust in the justice system within Northern Ireland.

Big questions around departing DPP remain unanswered 

  
 The news that Barra McGrory QC is to step down from his role as Director of Public Prosecutions will be widely welcomed within the Unionist community and those who served in our armed forces during the IRA’s armed terrorist campaign.

I have written extensively for 5 years about Mr McGrory and called into question his role as DPP, and how he came to arrive at that position. I published an extensive and widely read article in 2014 outlining some key points. It can be found here; http://www.longkeshinsideout.co.uk/?p=3071&wprptest2=2

During the devolution of policing and justice the DUP and Sinn Fein came to a secret, but rather obvious, deal. The DUP demanded that Sinn Fein, via the joint office of OFMDFM, rubber stamp their proposal for John Larkin QC to take up the role of Attorney General. Mr Larkin was favoured by the DUP due to his strongly conservative views and robust stance on social issues. The flip side of this coin was an understanding that Sinn Fein’s solicitor of choice, Barra McGrory QC, would be appointed as DPP.

John Larkin QC and Barra McGrory QC took up their posts without any dissent from the DUP or Sinn Fein. The only dissent came in the form of a statement from Jim Allister QC. The republican movement were cock-a-hoop to have secured ‘their man’ in such a vital prosecutorial position and from that day onwards the onslaught against the Unionist, loyalist and armed forces community began in earnest.

A large chunk of the PSNI’s legacy resources were chewed up investigating referrals from Mr McGrory, the majority of which were cases designed to work in tandem with the Sinn Fein strategy of re-writing the past to fit into their ‘freedom fighters’ narrative.   

The DPP also played another crucial role; prosecuting any republicans that spoke out against the Sinn Fein strategy. Legacy prosecutions popped up against many republicans who had become critical of Sinn Fein, whilst senior republicans- such as Martin McGuinness, Gerry Kelly and Gerry Adams- were shielded from prosecution for some of the most heinous crimes and acts of terror perpetrated in our recent history.  

I challenged Mr McGrory continually and published a plethora of online articles highlighting his close links to the republican movement. This was long before it was fashionable and when the mainstream Unionist parties were largely silent when it came to the DPP and the growing perception of bias.

The DPP responded by using Public Funds in an attempt to shut down my twitter account. A private legal firm were paid, out of public money, to act on behalf of Mr McGrory. I refused to remove the articles and during a heated NI Select Affairs Committee session investigating the OTR scheme, Kate Hoey MP challenged the DPP on why he was using public funds to try and silence my twitter account. After this public challenge, the DPP backed away from his threatened legal action and the matter of how he used public funds to pay a private legal practice has never been fully explored or explained.

During the OTR scheme it was Mr McGrory who was chosen by the IRA leadership (which at that time apparently did not exist) to represent their ‘volunteers’ seeking comfort letters. This raises very serious questions, that will not go away with Mr McGrory’s resignation. They are the following;

1. Barra McGrory stated that he received names from Gerry Kelly MLA, and he then pursued the issue of comfort letters on behalf of these individuals. Who then was Mr McGrory taking instructions from? Who was his client?

If the DPP never physically met the individual concerned, and instead dealt via Gerry Kelly, then he couldn’t possibly have been acting on instructions from the individual. Therefore he must have been acting corporately on behalf of Sinn Fein or the IRA.

2. Sinn Fein have continually sought to make a distinction between themselves and the IRA, so who provided the authority for Sinn Fein to act on behalf of IRA volunteers as a go-between with Mr McGrory?

3. Who paid Mr McGrory’s fees in relation to this matter?

It will become clear from the above questions that Mr McGrory was acting corporately on behalf of Sinn Fein, who by extension were simply a go-between for the IRA. In this regard Mr McGrory was a Sinn Fein solicitor, taking instructions on the matter of OTR’s from the party rather than the individuals concerned.

This gives rise to an enormous conflict of interest. It surely would raise the possibility that Mr McGrory was seriously conflicted when dealing with any case involving a member of Sinn Fein or the IRA or legacy cases involving either of those organisations of their deceased members.

The questions around Mr McGrory, how he came into position, who facilitated it and the decisions he took when in post will not go away.