Stormont Justice is ‘direct rule in drag’ - SDLP

Members of the police and government officials who contributed to the murder of human rights lawyer Rosemary Nelson are still working in the Six-County establishment, it has been claimed.

A report into the Lurgan woman’s 1999 murder, published on Monday, was heavily critical of some members of the PSNI (then RUC) and the British government’s Northern Ireland Office (NIO), stating that many were deeply hostile towards her and had passed intelligence to loyalist paramilitaries.

Sinn Fein has said that some officials previously working for the NIO may now be working within the Six-County Department of Justice. Sinn Fein’s John O’Dowd said: “The inquiry into the murder of Rosemary Nelson identified a number of senior NIO civil servants and senior RUC officers who clearly contributed either through omission or action to Rosemary’s brutal murder.

“The public need to hear answers from the justice minister about where these individuals are now.”

“I will be seeking reassurance from the Minister David Ford firstly that the very significant failings identified by the Rosemary Nelson inquiry will never be repeated and secondly that those responsible are no longer in a position to repeat the disgraceful conduct outlined in the report.”

Alban Maginness, justice spokesman for the nationalist SDLP, has expressed his fears that the transfer of British officials to the justice department following devolution of justice powers last year was simply “direct rule in drag”.

“You have to remember that many of these officials transferred over at the point of devolution of justice and I think it’s important for us to question whether the same personnel exist at different levels within the department of justice,” he said.

“Were they culpable in some way in relation to the events surrounding the circumstances in which Rosemary Nelson was murdered?” It was, he said, “undesirable that people should be transferred lock, stock and barrel from the NIO to the justice department”.


Meanwhile, a suggestion by a former senior PSNI man that Rosemary Nelson had somehow ‘crossed the line’ in her dealings with her clients has been strongly condemned.

Norman Baxter, who led the so-called ‘investigation’ into the 1998 Omagh bombing, pinned his loyalist colours to the mast when he claimed Mrs Nelson should have faced a criminal investigation into her work.

Writing in the News Letter newspaper, Baxter said she was one of a “minority of legal representatives who use their legal status to stray across the line to assist clients in the furtherance of their terrorist ambitions”.

Sinn Fein assembly member John O’Dowd said that Baxter was attempting to “abuse Rosemary in death”.

Mr O’Dowd said Mr Baxter represented an element that wished to continue the abuse of Mrs Nelson after her death.

“In the run-up to Rosemary Nelson’s murder there was an organised campaign of vilification of Rosemary,” he said.

“They abused her in life and should stop abusing her in death. There is an element of retired RUC personnel that come out after every report and try to rewrite the report and history.

“There was a failure to protect Rosemary and that is shown in the report.”

SDLP Assembly member Dolores Kelly said that Mr Baxter’s comments were a reflection of the culture of the RUC/PSNI.

“The very fact that Baxter has said that almost proves the culture that prevailed in the RUC of demonising lawyers because of who they represented,” she said.

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