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Alleged IRA bomber told gardaí he believed 'DUP and not the DPP' decided to charge him over 1972 bombing

The 66-year-old appeared before the High Court in Dublin today.

Image: Wanderley Massafelli/Rollingnews.ie

Updated Nov 6th 2018, 7:47 PM

A DONEGAL MAN facing charges in relation to the killing of two Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) soldiers in Enniskillen in 1972, has been brought before the High Court on an extradition warrant. 

Northern Irish authorities are seeking the surrender of John Downey (66) to face charges in relation to the 1972 bombing in Enniskillen which killed two British Army Infantrymen.

Lance Corporal Alfred Johnston and Private James Eames were killed when a device exploded in a vehicle they were checking on the Irvinestown Road, Cherrymount, in 1972.

Downey was arrested on foot of a European Arrest Warrant at his home address in Ards, Creeslough, Co Donegal on Monday and brought to the High Court today.

The warrant was issued by northern Irish authorities and endorsed by the High Court on Monday morning. 

Det Sgt Jim Kirwan, of the Garda Extradition Unit, told Ronan Kennedy BL, for the State, that he arrested Downey on foot of the warrant on Monday evening and cautioned him. 

In reply, Downey told the detective “I’d say it was the DUP and not the DPP” who decided to charge him in relation to the matter, Det Sgt Kirwan said.

Counsel for Downey, Garnet Orange SC, said his client would be contesting the application to surrender him and was “very anxious” to secure bail.

He said Downey had medical conditions and recently had a pacemaker fitted.

Justice Aileen Donnelly said she was satisfied the person before her was the person to whom the warrant related. 

She fixed 23 November as the date for the full hearing of the extradition case and remanded Downey in custody to that date. 

‘On-the-run republican’

Justice Donnelly also fixed Thursday next 8 November for the hearing of a bail application. 

Kennedy told the court that the State was not consenting to bail but did not object to an early bail application.

Around a dozen supporters of Downey attended the brief hearing including Sinn Féin TDs Pearse Doherty, Dessie Ellis, Martin Ferris and Seán Crowe. 

Downey’s trial in relation to the 1982 London Hyde Park bombing – in which four soldiers and seven horses were killed – collapsed in February 2014 over a letter sent to him and other alleged republican paramilitaries.

The letters, issued by the Tony Blair government, told the Republicans they were not wanted for prosecution of crimes committed during the troubles. 

The “on-the-run” scheme and letters, which fully emerged following the collapse of Downey’s 2014 Hyde Park trial, triggered a major political controversy and lead to an inquiry. 

Downey is the first so-called “on-the-run” republican to be charged with offences since the scheme was found by a House of Commons Committee to have “distorted the process of justice”.

In a statement on Monday, a spokesperson for the Police Service of Northern Ireland said:

“Following careful consideration of all available evidence, a decision has been taken to prosecute one person for the offence of murder and for aiding and abetting the causing of an explosion.

“Extradition proceedings were initiated in the High Court in Dublin on Monday 5 November, to seek the extradition of one man from the Republic of Ireland for trial in Northern Ireland.

“One man was subsequently arrested in County Donegal this evening and is due to appear in court in Dublin tomorrow.”

‘Out of order’

Commenting on Downey’s arrest, Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty said it was “out of order” and that a previous judgement that Downey was not wanted in relation to any offences, must be respected.

“The issuing of an extradition warrant by the British authorities is wrong and follows a campaign to introduce an amnesty for British soldiers at a time when the spotlight is on them for their actions.

“John Downey has been a supporter of the peace process over many years. Yesterday he was at home with his family and he could have been contacted at any time,” Doherty said in a statement. 

With reporting from Adam Daly 

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Ruaidhrí Giblin

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