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On-the-run letters scheme slammed as 'secret postal service for the IRA'

“The days of side deals, shabby deals and secret deals should be well and truly over,” SDLP member Alban Maginness told the Northern Ireland National Assembly today.

Alban Maginness, SDLP justice spokesperson.
Alban Maginness, SDLP justice spokesperson.
Image: Alban Maginness via Flickr

A MEMBER OF Northern Ireland’s National Assembly has called letters sent to on the run paramilitary republicans telling them they would not be prosecuted “a secret postal service for the IRA”.

It emerged yesterday that there was a quiet agreement by the British government not to prosecute IRA suspects who were on the run, and the Irish government knew about it. This deal allowed John Downey, the man accused of carrying out the IRA bombing in Hyde Park in 1982, to walk free from court.

Some 187 letters were sent to IRA suspects telling them that they were no longer wanted by police and British Prime Minister has now ordered a review of this deal.

Speaking during a debate in the Assembly today, justice spokesperson for the SDLP Alban Maginness said “no transparency was shown whatsoever” by either the British government or Sinn Féin.

He said this was an act of “monumental collusion” between the party and the government.

“Their secret postal service was a specially devised system to, as it were, bring relief to their IRA members.”

It was not done for the good of the peace. It was not done for the peace process. It was done for the selfish individual interests of Sinn Féin.

Maginness told members of the Assembly that the preferential treatment of the IRA “was and is appalling”.

“How can it be acceptable to make an exception for those people involved in such serious activities?,” he asked. “The days of side deals, shabby deals and secret deals should be well and truly over.”

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Earlier today, First Minister Peter Robinson was accused of ‘playing the hard man’ after saying he actually will not be resigning, as he had threatened to do yesterday.

Robinson had given the ultimatum to the British government saying that he would resign within 24 hours unless there was an independent investigation into the letters. He then withdrew this last night after Cameron announced that a judge will review the deal.

Read: Peter Robinson accused of ‘playing the hard man’ after saying he won’t resign>

Enda Kenny: Yes, the Irish government knew about Hyde Park bomb deal>

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