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Dublin: 17°C Tuesday 5 July 2022

Cameron orders review of secret IRA deal after Peter Robinson’s resignation threat

The Northern Ireland Assembly is to be recalled tomorrow to discuss Peter Robinson’s concerns about protection for IRA suspects.

Peter Robinson with Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness of Sinn Féin
Peter Robinson with Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness of Sinn Féin
Image: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Updated 4.40pm

BRITISH PRIME MINISTER David Cameron has announced that a judge will review a covert deal that allowed IRA suspects on the run to escape prosecution.

The review follows a threat by the Northern Ireland first minister Peter Robinson to resign after it emerged that more than 180 secret letters were sent to republican paramilitary suspects.

The DUP leader had made his resignation threat after the trial of John Downey for the Hyde Park bombing in 1982 collapsed earlier this week.

Peter Robinson has asked for the Northern Ireland Assembly to be recalled tomorrow to discuss his concerns about secret letters which were given to republicans who were classified as ‘On the Run’ telling them that they wouldn’t be prosecuted.

Robinson said he would resign unless the 187 letters are rescinded and a judicial inquiry is set up.

“I have just spoken to Peter Robinson. I told him I shared his anger over the Downey letter – and was glad we have agreed on an inquiry,” Cameron said in a tweet.

Robinson met with Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Theresa Villiers last night.

The covert  deal with IRA suspects came to light this week when the trial of the man accused of the Hyde Park bombing in 1982 collapsed.

The judge at the trial ruled that the deal, which was made by the British government in the wake of the Good Friday Agreement, meant that IRA suspects were told that police were no longer searching for them, and for this reason the man should never have been put on trial.

It’s emerged the PSNI were aware that Downey was wanted by the Metropolitan Police in connection with the bombing but did not make the British judicial authorities aware of that fact and as a result the Northern Ireland Office sent a letter to Downey saying he was not wanted by any other UK police force.

Cameron has said today that an independent judge will determine whether any other letters were sent in error as was the case with Downey.

Downey, 62, had pleaded not guilty to the murder of four soldiers in the blast at the central London park in July 1982.

Sinn Féin leader said Downey should never have been arrested and it was a clear breach of a promise from the British government.

- additional reporting Hugh O’Connell

First published 11.31am

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