Dodds asks whether MPs were misled by ministers

North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds
North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds

Ministers may have misled Parliament over a scheme in which secret letters were sent to IRA fugitives telling them they were not wanted for Troubles crimes, DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds has said.

Mr Dodds said ministers may have made a number of misleading Commons statements about messages sent to 187 IRA on the runs informing them that they were not wanted by police.

The NIO scheme emerged during the collapse of the trial of alleged Hyde Park bomber John Downey last week.

Mr Dodds called for the Commons record to be corrected if necessary and was told by Speaker John Bercow that it would be the NIO’s responsibility to do so if it judged it appropriate.

Raising a point of order in the Commons, Mr Dodds said: “I don’t know whether this will be categorised as juicy or not but it certainly will be juicy back home in Northern Ireland and it is the issue of the revelations of an administrative scheme for on the run people in Northern Ireland. This has come as a bolt out of the blue to people in Northern Ireland and indeed to this House.

“Careful perusal and examination of the parliamentary record going back over a number of years indicates that there were occasions when this House may have been misled by ministerial statement, whether oral or written, and I would ask you to advise the House as to what can be done now that there can be a thorough examination of how this matter was handled by ministers in their public utterances in this House, and what action can be taken now to correct the record and put the facts before the House and have this matter thoroughly aired?”

Mr Bercow replied: “My initial response is that it is open to the Northern Ireland Office which will be privy to all of the material to correct the record if it judges that that is necessary.”

Meanwhile, the PSNI have insisted that they acted lawfully during the process of drafting letters to IRA suspects on the run. The PSNI said that Chief Constable Matt Baggott told a closed meeting of the Policing Board that “the PSNI acted legitimately in carrying out their role in this process”.

Yesterday the board published its initial review into what its members were told. But the document casts little light on the issue, with chief executive Sam Pollock saying that he could not decide whether or not police told the board of the scheme.