Kenny Donaldson: Victims won’t back legacy structures unless issues like OTR are dealt with

Theresa Villiers said in the House of Commons that OTR letters had no value but we need to see proof of that

Stormont is apparently unable to rise from the ashes because of ‘red line’ demands from Sinn Fein/PIRA.

Innocent victims and survivors of terrorism do not have red lines but have a robust message for the UK government.

We will not be giving blind support to legacy structures in the absence of key issues being dealt with transparently.

In the aftermath of the collapse of the Hyde Park trial, when the accused John Downey was able to wave an On The Run (OTR) assurance letter, the previous Secretary of State Theresa Villiers then moved to claim on the floor of the Houses of Parliament that the letters had no value.

She said that they offered no basis to prevent the future arrest and prosecution of those in possession should evidence be available.

At that time we urged for the letters to be rescinded by Parliament, but they weren’t.

Unless and until a future case concerning an OTR would come before the courts, the veracity of Ms Villiers’ comments would not be tested.

They have not yet been tested in court, but recently Gerry McMonagle (now mayor of Donegal) was part of a walkabout with the new Taoiseach of the Republic of Ireland, Leo Varadkar, in Londonderry.

The arrangements were publicly advertised.

In 2012, the DUP MP Jim Shannon named Mr McMonagle in relation to the murder of Strabane man Lexie Cummings.

Mr McMonagle has not commented on claims that he received a comfort letter from the government as part of the OTR scheme.

Was he arrested for questioning when in this jurisdiction? No.

We have also witnessed over the last year the failure to even bring in Dublin-based lawyer Kieran Conway (who talked publicly about being involved in several PIRA terrorist acts within England) or Gardaí cited in the Smithwick Tribunal Report as being responsible for serious criminal breaches and actions.

It is being rumoured that the NIO will launch a public consultation on the proposed new legacy structures as per the Stormont House Agreement.

It is being suggested in the new structures that only those cases yet to be reviewed by the HET, which had got up to 1987, will be entitled to an HIU investigation.

How does the state and the various protagonists to a Stormont deal think it acceptable that some families get a review of their loved one’s case, which amounted to a desktop review often poorly conducted, and then the post 1987 victims (and others who did not get an HET review) are entitled to a full investigation which supposedly carries full policing powers?

The UK government, the NIO, the PSNI, the DPP, PPS, Garda Siochana, DFA and local politicians all need to grapple with these issues.

We appeal for confidence building with victims, the first part of which must be the UK government’s rescinding of the OTR letters.

A message must be sent that those onside with the SF/PIRA project are not immune from prosecution.

Kenny Donaldson, Innocent Victims United (the largest victim’s umbrella group in Northern Ireland with 23 member groups and over 11,500 individual victims and survivors)

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