FEARS have been expressed that the Government's refusal to pursue Maze escapee P"l Brennan is part of a de facto amnesty for "on-the-run" IRA prisoners.
Secretary of State Shaun Woodward has not asked for the extradition of Brennan despite the announcement that he will be deported from the US, where he has lived for 25 years, to the Republic later this week.
Brennan, along with Sinn Fein Junior Minister Gerry Kelly, was involved in the 1983 Maze prison break during which a warder was fatally stabbed.
Alliance leader David Ford, the man who is expected to become Justice Minister when policing and justice is devolved, and Conservative Shadow Secretary of State Owen Paterson, both told the News Letter that they would oppose any attempt to grant escaped prisoners an amnesty.
Government departments and justice agencies on both sides of the border have not spelt out what will happen to Brennan on his return, appearing to hint that if he remains in the Republic he will not be pursued.
Speaking of the case, Mr Ford said: "It seems to tie in with the distinctly ambivalent attitude that the Government has shown in the past dealing with the cases of escaped prisoners on-the-run. Certainly whilst Alliance has accepted the early release provisions under the Agreement in 1998, this does not apply to those on the run and we would certainly not accept the concept of a pardon."
Mr Ford stressed that any process to finally deal with on-the-runs had to "recognise the seriousness of the offence with which people have been charged".
He added: "Release on licence subject to good behaviour, the conditions which applied in 1998, is not the same as an amnesty and an amnesty is not acceptable."
Mr Paterson, who on his weekly visit to the Province will today hold discussions with Victims Commissioner Mike Nesbitt, said: "We led the opposition to the 'on the runs' legislation when the then Secretary of State, Peter Hain, brought it to the House of Commons in 2005 and our opposition to any form of terrorist amnesty remains our position now.
"Anyone convicted of a terrorist offence and who subsequently absconds from prison should be subject to due legal process and appear before the courts to have their case heard."
Just over two weeks ago, when the IRA killers of Garda Detective Jerry McCabe were released, the Crown Prosecution Service said it was no longer seeking prosecution of two other men, Andrew Martin and Anthony Duncan.
Among the reasons cited for the decision by officials were "statements made by ministers about on-the-runs and the length of time since the alleged crimes took place".
Martin was wanted on bomb making and conspiracy to cause explosions in the late 1980s. He had been identified as a suspect in 1995 and in 2001 successfully appealed his extradition.
Duncan was wanted over bomb attempts in Bognor Regis and Brighton in 1994. He appealed the extradition in 2000.