DCSIMG

Lord Trimble to brief MPs on OTR letters

Palace of Westminster

Palace of Westminster

Former Northern Ireland first minister Lord Trimble is to brief MPs about the sending of letters to republican fugitives which assured them they were not wanted by police.

Members of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee have already heard that 95 of 228 republicans who received controversial messages from the Government have been linked to 295 murders.

The watchdog is conducting an inquiry into the process for dealing with so-called On the Runs. Under an administrative scheme drawn up during Northern Ireland’s peace process more than 200 people were told they were no longer wanted for paramilitary crimes committed before the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. They did not rule out future prosecutions if new evidence emerged.

The letters came to light in February when the trial of John Downey for the 1982 IRA Hyde Park bombing which killed four soldiers was halted because he had mistakenly received one of those letters when the Metropolitan Police were looking for him. Mr Downey denied involvement in the attack.

Police in Northern Ireland have been heavily criticised for their handling of the case. Stopping the prosecution at the Old Bailey, Mr Justice Sweeney said sending the letter to Mr Downey had been a ‘’catastrophic’’ mistake.

Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) chief constable Matt Baggott apologised on behalf of the force following the judgment.

As well as the committee investigation, a judge is conducting another review. The inquiry, headed by Lady Justice Hallett, which was ordered by Prime Minister David Cameron, is due to report in the summer.

David Trimble, now a Conservative peer, led the Ulster Unionist Party for a decade from 1995 and was MP for Upper Bann before he was elevated to the Lords.

He was first minister at Stormont’s power-sharing administration from 1998 to 2002, much of his tenure marked by disagreements over IRA decommissioning.

 

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