Critics of the government’s ‘comfort letters’ for on the run republicans have expressed reservations about all four ongoing reviews into the row.
Kenny Donaldson of Innocent Victims United (IVU) said that “only a full public inquiry could help restore public confidence”, after considering ongoing reviews by government-appointed Judge Lady Heather Hallett, the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee (NIAC), the Stormont Justice Committee and the PSNI.
He was speaking in relation to over 200 government on the run (OTR) letters sent to republicans assuring them they were not wanted by police; the matter came to light after one letter collapsed the trial of John Downey for the 1982 Hyde Park bombing.
Mr Donaldson said IVU questions “the limited latitude of the terms of reference” for the government’s judge-led review, as he understands “no judgment will be made on the legality or otherwise of the OTR scheme”.
IVU gave “a guarded welcome” to the NIAC inquiry, he said, noting positively that victims’ groups can make submissions and that Tony Blair and Peter Hain can be called.
But he understood the Justice Committee review is primarily motivated by the belief that the scheme should have required Executive approval after devolution of policing and justice, whereas he says it is really needs to “probe the initial rollout of the scheme which was immoral and without parliamentary consent”.
He added: “The PSNI review really needs to have more disclosure about its terms of reference if it wants to help regain public confidence”.
TUV leader Jim Allister believes there is no chance the full list of letter recipients demanded by the DUP will be provided by the government‘s independent judge-led review.
It is “already evident that it will deliver nothing of substance” as Justice Hallett has made it clear that she only intends to “sample a number of case files,” he said.
The MLA also said he had “little confidence” in the PSNI review as it “kept the scheme secret from the public for years”.
“I have more faith in the investigation by the NI Affairs Committee as it, at least, will have the ability to compel witnesses and will sit in public. Unless mutual political interest conspire to cause it too not to delve too deep, it has the capacity to unearth some answers.”
He commended chairman Laurence Robertson MP for highlighting that the government review will take evidence in private and may not have the powers to compel witnesses to appear.
Government’s independent inquiry aims to produce a full public account of the scheme.
The NI Affairs Committee is
asking if letter holders can still be prosecuted and assessing the impact on victims and relatives.
The PSNI is re-examining cases involving 228 named individuals.
Stormont Justice Committee is interviewing Minister David Ford, PPS director Barra McGrory and Theresa Villiers.