‘Comfort letter’ given to Sinn Fein councillor, claims DUP and TUV

Gerry McMonagle
Gerry McMonagle

The DUP and TUV have questioned whether a former Sinn Fein mayor received a ‘letter of comfort’ as part of the NIO’s administrative scheme for on the runs.

William Gerald McMonagle (known as Gerry), a councillor in Letterkenny, had been wanted in connection with the murder of Hugh Alexander Cummings, known to his family as Lexie.

However, according to the DUP and TUV, a report by the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) into the murder established that: “A review into Lexie’s murder was carried out by the On The Run Review team in 2003, following William McMonagle’s inclusion on a list of OTRs supplied by Sein (sic) Fein to HM Government.

“Following this review the DPP rescinded the direction of December 13, 1982 to prosecute William McMonagle and directed no prosecution against him.”

The case was raised in the House of Commons in 2012 by DUP MP Jim Shannon.

DUP MLA Arlene Foster said: “Following the revelations that have emerged from the collapse of the Downey case, it is clear that Sinn Fein lobbied the Government for the benefit of Mr William McMonagle, who has since 2004 been a member of the Letterkenny Town Council.”

She added: “Given the content of this HET report, which shows that a decision was made to prosecute which, following political lobbying, was rescinded, it now seems almost impossible that the Sinn Fein politician is not in receipt of one of the letters issued by the NIO.

“I am glad that recent clarification from the Secretary of State has rendered these letters worthless, but there is an important issue that Sinn Fein needs to come clean about: how many more elected representatives are wandering around with these letters? Are any MLAs in receipt of them?”

TUV leader Jim Allister said the case revealed “the obscenity of the on the runs deal”.

He said: “I suspect there were many HET cases blighted in this way, but this case study illustrates the point.”

Mr Allister added: “This has much of the appearance to me of what [retired PSNI officer] Norman Baxter spoke to the Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee about in November 2009 when he talked about an unhealthy interest by the NIO in getting on the runs cleared.”

By last night, neither Sinn Fein nor Mr McMonagle returned emails or calls about the issue.

In a 2005 article after the on the runs legislation was dropped in Parliament, Mr McMonagle said he should not have to wait months for new laws to allow him back to Northern Ireland.

It claimed that the PSNI still wanted to question him in relation to an IRA attack in 1982, despite having already been cleared by a magistrate.

At the time, Mr McMonagle said the issue “has to be resolved with the people who it affects the most”.

“These are the people who have since 1970 until the present day to leave their homes through one reason and another, and one injustice and another,” he said.