Gerry Kelly OTR story challenged by Lord Empey

Sinn F�in's Gerry Kelly MLA
Sinn F�in's Gerry Kelly MLA

The Government has released information which undermines Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly’s claims not to have known the name of a murder suspect his party passed an on the run letter to, it is claimed.

Last month Mr Kelly said that although he was a conduit through which the Government ‘comfort’ letters were delivered to republicans, he did not know the names of the people he was passing them to.

His claims emerged during an inquest into the murder of Gareth O’Connor, who was killed in Newry in 2003. During the inquest it was revealed that the chief murder suspect had been given an on the run (OTR) letter via Sinn Fein.

The Government letters were intended to assure recipients that they were not wanted by the authorities at that time of issue.

But UUP Peer Lord Empey says the Government has now openly confirmed that the names of recipients were on all letters.

“Last week we were told that Gerry Kelly acted in the role of postman for the on the run letters,” Lord Empey said.

He noted Mr Kelly’s comments last month in which the republican said he did not know the identity of Mr O’Connor’s murder suspect.

Mr Kelly had said: “Let me make it very clear that I don’t know, and there is no name for a recipient so I don’t know who the letter is to, or what it’s about. It is now public knowledge that my name was on most of these letters as a conduit for Sinn Féin.”

Lord Empey added: “In effect Gerry Kelly was saying that he had no idea who he was supposed to hand them to. However, the answers which I have just received from the Government contradict Mr Kelly’s version of events.

“The Government state that ALL letters were clearly marked for named individuals and sent to Sinn Fein,” the peer said.

“Therefore Gerry Kelly MUST have known who the letter was addressed to as the NIO was relying on Sinn Fein to know where the individual resided.”

On behalf of the Government, Baroness Randerson said this week: “These letters were sent via Sinn Féin between 2000, when the scheme was established by the previous Government, and 2012.

“These letters were clearly marked for an individual by name and sent to Sinn Féin, accompanied by a covering letter. As the names were provided by Sinn Féin and the NIO were not aware of addresses for these individuals, Sinn Féin were expected to pass on the individual letter to the named recipient.”

Referring to the collapse of the prosecution of John Downey last year due to his OTR letter, Lord Empey said justice had been “corrupted by the Blair Government”.

Sinn Fein did not respond to the claims last night.