Sinn Féin to skip London committee hearing on 'on-the-runs'

Sunday 08 June 2014 11.51
Martin McGuinness said Sinn Féin had already outlined its position on the issue of on-the-runs
Martin McGuinness said Sinn Féin had already outlined its position on the issue of on-the-runs

Sinn Féin has said it will not give evidence before a Westminster committee investigating amnesties for republican fugitives.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said that, although the party had nothing to hide, officials would decline invitations to attend a Northern Ireland select committee hearing in London next week.

The committee is investigating revelations made earlier this year that three British governments since 2001 provided 228 IRA on-the-runs (OTRs) with letters stating they were no longer wanted for past crimes.

The other four parties in the Stormont government accuse Westminster and Sinn Féin of keeping the deal secret.

A separate inquiry by Lady Justice Heather Hallett was ordered by British Prime Minister David Cameron after the collapse of a case against a man accused of the IRA's Hyde Park bomb in 1982.

The prosecution of John Downey, 62, from Co Donegal, was halted last month when it emerged he was wrongly sent a so-called letter of assurance informing him the authorities in the UK were not looking for him.

Mr Downey, who was wanted by detectives in London, had denied murdering four soldiers.

Mr McGuinness said: "Sinn Féin has clearly outlined our position on the issue of on-the-runs and despite claims to the contrary, neither this process, nor the agreements on which it was based, were secret or hidden."

He added: "However, in the interests of transparency and in an attempt to minimise the damage to the peace process from a growing public controversy, Sinn Féin agreed to participate fully and willingly in the Hallett Review.

"To that end our party president Gerry Adams, (Sinn Féin national executive member) Gerry Kelly and myself met with the Hallett review team earlier this week and put Sinn Féin's position on this and other legacy issues on the record.

"We see no point therefore in Gerry Kelly attending the Westminster Select Committee into the issue."

Last month, PSNI assistant chief constable Drew Harris told the committee that almost 100 fugitives who were given "letters of comfort" are suspects in nearly 300 murder cases.