26/02/2014

NI Police Federation 'Appalled' By Hyde Park Deal

Terry Spence, the Chairman of the Police Federation for Northern Ireland has criticised the "grubby, secret deal" the UK Government agreed with "on-the-run" IRA members.

The comments come after it was revealed on Tuesday that a case against a Co Donegal man, accused of carrying out the 1982 Hyde Park bombing in London, had collapsed when a judge at the Old Bailey decided to throw out the case.

John Downey had been charged with the murders of four soldiers who had died in the attack. The 62-year-old was arrested at Gatwick Airport last year and was detained as his name appeared on the UK's most wanted list. Yesterday, however, it emerged that in 2007 - despite an outstanding warrant - that Mr Downey had been granted an immunity deal to help secure IRA decommissioning.

Commenting on the revelation, Mr Spence described the agreement as a "grubby, secret deal", adding: "This is sickening, and I know that it will re-open old wounds for scores of heartbroken families. None of us know of the existence of this Administrative Scheme or what it entailed or the number of OTRs involved.

"I am angry, disappointed and feel betrayed. Those involved in this skulduggery should hang their heads in shame. When were they going to tell us about it, and why did it take a mistake exposed at the Old Bailey to shine a spotlight on this sorry mess?"

In a statement, the families of those killed in the bombing said they were devastated by the development, while Chief Constable Matt Baggott said the police accepts "full responsibility" for the failures.

The agreement has also caused a row at Stormont among Northern Ireland's politicians.

Earlier on Wednesday, DUP MLA Peter Robinson described it as "an outrage and a dark day for justice", adding that justice should not "have a sell-by date". However, it has since been revealed that he has now threatened to quit his role as First Minister unless a judicial review is carried out into the matter.

In an interview with the BBC, Mr Robinson said he would not be prepared to remain in his post after he was "kept in the dark" regarding the issue.

UUP Justice spokesman Tom Elliott added that the immunity assurances handed out are "a disgrace", while Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams TD welcomed court's decision, insisting that Downey "should never have been arrested and this has been vindicated by the court decision".

Also commenting on the controversy, Prime Minister David Cameron described the collapse of Mr Downey's case as a "dreadful mistake".

He admitted to MPs: "We should be absolutely clear. The man should never have received the letter that he received, Downey.

"It was a dreadful mistake and mistake that we now need to have a rapid factual review to make sure that this cannot happen again.

"But whatever happens we have to stick to the principle that we are a country and a government under the rule of law."

He added that it was "absolutely shocking" that the accused was not going to be tried for the Hyde Park bombing which killed four soldiers.

"I completely understand the depth of anger and concern that people will feel right across this country about the appalling events that happened in 1982 and the fact the person responsible is now not going to be appropriately tried," he continued.

In addition to Mr Downey, it was revealed that another 186 people received letters telling them they would not face arrest and prosecution for IRA crimes. Downey, had been convicted of IRA membership in the 1970s, but had denied murdering the soldiers and conspiring to cause an explosion.

(JP/MH)

Related Northern Ireland News Stories
Click here for the latest headlines.

10 February 2016
Formal Complaint Made Over DUP MLA's Alleged Sexist Comments
A formal complaint has been made to the Assembly Commissioner after a DUP MLA was recorded making alleged sexist and ageist comments. A microphone picked up the DUP's Jim Wells MLA making comments during an open session of the Assembly's Public Accounts Committee on 03 February.
03 February 2016
Man Arrested Over Ballycastle Murder Released
A man arrested in connection with the murder of a man in Co Antrim has been released. The body of Anthony McErlain, 48, was discovered at a house in the Broombeg View area of Ballycastle at around 8.30pm last Thursday. A 33-year-old man appeared in court on Monday charged with the murder. He has been remanded in custody.
11 February 2016
Man Arrested In Connection With Dissident Republican Activity Released
A man arrested in connection with dissident republican activity in Co Tyrone has been released unconditionally. The 58-year-old was arrested in the Strabane area on Tuesday following a house search. Detectives from the PSNI's Serious Crime Branch made the arrest. The man was questioned at Musgrave Police Station and has now been released.
12 February 2016
Police Entitled To Tell Man's Employer About Drink Driving Conviction
Police were justified to tell a man's employer that he had been convicted of drink driving, an investigation has concluded. The man had been arrested while driving a delivery van in L'Derry last August. He was later convicted, lost his licence and resigned from his employment.
25 January 2016
'New IRA' Believed To Be Involved After Weapon Found In Co Tyrone
Police believe the 'new IRA' was involved after a suspected Armalite-type assault rifle was recovered in Strabane, Co Tyrone, on Friday. Superintendent Mark McEwan, the Derry City & Strabane District Commander said he believed the weapon, with ammunition, had been intended to be used to attcked police officers.
13 April 2011
Doubts Over 'Libyan IRA Atrocities Deal'
An NI pressure group acting for victims of the Troubles has welcomed news that strife-torn Libya has agreed a deal for victims to be compensated for multiple atrocities carried out by the IRA throughout the UK.
17 July 2014
OTR Letters 'Not An Amnesty'
'On the Run' letters sent to wanted republican terrorist suspects did not amount to an amnesty, a judge has found. Lady Justice Hallett has completed a review, ordered by Prime Minister David Cameron, on the so-called 'On the Run' letters.
08 February 2016
Queen's Enters Deal To Develop More Student Accommodation
Queen's University has entered into a deal with developers McAleer & Rushe to develop 1,200 student bedrooms on two of their city centre sites. McAleer & Rushe has agreed with Queen's University to deliver the completed buildings, by the summer of 2018, in a deal estimated to be worth just over £70 million.
22 May 2013
Man Charged Over Hyde Park Bombing
John Anthony Downey, from Co Donegal, has been charged with the murders of four soldiers in the IRA's Hyde Park bombing in London 31 years ago. Downey, 61, was arrested by police as he came off a plane at London's Gatwick Airport on Sunday. He is accused of being responsible for a car bomb in South Carriage Drive.
19 August 2013
DUP Maze Decision A 'Mistake' - McGuinness
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has said a DUP decision not to support a peace and conflict resolution centre at the former Maze prison site is a "mistake". The centre was planned as part of a £300m redevelopment of the site, which had previously secured the support of the First Minister and DUP leader Peter Robinson.
29 January 2013
Justice Minister Says Blocking NCA Is 'A Mistake'
The National Crime Agency (NCA) has been blocked from operating in NI as it will in the UK. Sinn Féin and the SDLP have stopped a move to give the new policing agency, described as the ‘British FBI’, the powers to carry out police operations and recruit agents.
02 June 2011
Judge's Daughter Terror Killing 'Mistake'
The sister of an IRA murder victim - who was a judge's daughter - has spoken out after one of her killers went into print and called the death 'a tragic mistake.
29 March 2006
Plane lands at army base by mistake
A Ryanair passenger jet destined for Derry City Airport has landed at Ballykelly army base, six miles away by mistake. The plane is thought to have been the Ryanair 1425 service from Liverpool to Derry and it is believed to have had around 45 people, including crew, on board.
15 July 2003
Israeli radio says Belfast man's arrest was a 'mistake'
An Israeli radio station has reported that the arrest of a Northern Ireland man by security forces was a "mistake". The radio station, the Voice of Israel external service in Jerusalem, reported that the arrest of west Belfast man Seán O Muireagáin could be a "case of mistaken identity".
10 August 2001
Belfast lottery winners thank a lucky mistake
A syndicate of care workers from a north Belfast community centre were celebrating on Thursday after winning nearly £20,000 in The National lottery draw held last weekend after having mistakenly filled in the wrong numbers.