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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)

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