Belfast Telegraph

Dublin keeps own counsel about on-the-runs row

By Rebecca Black

The Irish Government has refused to explain why it put forward the names of two on-the-run IRA terrorists for comfort letters.

The DUP has slammed revelations Dublin took part in the secretive scheme in which the Northern Ireland Office issued letters to 187 OTRs assuring them they were not being sought by any UK police force as "outrageous".

However, it has also emerged that the Northern Ireland Prison Service – which answers to the Department of Justice – put forward 10 names of OTRs to the NIO scheme.

Judge Sweeney's comments following the collapse of the case against suspected Hyde Park bomber John Downey revealed that the Irish Government and the Prison Service had put forward names to the NIO between 1998 and 2002.

The Irish Department of Justice remained tight-lipped over the names. A spokesman said: "It would not be appropriate to refer publicly to individual cases."

He said the Irish Government had no similar administrative scheme to the NIO, and also did not issue letters of the kind in question in the Downey case.

"It will be appreciated that the issue of OTRs formed a major part of discussions over the years, particularly in an effort to get the institutions provided for under the Good Friday Agreement up and running successfully and the various governments made public statements about this, including at Weston Park," he said.

"The UK Government introduced legislation towards the end of 2005 and the Irish Government indicated it was committed to advancing proposals in tandem in relation to the very small number of cases that might arise here.

"As it happened, the UK legislation was not proceeded with, and, accordingly, no arrangements had to be put in place here.

"We had no equivalent to the administrative scheme put in place by the NIO and, accordingly, did not issue letters of the kind in question in the John Downey case."

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