Belfast Telegraph

Government told in letter Downey an IRA suspect

By David Young

The Government was informed that a prime suspect in the IRA's Hyde Park bombing was wanted by police the year before it sent him a letter informing him he was not being actively sought, MPs have been told.

Former Secretary of State Peter Hain told the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee he could not recall being sent the correspondence from then Attorney General Lord Goldsmith in 2006 stating that John Downey was wanted for "arrest and questioning in respect of serious terrorist offences".

The prosecution of Mr Downey (62), from Co Donegal, over the 1982 bomb attack that killed four soldiers was halted in February this year after a judge found he had been wrongly sent one of the so-called assurance letters in 2007, when in fact the Metropolitan Police were looking for him.

Mr Downey had denied involvement before the case was thrown out.

The committee is holding an inquiry into the scheme that saw around 200 letters sent to republicans. There were heated exchanges as committee member Ian Paisley Jnr challenged Mr Hain's claim that he first heard of Mr Downey in 2013.

The DUP MP read out the letter from Lord Goldsmith which was addressed to Mr Hain and a number of senior NIO officials.

"To be frank, whether it's an oversight on my part, you are reading out a letter that I can't recall Ian," Mr Hain responded.

Mr Hain then branded as "absolutely outrageous" a later query by Mr Paisley over whether he had "inadvertently perjured" himself by not mentioning the letter in his evidence to the judge in the Downey case.

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