Jim Allister demands DPP action over IRA membership case 'failings'
The Director of Public Prosecutions, Barra McGrory, must urgently address "serious issues" about alleged failings in a high-profile IRA membership case, TUV leader Jim Allister has said.
Mr Allister has raised the allegations, made in the Belfast Telegraph by the sisters of Robert McCartney, about how the Public Prosecution Service handled the case against Padraic Wilson and Sean Hughes.
In a letter to Mr McGrory, the TUV leader said: "Once more, this article raises serious issues as to how the PPS handled a significant and sensitive case. It is imperative that the allegations made receive a full response."
The trial of Wilson and Hughes collapsed two weeks ago when the McCartney sisters withdrew as the main prosecution witnesses. They said they had lost all faith in the criminal justice system.
The charges related to alleged meetings the sisters had with the IRA during the paramilitary group's internal investigation into the 2005 murder of Robert McCartney.
The women said they were unhappy that the PPS decided that both men face IRA membership charges alone, which they described as "limited", and refused to add "the more substantial charge of perverting the course of justice".
The McCartney sisters also said they had asked that a key independent witness to their alleged meetings with the IRA - who cannot be named because of a court gagging order - be questioned by police and called to give evidence at the trial.
The two alleged meetings took place at locations in west and north Belfast.
Catherine McCartney said: "We believe that, if this man didn't agree to be a witness, he should then be charged with withholding information, but the PPS refused to bring charges against him. Again, the PPS never gave us an adequate explanation. We felt this man was treated with kid gloves and was protected from prosecution."
Mr Allister said: "This is a most serious allegation which demands an answer from the PPS."
He also raised claims by the McCartney sisters that the PPS constantly "fobbed them off", "responded with meaningless cliches" and "put issues they raised on the back-burner".
In his letter to Mr McGrory, the TUV leader states: "In seeking to command public confidence, it is vital that the PPS is clear in its response and in facing up to these allegations."
Padraic Wilson - a former IRA commander of prisoners in the Maze from west Belfast -and Sean Hughes, from south Armagh, were the two most senior mainstream republicans to have been prosecuted for paramilitary offences here since the start of the peace process.
Both men are key supporters of Sinn Fein's political strategy.
They were acquitted of all charges after the McCartney sisters withdrew their evidence.
Had they been tried and convicted, they would not have been eligible for early release as set out in the Good Friday Agreement. That is because the alleged offences occurred after April 1998.