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Republican’s bid to view on-the-run documents fails

By Deborah McAleese

A judge has ruled that the Northern Ireland Office does not have to disclose documents allegedly held on amnesties and pardons for on-the-run prisoners.

Mr Justice Coglin has dismissed an application by Tyrone republican Terence Gerard McGeough’s legal team for a witness summons to be directed to the manager of the NIO's Freedom of Information department to produce material allegedly relating to pardons and on-the-run policies.

McGeough is currently on trial charged with IRA membership and the attempted murder of a UDR man in 1981. A previous court sitting heard he was shot in the chest by the intended victim, Samuel Brush, as he fought back.

McGeough was arrested in March 2007 as he left a polling station in Fermanagh where he was standing as a republican candidate. His legal team, who say they have documents relating to pardons given to individuals and on-the-runs, said the additional material from the NIO would be relevant to a potential abuse of process application that McGeough is pursuing based on “discriminatory unfair treatment”.

The Crown Court was told that in his application for a witness summons, McGeough claimed that the documents he wanted the NIO to disclose reveal:

There is a category of individuals known as on-the-runs.

Some have been treated more favourably because of lobbying by Sinn Fein resulting in “improper executive interference”.

This lobbying resulted in deals being done so that some were not prosecuted despite evidence against them, others were pardoned using Royal Prerogative, others did not serve any court sentences.

The court was also told that McGeough claimed he was told by Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly that he was free to return to Northern Ireland without fear of arrest.

However, when he left Sinn Fein to run as an independent republican in the 2007 elections, he was arrested.

Mr Justice Coglin ruled that in this case he was satisfied that no material should be disclosed.

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