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On The Runs scheme was no government secret

W W MORRISON (Write Back, March 20) adds his name to the conveyor-belt of controversy over the OTR scheme, which, he claims, "was nothing short of a secret deal invented by the government to appease the IRA".

Mr Morrison's antipathy to republican OTRs is distorting his reasoning. He is not alone in this. First Minister Peter Robinson recently described the scheme as "wrong in principle and shambolic in practice". The OTR scheme, said Mr Robinson, benefited 228 republicans and was "inequitable" and "sectarian" in that it was a concession to republicans alone.

The "concession" to On the Runs was confined to republicans because loyalist paramilitaries - many involved in the most grotesque murders of Catholics - didn't need to go on the run; they had de facto immunity from prosecution. Not only could they walk freely in the north without fear of arrest, or prosecution, many were in collusion with the security forces of the state (as confirmed by the Stevens, Barron and de Silva reports).

In December 2006, former British prime minister Tony Blair assured Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams the British Government was working on putting in place mechanisms to resolve all OTR cases. Mr Blair also said: "I have always believed that the position of these OTRs is an anomaly which needs to be addressed."

The British Government position on OTRs has been in the public domain since 1998. It is hardly credible that the political administration in Northern Ireland was unaware of this.

TOM COOPER

Chairman, Irish National Congress

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