The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has refuted claims that the Government granted secret pardons to a quarter of ‘on the run’ members of the IRA.
He was responding to allegations by a leading republican that a deal was done between the Government and Sinn Fein to allow some ‘on the runs’ to return to Northern Ireland without fear of prosecution. Former Sinn Fein ard comhairle member Gerry McGeough goes on trial today charged with IRA membership in 1975 and the 1981 attempted murder of UDR member Sammy Brush.
Ahead of the first republican trial for historical crimes since the Good Friday Agreement, Mr McGeough told the Sunday Tribune the Government has been operating a secret scheme granting pardons or immunity from prosecution to hand picked ex-IRA members wanted for bombings and killings.
He claimed of the 216 ‘on the runs’, 47 have been told they are free to return to Northern Ireland. But Shaun Woodward denied any secret deal.
“I think when people look at the facts the idea of pardons is complete nonsense,” he said yesterday.
Mr McGeough said his lawyers would challenge the prosecution today using information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.