Belfast Telegraph

DUP: Name republicans who received OTR letters

By Steven Alexander

The names of every republican who received a letter from the Government to say they were not being hunted by the police must be published, the DUP has said.

Ian Paisley jr was speaking after Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers warned republicans who received the letters that they can no longer rely on them.

She said the Government was not prepared to stand over their factual accuracy any more, after numerous errors were flagged up in a judge-led review of the so-called on-the-run scheme.

But she told MPs that there were no plans to introduce legislation to change the status of the letters, insisting the most appropriate way of making clear they were no longer of value was with a public statement.

Ms Villiers outlined her intention to Westminster's Northern Ireland Affairs Committee but said she intended to make a more detailed statement to Parliament within days. She said recipients should not rely on the letters.

"If they drew some comfort from those letters in the past they should no longer draw comfort from them in the future," she said.

Last night, Mr Paisley said he had pressed Ms Villiers to disclose the names of the individuals in possession of these letters, and whether any elected representatives of Sinn Fein are on this list.

The North Antrim MP also questioned why the secretary of state did not want to legislate to annul the letters.

"I believe that the publication of names and the annulment of the letters through legislation are the two outcomes that should emerge from this whole scenario," he said.

Labour said Ms Villiers must clarify her position urgently, after reports had suggested she would withdraw the 'letters of comfort'.

Shadow Secretary Ivan Lewis MP said: "She made it clear that she would not be rescinding the original letters nor writing to the recipients.

"This is totally at odds with press briefings from the Northern Ireland Office in advance of her committee appearance."

Ms Villiers repeated her assertion to MPs yesterday that any sense of a general "rescinding" of the letters was not applicable.

"I'm not sure rescind is the appropriate term but they should not be relied on," she told MPs.

The matter came to light after the case against a republican accused of the IRA's 1982 Hyde Park bombing in London collapsed.

John Downey, who lives in Donegal, had been sent one of the letters in error.

Belfast Telegraph


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