Belfast Telegraph

Former prime minister Tony Blair 'could be called before inquiry over IRA on the run letters'

By Michael McHugh

Former prime minister Tony Blair could be called before a parliamentary inquiry to explain a secret deal he made with Sinn Fein to assure republican fugitives that they were not wanted by the police, it was reported.

MPs on the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee may consider the move, the Sunday Telegraph said.

The peace process plan agreed between Sinn Fein and Mr Blair's Labour government saw around 200 letters of assurance sent to on-the-runs telling them they were not wanted by UK authorities but not ruling out future prosecutions if new evidence emerged.

The committee is investigating after the collapse of the case against a man accused of the 1982 IRA Hyde Park bombing which killed four soldiers.

John Downey, 62, from Co Donegal, was among those who received letters under the government's administrative scheme. In his case it wrongly assured him he was not wanted when, in fact, the Metropolitan Police were looking for him.

Mr Blair has so far not given evidence to the committee in person. He is a Middle East peace envoy.

But his role in orchestrating the deal over the letters is coming under increasing scrutiny.

On Thursday the results of another inquiry into the affair, led by Lady Justice Heather Hallett, will be published.

Lady Justice Hallett's report is expected to addresssecret negotiations between Mr Blair and Gerry Adams, the Sinn Fein president, on how to deal with "on-the-run" suspects.

Because they had not been convicted, they did not fall within the scope of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which saw jailed paramilitaries released early.

Further reading

Sister of bombing victim tells of her OTR letters anger 

No appeal over Hyde Park suspect ruling

OTR inquiry report due next month

On-the-run deals were never kept secret, says John Reid 

OTR letters scheme not secret: Reid

Disdainful Peter Hain won't be missed when he's gone  

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