The chairman of the Northern Ireland Police Federation has described the amnesty given to 187 IRA suspects in 2007 as a “grubby secret deal”, after it emerged that a man accused of the Hyde Park bombing had accidentally been granted immunity from prosecution.
he letter sent by the Northern Ireland Office to John Downey, 62, was described in the High Court yesterday as a “catastrophic failure” on the part of police and officials, who had missed the fact that a 30-year-old arrest warrant was still outstanding for the 1982 IRA attack.
Mr Downey was arrested at Gatwick Airport in May last year despite receiving a written assurance from the Government in 2007 that he was not wanted for prosecution under a deal, struck as part of the Northern Ireland peace process, which gave protection to 187 “On The Run” wanted IRA suspects.
NI Police Federation chair Terry Spence today blamed the Government for what he calls a “grubby, secret deal” that was offered despite the fact officers in Northern Ireland were aware of the Old Bailey arrest warrant.
He told the BBC: “None of us knew of the existence of this administrative scheme or what it entailed or the number of on-the-runs involved. There is a crying need for clarity as well as some honesty and decency.
“The government owes it to Police families to tell them, without any double-speak, that there is now no chance of them ever seeing justice being done in cases involving their relatives.
“There were 211 unsolved murders of RUC officers prior to the Good Friday Agreement and it looks from this grubby, secret deal that they are to remain unsolved.”
The four victims of the Hyde Park bombing - Lieutenant Anthony Daly, Corporal Roy Bright, Lance Corporal Jeffrey Young and Trooper Simon Tipper - were killed when a car bomb exploded as 16 members of the Household Cavalry Blues and Royals were passing for a Changing of the Guard ceremony. The blast also killed seven horses and injured 31 people. Mr Downey has always denied involvement in the Hyde Park Bombing.