Belfast Telegraph

MP Naomi Long's fury as Stormont foots bill for on-run debacle

By Staff Reporters

The Secretary of State has been challenged to explain why Stormont is footing the bill for a review of the so-called on-the-runs scheme, as it was run by Westminster.

Alliance MP Naomi Long said the Department of Justice here is facing a £47m shortfall, but was paying for a review of a scheme that had never been devolved.

She said this would have "dire consequences for the PSNI and courts".

Mrs Long was speaking after Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers told the House of Commons that the Government had issued a "fair and clear warning" to republican on-the-runs that official letters assuring them they are not wanted by UK police cannot be relied on to avoid future prosecution.

"There is no continuing basis for any reliance on the past statements," she said.

"This scheme is at an end. All those who sought or received statements through the administrative scheme should take note of this statement today."

The issue was thrust into public prominence in February when the prosecution of John Downey for the murders of four soldiers in the IRA's Hyde Park bombing collapsed because it emerged he had been sent one of the letters in error, when in fact police were seeking him.

East Belfast MP Mrs Long said Ms Villiers' statement had only raised further questions about why the Executive was encumbered with financial responsibility for reviewing a scheme it was never responsible for.

"Last week, the Justice Minister revealed his department will see at least a £47m shortfall thanks to the ongoing welfare reform stalemate caused by arguing between the DUP and Sinn Fein.

"Now it will be facing further cuts thanks to the consequences of this scheme," she said.

Belfast Telegraph


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