Is it likely that the forthcoming publication of the parliamentary Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee report into on-the-runs (OTRs) will include reference to 16 named individuals who received the Royal Prerogative of Mercy (RPM) from 2000-2002? All 16, it is believed, were members of the Provisional IRA.
It was Peter Mandelson who sanctioned the political process to grant the RPM under the Northern Ireland (Sentences) Act 1998. Giving evidence to the committee in November, Lord Mandelson said he had been very reluctant to "involve the Queen."
He said the only other process available was legislation. But it was thought that introducing legislation would generate considerable opposition. So, legislation was quietly withdrawn. In the long-awaited appearance before the committee by Tony Blair, he informed MPs that the OTR scheme, including the granting of the RPM, was necessary in keeping Sinn Fein on board.
The Provos were given everything they demanded in order to move them away from terrorism. The OTR scheme was nothing short of a secret deal invented by the government to appease the IRA.
Bangor, Co Down