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Bloody Sunday amnesty call was predictable says Durkan

Published 03/03/2014




CALLS for Bloody Sunday soldiers to be granted amnesty on the back of a deal for IRA on-the-runs are inevitable and predictable, it has been claimed.

Foyle MP Mark Durkan said it was no surprise former secretary of state Peter Hain was pushing the idea, which he said was a direct result of "selfish misdealing" by Sinn Fein.

Following a week when controversy over the OTR scheme threatened to pull down stormont's devolved government, Mr Hain said it was clear for anyone who wanted to see that assurances given to IRA members were not get-out-of-jail cards, immunity or amnesty. and with full details of the scheme now public, the labour MP said it would be a waste of police resources to prosecute soldiers who killed 14 unarmed people at a Civil Rights march in Derry in 1972. scandal and political crisis over the handling of IRA OTRs was sparked when the trial of John Downey for the 1982 Hyde Park bomb spectacularly collapsed last week in London.

"Those who have stood over the scheme revealed in the High Court case have claimed that it doesn't imply an amnesty, and that everybody really knew everything about it," Mr Durkan said.

"Yet now, one of its authors is saying that the fact of the scheme should mean amnesty for everybody and anybody in relation to anything. We will also have others, including Tories and unionists rallying around such a demand.

"Sinn Fein know if others had re-ally known about the 'shinners' list' and letters having such import on a court case, those others would have then been demanding indemnity for the security forces too. That presumably was one of the reasons for key aspects of the scheme being hidden."

Mr Durkan said Mr Hain's position was clear in 2005 when he prepared legislation for an amnesty that was never enacted.

"I know that many families may be anxious and aggrieved by the inevitable and predictable line that has now come from Peter Hain, and will be pushed by others, but this is a consequence of Sinn Fein's selfish misdealing, which we will have to work hard to resist," the former SDLP leader said.

Mr Downey (62) a Sinn Fein member and former oyster farmer who denies planting the Hyde Park bomb, returned home to Donegal where a planned homecoming party at the weekend was cancelled.

He had wrongly been told by the PsNI that he was not wanted for questioning or prosecution in the UK despite a Metropolitan Police warrant for his arrest for the murders of soldiers.

The case revealed the extent of an assurance scheme for OTRs and a deal the last labour government struck with Sinn Fein that saw more than 180 individuals given letters similar to Mr Downey's, clearing their way to return home. another five cases involving IRA suspects are active.

The political crisis centred on First Minister Peter Robinson who threatened to resign unless an inquiry was launched and letters to OTRs rescinded. a judge is examining the entire issue but the letters remain in place.

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Mr Hain suggested that if a line was to be drawn on Northern Ireland's past it must include the pursuit of the Bloody Sunday paratroopers. sinn Fein said Mr Hain's comments were "ill-judged".

Foyle assembly member Raymond McCartney said some Bloody sunday families wished to seek prosecution against those responsible for the death of their loved ones.

"Given the ongoing investigation by the PSNI following the saville inquiry's findings into the events of Bloody sunday, Peter Hain's comments are ill-judged and inappropriate," he said. Liam Wray, whose brother Jim was killed on Bloody sunday, said there was ample evidence to prosecute soldiers.

"I've always maintained that the prosecution and conviction, if it's possible, of the people responsible for killing my brother must take place," he said.

"But I've always maintained that it's not important to me if that individual never spends a moment in jail at this time, I'd be happy enough with a judge sending him home on licence."