Thursday 21 September 2017

David Trimble 'hurt' by silence over deal with fugitives

David Trimble
David Trimble

Michael McHugh

A FORMER first minister of Northern Ireland said he felt hurt after being kept in the dark about the sending of letters to republican fugitives which assured them they were not wanted by police.

More than 200 On The Runs (OTRs) were told by the British government that they were no longer sought for paramilitary crimes, under an administrative scheme drawn up during the peace process.

However the messages did not rule out future prosecutions if new evidence emerged.

David Trimble, who led the Ulster Unionist Party for a decade from 1995 and headed Stormont's first power sharing administration, said he had not been told about the letters at all.

He said: "I was quite hurt by the fact that, there we were, we had so many meetings with the secretary of state, speaking to the prime minister and we approached those meetings in a candid manner, to find out that they were deliberately keeping something from us.

"There were no hints made or indications, language used in those conversations that led us to believe nothing was being done on the OTR front. Clearly the intention was to keep the information from us."

The OTR letters came to light in February this year when the trial of John Downey for the 1982 IRA Hyde Park bombing which killed four soldiers was halted because he had mistakenly received one of those letters when the Metropolitan Police were looking for him. Mr Downey denied involvement in the attack.

Irish Independent

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