DUP wants clarity over McDowell on-the-run remarks
A senior Northern Ireland MP has demanded an urgent response from the Government over claims by former justice minister Michael McDowell of a top-level decision not to pursue on-the-run IRA killers in the Republic.
Jeffrey Donaldson, of the Democratic Unionist Party, said he was appalled by the revelation which, he warned, would have a significant impact on ongoing talks about dealing with the past.
The Lagan Valley MP was responding to suggestions by former Tanaiste Mr McDowell that a de facto amnesty has operated south of the Border for years. "Frankly, I am not surprised by this revelation but I am appalled by it," said Mr Donaldson, his party's victims spokesman.
"The innocent victims of terrorism in the Irish Republic are entitled to justice and it is a matter of concern that the Irish Government appears to have taken a unilateral decision not to pursue justice in such cases."
Mr McDowell last week said there was "a consensus" in the Republic dating back at least 14 years that the gardai would no longer be prosecuting historical paramilitary cases.
He said: "In fact what happened in the Republic was that there was just a decision by the guards to use their resources to prevent current crime and current offences and not to go back over the IRA's campaign of violence."
Mr Donaldson said the revelation would fuel concerns about many investigations including those into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings in 1974, which killed 34 people, and the killings of two senior RUC officers near the Border in 1989.
A long-running inquiry into the deaths of Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Supt Robert Buchanan in an ambush last year ruled that botched investigations were down to political expediency at the cost of victims' rights.
Mr Donaldson said Taoiseach Enda Kenny must immediately clarify the Irish Government's current policy on prosecuting past IRA and loyalist paramilitary crimes.
"It will have a major bearing on the ongoing discussions that we are having in Northern Ireland about how we deal with the legacy of the past," he said.