Government 'was told about Downey'

Government 'was told about Downey'

The British government was informed that a prime suspect in the 1982 Hyde Park bombing was wanted by police a year before it sent him a so-called 'comfort letter', the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee has heard.

Giving evidence before the Westminster committee on Wednesday was former Secretary of State Peter Hain, who said he did not recall a letter from the then Attorney General Lord Goldsmith in 2006, stating that John Downey was wanted for questioning.DUP North Antrim MP Ian Paisley Jr challenged Mr Hain's assertion that he first heard of Mr Downey in 2013 when he was arrested and charged in connection with the IRA bombing.He read out correspondence addressed to Mr Hain and a number of senior Northern Ireland Office officials from Lord Goldsmith, which listed Mr Downey as one of a number of individuals seeking letters of assurance."To be frank, whether it's an oversight on my part, you are reading out a letter that I can't recall Ian," Mr Hain responded."It obviously exists or you wouldn't be reading it out."The Labour MP added: "I am not saying I've never seen it, I'm saying I can't recall it."The committee of MPs is reviewing the controversial NIO administrative scheme, which began in the wake of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement and assured over 200 'on-the-runs' that they were not wanted by police.The issue of the OTR letters came to light in February when Mr Downey's trial over the IRA bomb attack was halted after it emerged he had mistakenly received one.The 62-year-old from Donegal denied any involvement in the bombing.Mr Hain branded as "absolutely outrageous" a later query by Mr Paisley over whether he had "inadvertently perjured" himself by not mentioning the letter in his evidence to the judge in the Downey case.He said that the PSNI error in Mr Downey's case had been "catastrophic and inexplicable" but stressed that the wider scheme was both "lawful and honourable".Also speaking to the committee was Christopher Daly, brother of Household Cavalry Lieutenant Anthony 'Denis' Daly, who died in the attack in London.He said he and families of the three other soldiers killed believe they will not see justice after Mr Downey's trial collapsed."This whole episode has left the families feeling devastatingly let down," he said."The mistakes that were made have left a breach of trust feeling. Owing to the fact that it was professionals in positions of authority that made these mistakes and who have effectively cheated us, as in the families, from seeing this previously wanted man having to face justice in court."


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