Trimble 'hurt' by OTR letters secret

Trimble 'hurt' by OTR letters secret

The former First Minister David Trimble has appeared before the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee to discuss OTR letters.

Lord Trimble gave evidence to the watchdog on Tuesday about the controversial government scheme which assured hundreds of 'on-the-run' suspects they were not wanted by police.The former UUP leader, who was First Minister of Northern Ireland from 1998 to 2002, told MPs he felt "quite hurt" that he had been kept in the dark about the OTR letters.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 was 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."Mr Trimble, now a Conservative peer, also said he did not have a good relationship with the Northern Ireland Office, dating back to around the time of the Good Friday Agreement.He claimed: "Most of the people there I held in contempt."We only got an agreement (in 1998) because they were excluded from the negotiations in the final week. We would not have had an agreement if the NIO had still had charge of the process."Last week members of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee heard from senior PSNI officers that 95 of 228 republicans who received the letters have been linked to 295 murders.The issue of the OTR letters came to light in February when the trial of John Downey for the 1982 IRA Hyde Park bombing was halted after it emerged he had mistakenly received one.The 62-year-old from Co Donegal denied the charges.NI police have come in for heavy criticism over their handling of the case and Chief Constable Matt Baggott, who was present at the committee last week, has apologised on behalf of the PSNI.A judge-led inquiry into the OTR letters was announced by Prime Minister David Cameron.

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