Report into North’s on-the-runs controversy to be published

Inquiry into scheme for dealing with republicans accused of paramilitary offences had been due in June

Northern Secretary Theresa Villiers announced the on-the-runs report will be published today. Photograph; Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times

Northern Secretary Theresa Villiers announced the on-the-runs report will be published today. Photograph; Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times

Thu, Jul 17, 2014, 07:59

Gerry Moriarty

The report into the on-the-runs controversy in Northern Ireland is to be published today.

The inquiry into the British government scheme for dealing with republicans accused of paramilitary offences was carried out by Lady Justice Hallett after the collapse in February of a case against Donegal man John Downey. He was accused of involvement in the 1982 Hyde Park bombings in which four British soldiers were killed.

British prime minister David Cameron asked Lady Justice Hallett to conduct her inquiry after First Minister Peter Robinson threatened to resign over the issuing of comfort letters to more than 200 republicans telling them they did not face prosecution for paramilitary offences. At the time, there was concern the issue could destabilise the powersharing administration at Stormont.

The House of Commons Northern Ireland Affairs Committee is also investigating the scheme.

The case against Mr Downey was halted after it emerged that he had mistakenly received a comfort letter saying he wasn’t wanted for questioning on any IRA offences.

Unionist politicians complained that they were kept in the dark about the on the runs scheme while Sinn Féin politicians said the matter had been raised at the Policing Board and they should have been aware.

Lady Justice Hallett was due to report by the end of June but her investigation was delayed. Northern Secretary Theresa Villiers announced the publication date would be today.