THE charging of Donegal republican John Downey in connection with the 1982 IRA Hyde Park bomb attack in London has been condemned by Sinn Féin as “vindictive, unnecessary and unhelpful” to the peace process.
Downey was arrested on Sunday night at Gatwick Airport by Scotland Yard’s anti-terrorist branch after arriving on a flight.
Sinn Féin Assembly member Gerry Kelly said the Sinn Féin member and “long-time supporter of the Peace Process” should be released. Gerry Kelly added:
“The decision to arrest and charge him in relation to IRA activities in the early 1980s is vindictive, unnecessary and unhelpful. It will cause anger within the republican community.
“Clearly, if John Downey had been arrested and convicted previously he would have been released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.
“As part of the Weston Park negotiation, the British Government committed to resolving the position of OTRs [‘On the Runs’].
“John Downey received a letter from the NIO in 2007 stating that he was not wanted by the PSNI or any British police force.
“Despite travelling to England on many occasions, now – six years on – he finds himself before the courts on these historic charges.
“This development represents bad faith and a departure from what was previously agreed by both governments.
“John Downey needs to be released and allowed to return home to his family.”
The 61-year-old is due Westminster Magistrates Court on Wednesday afternoon charged with the murders of four members of the Household Cavalry.