AN IRA suspect has denied murdering four British soldiers in a Provisonal bomb attack in London’s Hyde Park in July 1982.
Senior Sinn Fein member John Downey, 62, from Carrigart, Co Donegal, is accused of killing Roy Bright, Dennis Daly, Simon Tipper and Geoffrey Young.
The members of the Household Cavalry members were killed as they rode from their barracks in Knightsbridge to Buckingham Palace.
Downey also denied intending to cause an explosion likely to endanger life.
The bomb Downey is accused of planting was the first of two that caused carnage in London on 20 July 1982.
In the first incident, a nail bomb in a blue Austin car was detonated as the Household Cavalry members made their way through the park to the Changing of the Guard parade at Buckingham Palace.
As well as the four men, seven horses were killed and a number of police officers and civilians were injured.
In the second explosion, less than two hours later, seven Royal Green Jackets bandsmen in a Regent’s Park bandstand were killed.
Downey was arrested at Gatwick Airport last May following a review of the case by Scotland Yard’s Counter Terrorism Unit.
On Friday, he entered pleas of not guilty at London’s Old Bailey courthouse.
He remains on conditional bail pending his trial.
The arrest of Downey provoked a strong reaction from Sinn Fein who called for his immediate release.
However, his arrest was welcomed by unionist politicians
Sinn Féin Assembly member Gerry Kelly said Sinn Féin member Downey was a “long-time supporter of the Peace Process” and 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.”