Senior Sinn Fein member John Downey walked free over IRA Hyde Park bombings in London with a 'get out jail free letter'

Senior Sinn Fein member John Downey walked free over IRA Hyde Park bombings in London with a ‘get out jail free letter’

FORMER top cop Sir Ronnie Flanagan will be grilled by MPs today over the IRA on-the-runs scheme, Belfast Daily can reveal.

Sir Ronnie was chief constable of the PSNI when Sinn Fein was pushing Tony Blair’s Labour Government to grant wanted Provos immunity from prosecution.

MPs on the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee launched a probe into the OTR scheme following the collapse of the John Downey Hyde Park bombing trial at London’s Old Bailey in February

During his trial, it was revealed that Downey, from Co Donegal, had received a letter from the Northern Ireland Office saying he was not wanted by the PSNI.

However, fisherman Downey was in fact wanted by Scotland Yard over the 1982 Hyde Park murders.

MPs will quiz Sir Ronnie, 65, about the running of the OTR scheme under his watch before he resigned in 2002.

While Sir Ronnie was chief constable, the PSNI received dozens of Provo names from the Northern Ireland Office to check if they were still on a wanted list.

During secret talks with NIO officials in December 2001, Sinn Fein leaders provided a list of 161 IRA members.

Officials told the then Prime Minister Tony Blair that 47 names had been cleared, including 22 who had escaped from either the Maze or Crumlin Road prisons.

In a further 12 cases, the Director of Public Prosections for Northern Ireland, Alistair Fraser, said they could be prosecuted for terrorism offences.

And in the cases of another 10, the PSNI had sufficient evidence to warrant arrest for prosecution

A political row erupted earlier this month after retired Det Chief Supt Norman Baxter accused Downing Street of attempting to pervert the course of justice.

Mr Baxter told MPs there was “a culture within the Northern Ireland Office to ensure that republicans were not prosecuted”.

He also said the PSNI was scapegoated for the collapse of the Downey case.

During his evidence to the committee, Mr Baxter claimed Downing Street rang the chief constable’s office in March 2007.

He said they had asked for the release of two republican suspects, Gerry McGeough and Vincent McAnespie, and said it was “illegal and unconstitutional”.

However, his claims were rejected by former PSNI chief constable Sir Hugh Orde.

“At no time did Number 10 try to influence my decision-making. At no time did any secretary of state – and I had four of those – try to influence me,” said Sir Hugh.

“At no time did any official from the NIO ever try to influence my operational decision-making.

“And had they, I would have made it public immediately.”


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