29 July 2005

Fugitives on the run can return to Ulster

Belfast Telegraph

By Chris Thornton
29 July 2005

The Government has confirmed that IRA fugitives it has officially hunted for decades will be allowed back into Northern Ireland under the deal around yesterday's IRA statement.

Rita O'Hare, the Sinn Fein official who went to America with Martin McGuinness for yesterday's announcement, is among around three dozen IRA suspects known as "on the runs" who will be allowed back across the border without fear of arrest.

Secretary of State Peter Hain confirmed last night that in the autumn he will push through a plan, first unveiled in October 2003, to allow the return of fugitives like Ms O'Hare. She jumped bail years ago while awaiting trial for the attempted murder of soldiers.

The plan was issued over unionist objections but the Government said it would not be implemented until there was a complete end to IRA activity.

Under the 2003 plans, fugitives will undergo a trial to determine if their wanted status will be dropped. Even if they are found guilty of any offences, they will not serve a sentence.

Last October, Michael Rogan, one of the OTRs, was arrested in Tenerife and extradited to Northern Ireland, where he remains in custody. He skipped bail over an IRA attack on Army headquarters in Lisburn in which a soldier was killed.

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