04 December 2005

Earlier ‘on-the-runs’ ignored by RUC

Sunday Business Post

04 December 2005
By Anton McCabe

Despite the current controversy over the proposed pardons for ‘on-the-runs’ in the North, de facto amnesties have been in place since the Northern state was set up.

Donal Donnelly escaped from Crumlin Road jail in 1960 while serving a 10-year sentence, and took refuge in Dublin.

“It was 29 years until I got home, but that was before the ceasefires,” said Donnelly.

“In 1989 my solicitor in Dublin wrote making representations to the Northern Ireland Office.

“I got a reply that I was free to travel to the North, but the sentence still stood.”

Danny McElduff's father, Jimmy, a wanted man after the War of Independence, returned North in the mid-1920s.

“There was a kind of an unofficial thing; there were hints from the police he wouldn't be touched,” said Danny McElduff.

“When he drifted home there was no attempt to re-arrest him. There was an ‘it's over' attitude, ‘as long as they don't rise any trouble they won't be lifted'.”

Monsignor Denis Faul facilitated the return of about four dozen ‘on the runs' in the 1970s and 1980s.

“Fellows would approach you, and then you would approach the police of a senior rank and say, ‘have you anything on the books against Mr so-and-so',” Monsignor Faul said.

“To be fair to the police, they said yes or no.

“Nobody who came back was ever arrested.

“The RUC could have captured fellows – they never broke their word.”

Sinn Féin's Conor Murphy was on the run in the late 1980s. “I was aware there was an arrest-on-sight warrant from the RUC for me,” he said.

“I stayed in the south for a number of months. I met Pat Finucane in Dublin, we talked through the circumstances.

“He felt there was no evidence to convict me.

“We talked through whether we should challenge the warrant.

“A while after, I was arrested on my way to a funeral in Tyrone, held for five days.

“I wasn't arrested subsequently. If I hadn't decided to challenge that, I could be still sitting in the south.”

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