15 January 2006

Dublin under fire on fugitives

Sunday Times

Liam Clarke
15 January 2006

SINN FEIN has criticised the Irish government for shelving plans to give presidential pardons to on-the-run terrorists.

Dermot Ahern, the minister for foreign affairs, announced last week that the scheme, which would affect about six people, would not be implemented. This followed the British government’s decision to withdraw its proposals.

Gerry Kelly of Sinn Fein said yesterday that the Irish government’s decision was unreasonable. “In the south, there is a much smaller number involved,” he said. “But it is still an anomaly which came from the Good Friday agreement and could have been sorted out.”

Kelly, a former hunger striker, was himself on the run for three years after taking part in a mass break-out from the Maze prison in 1983 where he was being held for bombing offences committed in London.

He was recaptured in Holland in 1986 when he was found in possession of bomb-making equipment, which he asked the Dutch police to return to the IRA.

“The fact that the British have acted in bad faith should be no reason for the Irish government to join them in terms of refusing to go ahead with this process,” he said yesterday.

The Irish government made it clear months ago that its proposals would not be implemented unless there were parallel arrangements in Britain.

Peter Hain, the secretary of state for Northern Ireland, withdrew his bill last week at Sinn Fein’s request.

Last month Gerry Adams told Hain that Sinn Fein would be asking on-the-run terrorists not to avail of the planned legislation because it also benefited members of the security forces who committed offences during the Troubles.

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