12 January 2006

Republic decides to drop its plans

Belfast Telegraph

By Brian Dowling
12 January 2006

Plans to allow 'on-the-run' paramilitaries to return to Ireland without risk of criminal prosecution have also been abandoned by the Republic's government.

Secretary of State Peter Hain yesterday scrapped new legislation after fierce opposition by all sides in Belfast and Westminster.

He told MPs the decision last month by Sinn Fein to reject the Northern Ireland (Offences) Bill, despite initially appearing to embrace it, had left him with no choice but to go back to the drawing board.

A short time later a spokesman for Taoiseach Bertie Ahern confirmed the Republic's government was also dropping its plan to introduce a similar measure.

He said withdrawal of the UK legislation meant the proposals for dealing with the matter in this jurisdiction "are now in abeyance".

Both governments are now gearing up to exert pressure on all Northern Ireland parties to return to talks next month over restoring power-sharing.

Sinn Fein's about turn came after intense criticism from the SDLP, when it became clear soldiers and police would also have qualified.

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