Terrorism: Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland Office written question – answered on 10th April 2017.

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Photo of Lord Tebbit Lord Tebbit Conservative

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Dunlop on 27 March concerning the amnesty against prosecution for members of the IRA, whether the administrative scheme of comfort letters sent to on-the-runs has been terminated; and if so, when.

Photo of Lord Dunlop Lord Dunlop The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Northern Ireland Office)

In March 2014, the then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland first announced that the administrative scheme established by the former Labour Government into the so-called ‘on the runs’ was at an end. This was repeated in a statement to the House of Commons following publication of a detailed report into the scheme by Lady Justice Hallett in July 2014 (HC Deb 17 July 2014 Col 1040). It was further confirmed in a statement to the Commons on 9 September (HC Deb 9 September 2014, columns 779-789). In her report, Lady Justice Hallett concluded that “The administrative scheme did not amount to an amnesty for terrorists…Suspected terrorists were not handed a ‘get out of jail free’ card”. This Government has always been clear. In May 2010, had we at any time been presented with a scheme that we thought amounted to an amnesty, immunity or exemption from prosecution, we would have stopped it immediately. As far as those who received letters are concerned, the Government made very clear in the statement on 9 September 2014 that “Those who received individual or composite letters, or any other form of indication, stating that they were “not wanted” and who derived comfort from that should cease to derive any such comfort. In short, the recipients should cease to place any reliance on those letters” (Col 779). This Government believes in the application of the rule of law without fear or favour - where there is evidence sufficient to warrant prosecution people will be prosecuted.

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