UK & World News

  • 1 March 2014, 20:25

Hyde Park Suspect John Downey Cancels Party

Suspected Hyde Park bomber John Downey has cancelled a controversial homecoming party planned after the collapse of his trial.

Unionist politicians had expressed their disgust after Mr Downey's supporters advertised a "welcome home dance" in a Co Donegal pub.

In a statement released by Sinn Fein, Mr Downey, 62, blamed elements of the media for portraying the event as "triumphalist and insulting to bereaved families".

The former oyster farmer said the party was intended as a simple get together of family and friends who had backed him after his arrest.

Mr Downey denied killing four British soldiers in the 1982 Hyde Park bombing but his trial collapsed when it emerged he had been informed he did not face arrest or prosecution for IRA crimes, despite the Met police holding a warrant for his arrest.

The case sparked a political crisis over the handling of 187 "on-the-runs" who were sent similar letters, apparently offering them immunity from prosecution.

About 500 guests were expected at the Lagoon bar and restaurant in Termon near Letterkenny including Sinn Fein MP Pat Doherty, who does not take his Westminster seat, and Stormont Assembly member Gerry Kelly.

Mr Downey said he would never try to insult or add to the hurt of bereaved people by hosting the party.

He said: "On the contrary, since long before the Good Friday Agreement I have been working to promote peace and reconciliation between our people on this island, meeting with members of Loyalism and Unionism in trying to put the past behind us and move into the future in peace together.

"My goal is, as it always was, a united Ireland where everybody is equal.

"I would never try to insult or add to the hurt of anybody who is bereaved as I am only too aware of their pain as there are many bereaved families also in the republican community."

:: Watch Sky News live on television, on Sky channel 501, Virgin Media channel 602, Freeview channel 82 and Freesat channel 202.