UK & World News
IRA Suspect Letters Inquiry Results Due
A Government-ordered inquiry will publish its report later into how nearly 200 IRA suspects were given official letters saying they were not under investigation - a secret process that led to one of them walking free from the Old Bailey.
John Downey was due to stand trial for the 1982 Hyde Park bombing in which four members of the Household Cavalry were killed.
But the judge halted the prosecution when he heard the Donegal man had received a letter from government officials saying he was not considered a suspect.
It emerged that 187 such letters had been provided as part of the negotiating process between Tony Blair's government and leaders of Sinn Fein.
British ministers and officials were eager to advance the peace process, but could not get all-party support for legislation which would deal with suspects who had avoided arrest.
Prisoners who had been convicted of terrorism offences received early release from jail under the terms of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, but no solution could be found to those who were described as "on the runs" - who had escaped custody or never been caught.
So letters were sent to those who, through Sinn Fein, sought assurances about their status.
The letter to John Downey from the Northern Ireland Office said: "The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has been informed by the Attorney General that on the basis of the information currently available there is no outstanding direction for prosecution in Northern Ireland, there are no warrants in existence nor are you wanted in Northern Ireland for arrest, questioning or charge by the police.
"The Police Service of Northern Ireland are not aware of any interest in you from any other police force in the United Kingdom."
In fact this letter was wrong - he was wanted by the Metropolitan Police for questioning about the Hyde Park attack, and was arrested during a visit to England in 2013.
His trial was abandoned after his defence revealed the existence of the letter and the process behind it.
The Government said it was an "administrative scheme"; Unionists called it an amnesty or a Get Out Of Jail Free Card. Northern Ireland's first minister Peter Robinson threatened to resign unless there was an inquiry.
Lady Justice Hallett will publish her findings today, with Democratic Unionist MP Nigel Dodds telling Sky News: "This was a deal done by Tony Blair and Gerry Adams, it was kept secret from everybody.
"We want the cold light of day shone upon it so we get to the facts of how it all emerged and how it operated.
"But then looking forward, we want to see that these letters will not provide future comfort to terrorist suspects and that people will be very clear that if there is evidence that they will be pursued through the courts."
There is also a Westminster inquiry, handled by the Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee. Members want Tony Blair to give evidence to them in public, but so far there has been no date agreed to do so.
Northern Ireland's Attorney General John Larkin, and Peter Hain, the former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, have both suggested some form of amnesty for crimes committed before the Good Friday Agreement, in order to draw a line under the past.
But Peter Corrigan of Amnesty International told Sky News: "Sadly victims are seen in some quarters as an inconvenience to be overcome in the greater interests of the peace process.
"That's not how we see it and when a few politicians have flown the kite of a possible amnesty for all pre Good Friday Agreement offences, it's almost universally been rejected by victims and it's certainly rejected by Amnesty International, and by most politicians here."