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NI Assembly Set For Recall Over Bomb Ruling
A secret deal between the previous Labour government and Sinn Fein where IRA suspects were assured they would not be prosecuted may have also involved the granting of royal pardons.
The suggestion was made by Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter Robinson, who said if people received the Royal Prerogative of Mercy it indicated there were offences involved.
Mr Robinson was speaking a day after it emerged the prosecution of John Downey, 62, over the 1982 Hyde Park bombing in London had collapsed.
The convicted IRA member was mistakenly sent a letter of assurance by the Northern Ireland office in 2007 telling him he was no longer a wanted man when the Metropolitan Police had an outstanding warrant against him.
The deal saw government letters of assurance given to more than 180 Irish republican paramilitary suspects which led them to believe they would not be prosecuted.
It was apparently struck after an effort to legislate on the issue of on-the-runs (OTRs) failed.
Mr Robinson, who met Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers on Wednesday, has requested the recall of the devolved Northern Ireland Assembly on Friday over the matter.
He said he was "kept in the dark" over the letters and threatened to quit unless a public inquiry was ordered into the controversy triggered by the Downey case.
The Democratic Unionist leader said the contents of a motion he would put before the Stormont Assembly during a specially convened session on Friday would depend on how the Government responded to his demand for a public inquiry into the controversy.
He said: "It appears that we are not just dealing with on-the-runs who received letters but we are also dealing with people who received the Royal Prerogative of Mercy, that indicates there were offences involved.
"So we are not talking just about people who it is believed that the police did not have sufficient evidence to make a prosecution stick - that makes it a very serious matter."
Of the 187 letters, 38 have been sent since the coalition came to power in 2010, although the applications were received before then. The last was in December 2012.
Mr Robinson added: "I have to say quite frankly that I am not prepared to be the First Minister of a government that is kept in the dark on matters that are relevant to what we are doing."
However, Defence Minister Anna Soubry, a former barrister, said there was no chance of a judicial review.
"You can't judicially review the decision," she said. "You can appeal it, the prosecution can appeal it. The Crown Prosecution Service has taken the view that these are not the right circumstances to appeal it."
Speaking at Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday, David Cameron described the case as a "dreadful mistake".
The PM also called for a review into why the letter - which wrongly stated that Downey was not being sought by British police - was sent.
Mr Cameron told MPs: "We should be absolutely clear: the man should never have received the letter that he received. Of course, that is absolutely shocking.
"I completely understand the depth of anger and concern that people will feel right across this country about the appalling events that happened in 1982 and the fact the person responsible is now not going to be appropriately tried."
The IRA attack killed four members of the Household Cavalry and seven of their horses in July 1982. The victims' families have said they feel "devastatingly let down" by this week's developments.
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