A party to celebrate the release of the 1982 Hyde Park bomb suspect, whose trial collapsed last week, has been cancelled.
John Downey, a Sinn Fein member accused of planting the explosive, said he has called off the gathering in a village pub in north Donegal over concerns it was being turned into a media circus.
The 62-year-old said the party had been planned as a simple get together of family, friends and neighbours who supported him after his arrest.
Mr Downey, who denies any involvement in the bombing, said: "Some elements of the media are portraying the event planned for tonight as triumphalist and insulting to bereaved families. That was never what it was about."
Tony Blair's former chief of staff and Britain's chief negotiator in the peace process has said Northern Ireland's secret letters crisis is based on "a misunderstanding."
Writing in The Times, Jonathan Powell said discussions about "on-the-runs" were "no secret" and a "recurring issue" throughout peace process negotiations.
"The letters are statements of fact, and certainly have nothing to do with an amnesty," he added.
John Downey’s release, he goes on, "has nothing to do with an amnesty or a secret deal and everything to do with a cock-up."
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair engaged in a "deliberate deception by omission" by failing to tell the majority of politicians in Northern Ireland about the agreement his government struck with Sinn Fein to deal with on-the-run republicans, Stormont's First Minister has said.
Peter Robinson heavily criticised the conduct of the previous Labour administration as he addressed an emergency meeting at Stormont to debate the controversy over letters sent to more than 180 terror suspects informing them the authorities in the UK were not seeking them.
"The answer that there were no plans to legislate and no amnesty would be introduced was a deliberate deception, a deception by omission, for the Government could easily at that stage have indicated that there was an administrative process which included giving letters to OTRs," he told MLAs.
Northern Ireland Assembly members will convene today to debate the controversy over letters which were sent to around 180 paramilitary suspects after being recalled by First Minister Peter Robinson.
Robinson withdrew his threat to resign, after David Cameron ordered a judge-led review of the issue.
Details of the letters emerged when the case against John Downey who was charged with the 1982 IRA Hyde Park bombing collapsed, because officials mistakenly sent him an assurance letter in 2007 telling him he was no longer a wanted man.
Responding to David Cameron's announcement of an independent inquiry into the Government's process of sending secret letters to IRA suspects, the President of the Docklands Victims Association, told ITV News that the victims in Northern Ireland and the UK "have been far too forgotten."
Jonathan Ganesh, who was injured during the Docklands bombing in 1996, said that "to actually give somebody immunity... causes great concern."
The inquiry into the scheme to deal with secret letters to IRA suspects will:
- Produce a full public account of the operation
- Produce a public account of the extent of the administrative scheme for OTRs
- Determine whether any letters that were sent contained errors
- Make recommendations on any errors
The inquiry judge will be able to review all the documentation and invite people for interview but will not be able to compel witnesses to attend and those that do will not be questioned on oath.
It will be up to former ministers and officials invited to interview whether they attend.
The Government said it would be making clear to all those who had received a letter in the past, as part of a deal Sinn Fein struck with Labour, that if evidence now existed, or emerged in the future, which linked them to an offence they could be questioned or prosecuted.
– DUP leader Peter Robinson
I think that makes it clear that they have a fairly worthless piece of paper.
Democratic Unionist First Minister Peter Robinson told reporters: "There's going to be contact with those who are recipients [of the letters] to make it clear what the limitations of the letter are."
He went on: "If any on-the-runs are in Northern Ireland and the police have information that would lead them to question those individuals they will do so and if they have evidence which they can produce in court that they believe could secure a conviction, they will do so."
"I think there will be a lot of OTR's will sleep less easy tonight," he added.
A statement by Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Theresa Villiers, supported David Cameron's comments that letters sent to so-called on-the-run republicans "did not amount to immunity, exemption or amnesty from arrest."
– Statement by Secretary of State on OTR Scheme
The letters did not amount to immunity, exemption or amnesty from arrest. The letters made this clear.
That remains the case. No recipient of such a letter should be in any doubt that if evidence emerges in the future in connection with terrorist offences committed before the Belfast Agreement they will be liable for arrest and prosecution.
"I hope that we can put this episode behind us," Democratic Unionist First Minister Peter Robinson told reporters at a news conference today.
"I am satisfied with the response I've got from Government, I do not intend to resign," he added