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Tony Blair to give evidence to IRA 'On the Runs' inquiry

Credit: Philip Toscano/PA Wire

Tony Blair is due to give evidence before a parliamentary investigation into the On The Runs (OTRs) scheme for fugitive IRA members later today.

The former prime minister's Labour administration sent about 200 letters to republicans assuring them they were not being pursued by the UK authorities following requests from Sinn Fein.

An investigation was launched by MPs when the prosecution of a man for the murder of four soldiers during an explosion in Hyde Park in 1982 was halted after he received one of the letters in error.

The OTR letters scheme began while Mr Blair was premier, and the chairman of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee has said he is one of the most important witnesses to the inquiry.

A spokesman for the committee said Mr Blair had confirmed he would be attending a sitting today.

Mr Blair was a key architect of the Good Friday Agreement, which led to IRA arms decommissioning and the establishment of a devolved power-sharing administration at Stormont.


Thatcher government pardoned IRA man who fled jail

An IRA man who escaped prison more than 50 years ago was given a royal pardon by Margaret Thatcher's government, official records from 1985 revealed.

Donal Donnelly fled Belfast's Crumlin Road jail - which he dubbed Europe's Alcatraz - on Boxing Day 1960 while serving a sentence for membership of the armed group during its 1950s border campaign.

Former Northern Ireland Secretary Douglas Hurd agreed to pardon Donnelly. Credit: PA

Former Northern Ireland secretary Lord Hurd, part of a Conservative government scarred by republican violence, agreed to use the Royal Prerogative of Mercy in May 1985.

His decision was made ahead of landmark political talks on British co-operation with the Irish Government.

Afterwards Donnelly lived openly in the Irish Republic - and even wrote a book about his escape.


West Midlands Police: Insufficient evidence for inquiry

Relatives of the families of those killed in the 1974 Birmingham bombings met with West Midland Police today to discuss the possibility of a new inquiry into the death of their loved ones. The families were told there would be no new investigation, or proceedings.

Read: 'No fresh inquiry' into Birmingham bombings

Explaining the decision, Chief Constable Chris Sims said:

There have been questions over the years why certain individuals such as the people named by the media apparently never formed part of any investigation. I want to be open and transparent today and tell you that these men had been subject to investigation in the 1970s and the 1991-94 investigation.

There was insufficient evidence for proceedings against any person.

My professional judgement is that the 1991-94 investigation was carried out to a good standard.

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'No fresh inquiry' into Birmingham bombings

The families of those killed in the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings say police have told them there will not be a fresh inquiry into the attacks.

They have been speaking following a meeting with bosses at West Midlands Police today.

Julie and Brian Hambleton say they have been told there is 'no new evidence'. Credit: ITV News Central

ITV News Central Correspondent Keith Wilkinson said there was an angry response from the victims' families, following the talks.

Brian and Julie Hambleton, whose 18-year-old sister Maxine died in the bombings, said they would continue to fight on and would now be taking legal advice.

Six men were jailed for life for the atrocity in 1975, but sixteen years later, their convictions were quashed by the Court of Appeal.

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Families meet with police over Birmingham bombings

The families of those killed in the 1974 bombings at two Birmingham pubs are meeting with senior police officers to discuss whether a fresh inquiry will be launched.

Brian and Julie Hambleton lost their 18-year-old sister Maxine in the bombings - and have told ITV News Central they have never got over the loss.

Brian Hambleton Credit: ITV News Central

Six men were arrested and the following year were jailed for life for the atrocity.

16 years later, their convictions were quashed by the Court of Appeal amid a series of public scandals about the West Midlands Police Serious Crime Squad.

It is now considered one of the biggest miscarriages of justice in British legal history.

And with the case still officially remaining unsolved almost 40 years later, the families of those lost are demanding answers.

Julie Hambleton Credit: ITV News Central

For the Birmingham Six and their families, the sense of injustice continues too.

They felt they had been used as scapegoats in 1974 - partly to calm anti-Irish tensions in the city at the time - and have accused police of knowing who really was behind the attacks but failing to take action.

At today's meeting, which starts at 10am, senior police officers and prosecutors will discuss with the families whether a fresh inquiry is likely to go ahead.

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