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Villiers: 'No one should rely on' letters of comfort

Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers has said that individuals with so-called 'letters of comfort' would be treated by the authorities in exactly the same way as individuals who did not have one.

No one should take any comfort from these letters. No one should rely on them ...

Decisions of the independent police and prosecuting authorities on whether individuals are prosecuted will be on the basis of decisions made now, not decisions made at some point in the past. And those decisions will be made on the basis of all the available evidence.

To all those who have a letter I say - if the police or prosecuting authorities have evidence which is available today or becomes available in the future to pursue you, they can and will pursue you.

– Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers

Ms Villiers said she would make a fuller written statement to Parliament in "the coming days".

NI Secretary casts doubt on terror suspects' letters

The Northern Ireland Secretary has said that republicans suspected of crimes committed during the Troubles should "no longer draw comfort" from letters informing them that police were no longer pursuing them.

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Theresa Villiers Credit: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Theresa Villiers told a Westminster committee that she had to clarify the status of the so-called 'letters of comfort' after a judge-led review called their accuracy into question.

The issue came to light in February when the case against a man accused of the 1982 Hyde Park bombing collapsed because it emerged he had been sent one of the letters in error.

In July, an inquiry found that the letters were flawed and "did not amount to an amnesty" for terror suspects.

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Villiers to call for new focus to heal divisions

In a speech today, Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers is expected to call for a focus on paramilitaries rather than the police as part of future measures to heal divisions over the conflict. She is expected to say:

At least with a new process, agreed by Northern Ireland's political leaders, there is scope to write in from the start the need for an objective balance and with proper weight and a proportionate focus on the wrongdoing of paramilitaries...rather than the almost exclusive concentration on the activities of the state which characterises so many of the processes currently under way.

Theresa Villiers to call for focus on paramilitaries

The Northern Ireland Secretary is to call for "proportionate" focus on wrongdoing by republicans and loyalists rather than the police as part of future measures to heal divisions over the conflict.

Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers. Credit: Press Association

Many processes for addressing the legacy of the past - during which thousands were killed or maimed amid 30 years of bombings and shootings - have concentrated on the activities of security forces, Theresa Villiers will argue, rather than paramilitaries who were responsible for most cases.

The devolved ministerial Executive at Stormont is spending more than £30 million a year on historical matters, with police trawling hundreds of thousands of documents, in part to investigate shootings carried out by former officers or soldiers.

NI Secretary condemns attempted letter bomb attack

Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers has condemned an attempted letter bomb attack after a viable device was found at a postal sorting office in Londonderry.

The letter bomb was discovered at a postal sorting office in Great James Street. Credit: Google Maps

Ms Villiers said, "Once again these individuals have demonstrated a completed disregard for our postal workers and the local community. Anyone with any information should pass it to PSNI [Police Service Northern Ireland]."

McGuinness & Villiers to hold talks on secret letter crisis

Stormont's Deputy First Minister will hold talks with the Northern Ireland Secretary as a political crisis triggered by the collapse of the Hyde Park bombing case continues to threaten the future of the devolved administration in Belfast.

Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness. Credit: Will Oliver/PA Wire

Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness and Theresa Villiers are set to meet at Stormont Castle to discuss the controversy that prompted First Minister Peter Robinson to threaten to resign.

The Democratic Unionist leader has effectively given the UK Government 24 hours to respond to his demand for a public inquiry into secret letters sent to IRA suspects that assured them they would not be prosecuted.

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N Ireland Secretary appeals for calm ahead of parade

Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers has appealed for calm ahead of a controversial parade commemorating deceased IRA members.

Ms Villiers said: “I know the deep pain this parade will cause the families of victims in West Tyrone and the rest of Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers has appealed for calm ahead of the parade in County Tyrone. Credit: Paul Faith/PA Wire

“I would appeal for calm in Castlederg today.

“All possible support must be given to the police in upholding the rule of law and acting to keep the community safe at this tense time.”

N Ireland Secretary calls Belfast violence 'shameful'

Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers called last night's violence in Belfast "shameful" after 26 police officers were injured.

Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers called the clashes in Belfast 'shameful'. Credit: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Ms Villers continued, "After success for Northern Ireland this summer as host to both the G8 and the World Police and Fire Games, disorder on the streets is a hugely regrettable step backwards.”

NI Secretary condemns 'tragic waste of a young life'

Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers Credit: David Jones/PA Wire

Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers has called the car crash that killed a young police officer a "tragic waste of a young life in sad and reckless circumstances".

"Constable Reynolds died as she went about her job keeping people safe in the community she served.

"I send my sincerest condolences to her bereaved family and colleagues. And I wish the two injured officers a full and quick recovery."

NI Sec: Exceptionally difficult day for the Government

Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers said the information contained in the de Silva report made "exceptionally difficult" reading for the Government. She said the report uncovered new, shocking information:

"I think this is genuinely an exceptionally difficult day for the British Government, because we are presented with the facts of state involvement, the involvement of paid state agents in a killing, which is utterly unacceptable, utterly devastating"

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