Peter Hain: Ignorance of IRA 'comfort' letters 'risible'

Former secretary of state for Northern Ireland Peter Hain has said it is risible for key politicians to claim they had no knowledge so-called comfort letters were sent to IRA on-the-runs.

In a week when controversy over the scheme threatened to pull down Stormont's devolved government, the Labour MP said it was clear for anyone who wanted to see that the assurances were not get out of jail cards, immunity or amnesty.

Former secretary of state for Northern Ireland Peter Hain Credit: PA

The political crisis was sparked when the trial of John Downey for the 1982 Hyde Park bomb spectacularly collapsed last week in London.

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Mr Hain said: "There is no suggestion that the contents of the letters to those 'on the runs' were cleared with key politicians of all parties, or the details of the scheme shared, but the idea that they did not know anything about them is risible.

"Diverting police time to investigate Bloody Sunday soldiers or crimes from the Troubles seems a waste when the priority today should surely be tracking down the tiny, but dangerous, attacks from dissident IRA groups, as well as facilitating ordinary, plain community safety," he said.