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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.