Robinson accuses Hain of 'inaccuracy' on OTRs


The first minister told MLAs that replies to parliamentary questions about On The Runs given by former Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain were "inaccurate", on 3 March 2014.

Peter Robinson said that, on 11 October 2006, he had asked Mr Hain in the House of Commons for assurance that in the absence of legislation on On the Runs "no other procedure would be used to allow on the run terrorists to return. Mr Hain's reply was' 'There is no other procedure'".

The minister said that, following the recent Downey judgement, it was clear that the process was "underway in 2002 never mind 2006/2007 and therefore the answers given in the House of Commons are inaccurate".

Details of secret letters sent to paramilitary suspects came to light after the London trial of a man suspected of the IRA bombing in Hyde Park in 1982 collapsed.

It emerged that 187 people had received the letters telling them they would not face prosecution for IRA crimes.

A threat by Mr Robinson to resign as first minister was lifted after Prime Minister David Cameron agreed there should be a judge-led inquiry into the matter.

The DUP's Ian McCrea asked whether the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) had any authority to continue to issue the letters after the devolution of justice powers to Stormont in April 2010.

The first minister said it seemed clear to him that following the devolution of matters relating to the PSNI and prosecutions "the responsibility for this issue should have been transferred in 2010".

"If that is the case," he continued, "then there is no legal authority for either the PSNI to be responding in the way that it did and certainly no authority for the NIO to be issuing letters".

Earlier in Question Time, the first minister told MLAs the Haass talks process had been "superseded".

The TUV leader, Jim Allister, asked Peter Robinson what future there was for Haass given that it was "built on deceit".

Peter Robinson said the matters discussed in the Haass talks had now been taken up by series of party leaders' talks.

"I don't think there's anybody in this house who would be satisfied that the three issues that had been discussed during the Haass process, namely the past, parades and flags are issues where the status quo is satisfactory. I'm certainly not satisfied," he said.

The first minster said these matters would have to be dealt with.

"The issues do not go away," Mr Robinson said.

Education Minister John O'Dowd replied to questions on a range of issues, including grammar and Irish medium schools, teachers' health and the Education and Skills Authority.

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