Disgust at 'welcome home dance' for Hyde Park bomb suspect

A poster advertising the homecoming event for John Downey A poster advertising the homecoming event for John Downey

Unionists have expressed "disgust" at a planned homecoming celebration for a man who police suspect was involved in the 1982 Hyde Park bomb.

John Downey denied killing four soldiers in the IRA attack but the case against him collapsed when the court heard of a secret government scheme.

He was one of 187 people who received letters assuring them they did not face arrest and prosecution for IRA crimes.

His supporters have planned a "welcome home dance" in a County Donegal pub.

'Appalled'

Start Quote

This is almost literally dancing on the graves of those who were blown apart, whilst on ceremonial duties”

End Quote Danny Kinahan Ulster Unionist Party

Both the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) and the Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) have condemned those involved in organising the event, which is due to take place on Saturday night.

UUP MLA Danny Kinahan, who knew one of the Hyde Park victims personally, said he was "appalled".

"My reaction to these reports of a homecoming party is one of utter disgust," the South Antim MLA said.

"This is almost literally dancing on the graves of those who were blown apart, whilst on ceremonial duties," Mr Kinahan added.

The UUP MLA served in the Household Cavalry with Lt Anthony Daly, who was one of those killed in the Hyde Park attack.

'Ghoulish celebration'
John Downey John Downey denied killing four soldiers in the IRA bomb attack in Hyde Park

The pair were close friends, and Mr Kinahan was best man at Lt Daly's wedding a month before the bombing.

The MLA said the homecoming was in "incredibly bad taste" and added that those responsible for it were "rubbing salt into the emotional wounds of the family and friends of those who died on that terrible day in 1982".

TUV leader Jim Allister said: "This ghoulish celebration will sicken people across Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK."

A representative from the County Donegal pub said the event had been booked very recently and they were "delighted to get the business" at a quiet time of year.

Mr Downey, 62, who was convicted of IRA membership in the 1970s, had denied murdering the soldiers and conspiring to cause an explosion.

The case against him collapsed after it was revealed during private hearings that Mr Downey was one of 187 Irish republicans who had received letters of assurance from the British authorities that they did not face prosecution.

Inquiry

The letters were an attempt to resolve the long-running issue of On the Runs, escaped prisoners or those who feared arrest for paramilitary crimes committed in the UK before the Good Friday peace agreement of 1998.

Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter Robinson had threatened to resign over the revelations unless the government set up a judicial inquiry into the On the Runs scheme.

On Thursday, Mr Robinson confirmed he would stay in his post after Prime Minister David Cameron appointed a judge to lead a review of the scheme.

The judge is expected to complete a report by the end of May.

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On the runs controversy

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