On the Runs: Gerry Kelly will not attend Westminster committee

Martin McGuinness and Gerry Kelly Martin McGuinness said there was no point in Gerry Kelly (right) attending the hearing

Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly will not attend a hearing of Westminster's 'On the Runs' inquiry, his party colleague Martin McGuinness has said.

It is examining how more than 200 people were told they were no longer wanted for paramilitary crimes before the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

A separate inquiry ordered by PM David Cameron is due to report in the summer.

Mr McGuinness said he and Gerry Adams had met Lady Justice Hallett's review team earlier this week.

The On the Runs letters scheme came to light in February when the trial of County Donegal man John Downey for the 1982 IRA Hyde Park bombing was halted because he had mistakenly received one of those letters.

'Surprised'

Laurence Robertson, chairman of the Northern Ireland Affairs select committee, said he was "surprised" that the party had given evidence to the Hallett team but would not attend the hearing.

However, Mr McGuinness said there was "no point".

Who are the On The Runs?

Agreement cover

Anyone already convicted of paramilitary crimes became eligible for early release under the terms of the Northern Ireland Good Friday agreement of 1998.

The agreement did not cover:

  • Anyone suspected of, but not charged with, paramilitary offences committed before the Good Friday Agreement.
  • Those who had been charged with offences but who had escaped.
  • Those who had been convicted of offences but who escaped.

The deputy first minister said: "Sinn Féin has clearly outlined our position on the issue of On the Runs and despite claims to the contrary, neither this process, nor the agreements on which it was based, were secret or hidden.

"However, in the interests of transparency and in an attempt to minimise the damage to the peace process from a growing public controversy, Sinn Féin agreed to participate fully and willingly in the Hallett Review.

"To that end our party president Gerry Adams, Gerry Kelly and myself met with the Hallett review team earlier this week and put Sinn Féin's position on this and other legacy issues on the record.

"We see no point therefore in Gerry Kelly attending the Westminster select committee into the issue."

Mr Robertson said he had received letters from the party on their position on Saturday.

"I am especially surprised that they say they are giving evidence to the Hallett inquiry," said the Conservative MP.

"It begs the question 'what is the difference?' and of course there is a big difference - one is in public and the other is in private.

"That is the only difference I can see and that is obviously something that they are uncomfortable with.

"We were giving them the opportunity to put forward their point of view in public. If everything is above board why not come in and discuss it?"

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