Campaigners demand IRA 'amnesty letter' inquiry

Justice4the21 protest Campaign group Justice4the21 gathered in Westminster to demand an inquiry into letters sent to IRA members

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Families of IRA victims are demanding an inquiry over secret letters guaranteeing prosecution immunity to paramilitary suspects.

Dozens protested in Westminster after the government said it would not appeal against the dropped prosecution of an alleged bomber John Downey.

Last month, a judge ruled he could not be tried because of the guarantee.

A campaign group for victims of the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings called on ministers to challenge the judgement.

'Physically sick'

Last month, a judge ruled the trial of Mr Downey, who denied killing four soldiers in the 1982 Hyde Park bombing, could not proceed because of a letter sent in error to Irish republican paramilitary suspects.

Peter Hain, then-secretary of state for Northern Ireland, has said the letters were "necessary" for the success of the peace process.

Members of the Justice4the21 campaign group travelled from Birmingham to Westminster and said they wanted the government to "make the situation right".

Maxine Hambleton Maxine Hambleton was one of 21 people killed in the Birmingham pub bombings

One member, Julie Hambleton, whose sister Maxine was killed in the 1974 bombings, was at the protest.

"We want there to be a full, public, judicial inquiry where witnesses are compelled to give evidence," she said.

"The whole country should be in uproar about this and they should be demanding the government appeal this judgement.

"When we found out about these letters we all felt like we had been stabbed in the back by our own side; we felt physically sick."

Attorney General Dominic Grieve confirmed the government did not plan to challenge the court's decision.

Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter Robinson had threatened to quit unless a judicial inquiry into the matter took place.

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