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Saturday, 10 March, 2001, 07:27 GMT
Anger over fugitives amnesty plan

Terence Kirby, Paul Brennan and Kevin Artt fled the Maze in 1983
The Northern Ireland Office has said more paramilitary fugitives will be free to return to the province than was at first thought.

The British and Irish Governments confirmed after intensive political talks with the province's pro-agreement parties at Hillsborough on Thursday they would not pursue cases against paramilitaries wanted by the police.

In September last year former Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson said the amnesty would apply to 21 cases dating back 20 years.

He said they would include people who escaped from prison, and fled to other countries, before finishing their sentences, because all involved would have been eligible for release under the Good Friday Agreement peace accord.

On Friday, the NIO said that more cases than the 21 previously identified would be looked at, but it would not reveal how many or under what criteria they qualified.

Gerry Kelly fears preconditions will be attached to amnesty
Gerry Kelly fears preconditions will be attached to amnesty
However, Sinn Fein has said it is concerned that conditions, such as a start to an IRA disarmament process, could be imposed on the commitment by the two governments to drop the cases.

North Belfast assembly member Gerry Kelly said: "The British Government agreed categorically to deal with this last May.

"They have not dealt with it up to this point and what worries me in the statement is that while they have said they will do it publicly, we might get some conditionality brought into it."

The development has angered the anti-agreement Democratic Unionist Party.

Ian Paisley jnr:
Ian Paisley jnr: "Terrorists and criminals must not get off scot-free"
DUP justice spokesman Ian Paisley junior said he believed it was only a matter of time before suspects in old terrorist cases were not even questioned by the police.

He said: "I reject totally any notion that criminals and terrorists should get off with their crimes scot-free and this communique opens up that possibility.

"A firm message needs to come from the government, or from someone else, that these people will be hunted down, prosecuted and put behind bars.

"Because we can't allow a blank cheque to terrorism."

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See also:

29 Sep 00 | Northern Ireland
Prison fugitives free to return
10 Oct 98 | Latest News
IRA men can challenge extradition
10 Oct 98 | Latest News
IRA extradition U-turn 'a disgrace'
11 Sep 98 | Focus
What will become of the Maze?
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