Page last updated at 15:09 GMT, Sunday, 7 March 2010

Woodward denies IRA 'on the runs' given pardons

Gerry McGeough
Gerry McGeough said that 47 'on the runs' were told they could return

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has denied that pardons have been granted to a quarter of the so-called 'on the run' members of the IRA.

Tyrone republican Gerry McGeough told the Sunday Tribune 47 of the 216 fugitives were told they could return.

Mr McGeough, who is to stand trial for IRA membership and attempted murder of a UDR man in 1981, said his lawyers uncovered the information.

Shaun Woodward said there was no secret deal on 'on the runs'.

"I think when people actually look at the facts the idea of pardons being given is complete nonsense," he said.

Mr McGeough said his lawyers would challenge the prosecution on Monday using information obtained from the Northern Ireland Office under the Freedom of Information Act.

He said Sinn Fein provided the authorities the names of 216 'on the runs', whose files were then reviewed to determine if they were "wanted".

The NIO told the paper decisions were based on the evidence; whether they were in the public interest and that political considerations played no part in the assessment.

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