LONDON – The British government says that confidential letters sent to Irish Republican Army fugitives as part of Northern Ireland's peace process are no longer valid and will not protect recipients from arrest for outstanding crimes.
Tuesday's announcement from Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers came two months after a judge-led inquiry concluded that the letters, supplied to 187 IRA veterans mostly from 2007 to 2010, sometimes were issued in error. Most fugitives live today in the Republic of Ireland.
The scandal has increased divisions in Northern Ireland's unity government. British Protestant leaders demanded that the letters be nullified, while the major Catholic-backed party, Sinn Fein, insisted they be honored.
The public learned of the letters in February, when an IRA murder trial collapsed after the defendant revealed his letter.