Donegal republican John Downey, who is being pursued in connection with an IRA action in 1972 in which two British soldiers died, handed himself in to Gardaí police earlier today, according to a report this evening by the Press Association.
Gardaí released a statement on Friday evening which said a “male in his sixties” had been extradited to British jurisdiction “in accordance with an EAW (European Arrest Warrant) issued by the PSNI”.
Five years ago, a high-profile trial in London of the 67-year-old former PoW on charges of involvement in the 1982 IRA Hyde Park attack collapsed spectacularly after it emerged he had an ‘on the run’ letter.
The letter contained a written assurance from the government of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, dating from 2007, that he was not actively wanted by the British authorities.
To the outrage of unionists, the trial was stopped on the grounds it would be contrary to public interest if it was allowed to proceed.
Last year, a second British attempt to prosecute Mr Downey over a separate IRA action saw a judge agree to order his extradition.
An appeal heard that police had attempted to fabricate evidence using a picture taken from Mr Downey’s house. The court was told members of the 26 County Gardai police unlawfully removed pictures of Mr Downey from his home and passed them to the authorities in Britain. These pictures were used to create an image of Mr Downey as a suspect in the Hyde Park attack.
Following his initial arrest in November last year, Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty noted that it had happened “at a time when the British government and authorities are looking for a blanket amnesty for their own soldiers given the spotlight is on them for their activities in the North.”
Sinn Féin’s Gerry Kelly has described the pursuit of Mr Downey was “an act of gross bad faith” by the British government.
“The allegations against John Downey have already been dealt with and the British government has publicly stated that he is not wanted in connection with any offence,” Mr Kelly said.
“This was asserted in the courts. John Downey has been a supporter of the peace process over many years and to pursue his arrest and extradition now is vindictive and bad faith.
“It breaks commitments given by the British government and is an effort to overturn the court’s findings.”
Mr Downey is due to appear at Omagh Magistrates Court in County Tyrone on Saturday morning.