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Peter Hain defends controversial letters sent to ‘on-the-runs’ as an essential part of the Northern Ireland peace process
Controversial letters sent to Irish republicans who were “on the run” were an essential part of the peace process, former Secretary of State for Wales and Northern Ireland Peter Hain has told MPs.
The Neath MP said the scheme – intended to let individuals know whether they were wanted for questioning by the police – helped “drag Northern Ireland away from the horror and the evil and terror of the past”.
Mr Hain cautioned against an outright rescinding of the letters and insisted these were not “get out of jail free cards”.
He said: “I realise this gives deep offence to victims and to my unionist friends but they were essential building blocks to get the peace settlement, to drag Northern Ireland away from the horror and the evil and terror of the past.
“And it would be very, very dangerous and toxic to somehow retrospectively rescind those letters and I know the Secretary of State is not doing that – she is confirming their legal status, or lack of – but I just caution people on that because that was part of getting us from the horror of the past to the peace and stability which we now enjoy.”