Long says Blair appearance shows need for comprehensive deal on past

East Belfast MP Naomi Long has said former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s appearance at a Westminster Committee investigating the administrative scheme for so-called ‘on-the-runs’ has highlighted the need for a comprehensive mechanism for dealing with the past and the importance of transparency in any agreements reached as part of the political process.

Alliance MP Mrs Long was speaking after Mr Blair’s appearance in front of the Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee today (Tuesday) in relation to the scandal, in which it emerged that over 200 republicans were given letters assuring them they were not wanted by the police in connection with terrorist activities, after one of the letters caused the trial of John Downey, accused of the Hyde Park bombing, to collapse.

Mrs Long said Mr Blair’s attendance, which only came after he was summoned by the Westminster Committee, was a chance for him to see first-hand the hurt of victims, many of whom were in the public gallery for the duration.

“I recognise and welcome Mr Blair’s apologies today regarding both the specific error which led to the collapse of the Downey case and the wider lack of a proper structure that could have prevented such errors being made.

“However, it was once again made evident that the thoughts and feelings of those who suffered the most were not foremost in the minds of the people who concocted this scheme, as none of them were made aware of its existence, nor that of the letters.

“The Stormont House Agreement, whilst imperfect, is an opportunity to deal more comprehensively with the legacy of the past, and approach such matters in a transparent way.

“I think the importance of agreements being open to political and public scrutiny, and of all parties being fully aware of what is agreed must also be learnt. Side-deals, however well intentioned, poisoned trust and confidence between parties and between the public and their elected representatives. Most importantly, they compounded the hurt of victims, who ought to be treated with greater sensitivity and respect than was the case during this process.”


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