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Cameron Orders Probe Into Immunity Letters Sent to IRA Fugitives

Feb. 27 (Bloomberg) -- Prime Minister David Cameron ordered a judge-led inquiry into a government policy of sending letters to Irish Republican Army fugitives assuring them they were no longer wanted by police.

Cameron said he accepted calls for a “full, independent examination” after Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson threatened to resign, claiming he had been kept in the dark over the issue.

Almost 200 letters were sent, as part of the peace process, informing IRA suspects they could travel in British territory without fear of arrest. Details of the program emerged after a judge dismissed charges against John Downey, who was accused of involvement in the 1982 Hyde Park bombing, because he had been given a letter in error.

“I agree with the First Minister of Northern Ireland that, after the terrible error in the Downey case, it is right to get to the bottom of what happened,” Cameron told reporters in London today. The inquiry will examine whether any other letters were sent in error and report by the end of May, he said.

Robinson, who praised Cameron for dealing with the issue promptly, said he is satisfied with the terms of reference of the inquiry and will not resign.

“If you get what you want why on earth would you resign,” he told reporters.

Downey was arrested at Gatwick Airport last year and charged with the murders of four soldiers who died in the Hyde Park bomb. He denied the charges and said he backed the peace process.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Atkinson in London at a.atkinson@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net

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