Tony Blair may be summoned to parliament over IRA deal
Committee wants to quiz former prime minister over ‘comfort letters’
Tony Blair may be summoned before parliament to face questioning about a secret deal he made with Sinn Fein to assure IRA suspects “on the run” that they were not wanted by the police, says the Sunday Telegraph.
Almost 200 IRA terrorism suspects were told, in so-called “comfort letters”, that they were not wanted by police. Blair’s role in the controversial agreement is under the microscope.
MPs on a select committee are to consider issuing a formal parliamentary order compelling him to attend a hearing to give evidence, after the former prime minister was accused of dodging their attempts to question him.
Blair has cited a busy diary that includes his duties as a Middle East peace envoy as well as plentiful business commitments. Being forced to appear by summons would be highly embarrassing for the former prime minister. But one MP investigating the deal says Blair must attend, as he is in “the thick of it”.
A report to be published this coming week is expected to spotlight discussions between Blair and Gerry Adams, the Sinn Fein leader, on how to deal with “on-the-run” suspects.
And documents seen by the Sunday Telegraph show Blair gave Adams personal assurance in 1999 that the issue would be “sorted”, that there was great effort in Whitehall to keep the scheme secret, and that Blair’s government overruled objections from prosecutors in Northern Ireland.
Laurence Robertson, the Tory MP and chairman of the Northern Ireland Affairs select committee, said MPs will “compel” the former Labour leader to attend if he does not “find a date in his diary” soon.
He added: “We are going to have to press him. There is going to be bad publicity … if he doesn’t come because people will draw their own conclusion.”