John Downey has decided to cancel the get-together that was planned for this evening in Termon to allow him to thank those who supported him throughout his arrest and imprisonment in England.
The 62-year-old was arrested at Gatwick in May and charged with the murder of four members of the Household Cavalry in the Hyde Park car bomb in 1982. Last week, Mr Justice Sweeney said the case could not proceed because Downey had received a letter in 2007 assuring him that he was no longer being sought by any police force in the UK.
In a statement issued this morning, Mr Downey said he would never try to insult or add to the hurt of anyone who is bereaved, as has been suggested in the media, and that he will not allow the event to be turned into a media circus.
“Some elements of the media are portraying the event planned for tonight as triumphalist and insulting to bereaved families,” he said.
“That was never what it was about.
“On the contrary, since long before the Good Friday Agreement I have been working to promote peace and reconciliation between our people on this island, meeting with members of Loyalism and Unionism in trying to put the past behind us and move into the future in peace together.”
He added: “My goal is, as it always was, a united Ireland where everybody is equal. I would never try to insult or add to the hurt of anybody who is bereaved as I am only too aware of their pain as there are many bereaved families also in the republican community.
“I refuse to allow what was planned as a simple get-together of family, friends and neighbours who supported me throughout my wrongful arrest and imprisonment in England to welcome me home and allow me to thank them, to be misrepresented and turned into a media circus.
“For this reason I have decided to cancel the homecoming get-together planned for the Lagoon tonight and I know that my friends and neighbours will understand.”