Donegal County Council has called for the release of John Downey who is in prison charged with detonating a bomb that killed four British soldiers in Hyde Park in London in 1982.
Mr. Downey (61) who has an address in Creeslough, appeared in court in London has week. Donegal County Council has undertaken to write to British Secretary of State for the North of Ireland, Theresa Villiers, calling for his immediate release.
An emergency motion was brought before the council at Monday’s May meeting by Sinn Féin councillor Jack Murray who said Mr. Downey had been told in a letter from the UK’s Northern Ireland Office in 2007 that no British police force were investigating him.
Cllr. Murray said Mr. Downey had accepted this and had accepted that “they would live to their word” . Mr. Downey had travelled to England half a dozen times to visit family and to Canada, since. When he was arrested Mr. Downey was travelling to Greece with his wife and daughter on holiday, Cllr. Murray said. He said Mr. Downey had been a longtime supporter of the peace process who had met with loyalists many times. “This has caused great shock,” he said. “It is an attack on the peace process, was done in bad faith and was unhelpful and malicious.”
Cllr. Seamus Ó Domhnaill said there had been support throughout the island for the Good Friday Agreement and called on the British authorities to honour the letter that was sent to Mr. Downey. He said the imprisonment of Mr. Downey was putting a lot in jeopardy and the agreement was not being adhered to by the arrest.
Cllr. Marie Therese Gallagher (SF) said the arrest was a very unhelpful development for republicans and nationalists throughout the island and a very unhelpful development for the peace process. The arrest would cause friction and tensions, she said.
Cllr. Cora Harvey said the arrest was creating doubt and fear that a commitment had been broken. “This is about John Downey but what about others,” she said “If they can reneague in this, what else can they renege on?”
Cllr. Michael McBride (Ind) said the word of police forces should be their bond.
Mayor Frank McBrearty said the peace process had brought about a lot of positives and it was now in “very dangerous shape” because of the dissidents. “We have to ensure that peace stays,” he said.