Man in court over Hyde Park IRA bomb (UTV)

A Co Donegal man has appeared in court charged with the murder of four soldiers in the 1982 Hyde Park bomb in London.

John Anthony Downey, 61, is accused of being responsible for a car bomb left in South Carriage Drive.

The explosion killed four members of the Royal Household Cavalry as they travelled from their barracks to Buckingham Palace.

He was arrested at Gatwick Airport on Sunday.

Downey spoke only to confirm his name, date of birth and address during the short hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday afternoon.

He briefly greeted his solicitor Gareth Peirce from the dock.

He is charged with murdering Roy John Bright, Dennis Richard Anthony Daly, Simon Andrew Tipper and Geoffrey Vernon Young.

They were among soldiers who were caught up in the bomb attack as they rode through Hyde Park to the Changing of the Guard.

Four men and seven horses were killed and a number of police officers and civilians were injured in the blast.

Downey has also been charged with intending to cause an explosion likely to endanger life.

He will next appear at the Old Bailey on Friday.

It is alleged that Downey is responsible for the improvised explosive device contained in a car parked in South Carriage Drive, SW1, London, which resulted in the deaths of four members of the Royal Household Cavalry, Blues and Royals, as they travelled on their daily route from their barracks to Buckingham Palace.

Sue Hemming, Crown Prosecution Service
Under the Good Friday Agreement, anyone convicted of a terrorist offence which took place before 15 April 1998 and the signing of the agreement can request to be transferred to a prison in Northern Ireland and then, apply to the Sentence Review Commissioners to be released after serving two years in custody.

Gerry Kelly, Sinn Féin North Belfast MLA, said: “John Downey is a member of Sinn Féin and a long time supporter of the Peace Process.

“The decision to arrest and charge him in relation to IRA activities in the early 1980s is vindictive, unnecessary and unhelpful. It will cause anger within the Republican community.

“Clearly if John Downey had been arrested and convicted previously he would have been released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.”

Mr Kelly continued: “As part of the Weston Park negotiation the British Government committed to resolving the position of OTRs [on the runs].

“John Downey received a letter from the NIO in 2007 stating that he was not wanted by the PSNI or any British Police Force. Despite travelling to England on many occasions now six years on he finds himself before the courts on these historic charges.”

Mr Kelly said the development represents bad faith and a departure from what was previously agreed by both governments.

“John Downey needs to be released and allowed to return home to his family.”

Reacting to the comments, DUP Deputy Leader Nigel Dodds said that all right thinking people would be appalled that Sinn Féin can turn to the negotiations of Weston Park in order to justify their stance.

He added: “There can be no mitigation for claims that someone is “a supporter of the peace process”, “a good republican” or any other phrase which Sinn Fein may care to use.”

Ulster Unionist MLA Danny Kinahan added: “For Gerry Kelly to describe the arrest of John Downey in connection with the 1982 IRA Hyde Park bombing as “vindictive” demonstrates just how far some members of Sinn Fein clearly have to travel to grasp how law and order really works.

“Whether or not John Downey is, as Gerry Kelly says, “a long-time supporter of the peace process” is irrelevant. It may be politically inconvenient or embarrassing for Sinn Fein when certain individuals are arrested and/or charged with offences, but that does not mean that Justice should be prevented from being done.”

The South Antrim MLA continued: “The entire community is, and must be, subject to the rule of law. It is irrelevant whether or not they are members of Sinn Fein or any other political party, whether they are supporters of the peace process or opponents of it.

“Justice must be done.”

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