Gerry Adams TD speaking to the media at Leinster House
The arrest and charging by the British police of John Downey and the arrest and charging of Belfast man Michael Burns, is a matter of grave concern and a clear breach of commitments given by the British government at Weston Park and in subsequent negotiations.
Following the Good Friday Agreement both the British and Irish governments accepted that the issue of those defined as OTRs was an anomaly and the two governments committed to resolve the issue.
The OTRs are individuals who, if arrested and convicted, would be eligible for release under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.
A process was put in place to deal with outstanding cases. John Downey and Michael Burns were two of these.
Between 150-200 individuals were classed as OTRs – On-the-Runs. Some of these were individuals who had escaped from prison or jumped bail.
Most were victims of British Army and RUC harassment.
John Downey is a valued member of Sinn Féin and a long-time advocate of the Peace Process. Michael Burns is in poor health.
The decision to arrest and charge both men is malicious. It is also evidence that those British securocrats who have consistently opposed the peace process are still working to undermine it.
The arrest of John Downey and Michael Burns has caused huge anger among republicans.
For over two decades John Downey has been to the fore in promoting the peace process. As a former republican prisoner he has been involved in Cultural Diversity programmes with former loyalist prisoners.
And he participated in engagements at Corrymeela with former members of the Garda and Irish Army.
Coupled with the British government’s refusal to implement outstanding elements of the Good Friday Agreement these arrests provide yet more alarming evidence of David Cameron’s disregard for the Good Friday Agreement processes.
Sinn Féin has consistently raised all these matters with the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste.
I wrote to the Tánaiste only yesterday and I am meeting with him today to ask the government to urgently put in place a strategy to keep the British government to its obligations under the Good Friday Agreement.