DUP MP Ian Paisley Junior has asked if a former IRA prisoner from County Londonderry was granted a Royal Pardon, while he was still wanted by police in Northern Ireland.
Mr Paisley raised the question during a briefing of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee last week.
The North Antrim MP asked if Liam Averill, from Maghera, who escaped from the Maze dressed as a woman in 1997, had been granted a ‘royal prerogative of mercy.’
He addressed the question to Ronnie Flanagan, a former Chief Constable of both the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).
The committee was conducting a hearing on the ‘Administrative scheme for “on-the-runs.”’
During the exchange, Mr Flanagan indicated that it generally would have been ‘very obvious’ that escapees from the Maze would have been wanted by the PSNI, although he said he would need to check the records in the case of Mr Averill.
Mr Paisley asked: “Mr Averill? No Secretary of State raised those individual cases with you - their needs or the fact that Sinn Féin was pursuing to have those people released.”
Mr Flanagan replied: “The sort of people you have named are the sort of people in the category that we would definitely have wanted, so there would not have been, really, any point in a discussion. It would have been very obvious.”
Mr Paisley asked the former Chief Constable if Mr Averill had definitely been wanted, to which he replied he couldn’t be 100 per cent sure.
The DUP MP then suggested Mr Averill had been pardoned, stating: “It is our understanding that he received a royal pardon.”
Mr Flanagan replied: “I would not have had any connection or any discussion about royal pardons.”
To which Mr Paisley offered: “It would be interesting if he was definitely wanted and got a royal pardon. That would be dynamite.”
Mr Averill, aged 49, was jailed for life in December 1994 for the murder of Alan Smith and John McCloy in Garvagh in 1994.