Thursday, 23 February 1995
Dáil Éireann Debate
17. Mr. E. O'Keeffe asked the asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, in view of political demands for an amnesty for a British soldier convicted of murder in Belfast and the early release and reinstatement of another British soldier a couple of years ago, if he will press the British Government to undertake a fundamental review of prison sentences for both republican and loyalist paramilitary prisoners. [
51. Miss Harney asked the asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, in view of the fact that the Government was to seek a report on the case of a person (details supplied), his views on the campaign for this person's release; his further views on whether it would have an adverse impact on the peace process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [
The issues raised by the Deputies in their questions have been the subject of continuing discussions with the British Government. I availed of the Intergovernmental Conference of 14 February to discuss these issues directly with the Secretary of State. While I do not propose to enter into the details of these exchanges, I can say that the British Government is fully aware of our views and concerns.
The individual in question has been convicted before the courts, and that conviction has been upheld twice on appeal. Further referral to the courts is of course possible if new evidence is put forward. However, it is essential, if trust in the administration of justice is to be maintained, that all cases should be  dealt with equally under the law. The reaction from both communities in Northern Ireland makes clear that any attempt to give special treatment to the individual concerned, in isolation from the broader prison issues evoked by the ceasefire, is likely to provoke resentment and complicate the task of sustaining support for the peace process. The British Government is aware of our views in this regard and of the need for sensitive handling of cases of this kind.
As for a fundamental review of prison sentences, it is essential in the context of the peace process that prison issues should be dealt with in a sensitive and flexible manner and with particular reference to the changed likelihood of reoffence by paramilitaries in the wake of the ceasefires. I conveyed my views in some detail on this point at the recent meeting of the Intergovernmental Conference on 14 February.
|Last Updated: 21/05/2011 21:47:53||Page of 70|