Friday, September 11, 1998 Published at 07:53 GMT 08:53 UK
Paramilitary prisoners walk free
The Maze prison could be turned into a museum
Three republicans and three loyalists - as yet unidentified - are set to leave the Maze prison, 10 miles from Belfast, on Friday morning.
They are being freed early under the Good Friday Agreement on the political future of Northern Ireland.
Up to 200 are expected to be freed by the end of October and most of the rest will probably be out by Christmas.
Among those set for release in coming months are Ulster Freedom Fighters commander Johnny 'Mad Dog' Adair and Brighton bomber Patrick Magee.
The 400 prisoners set for release are affiliated to the Irish Republican Army and to the loyalist paramilitary organisations, the Ulster Volunteer Force, the Ulster Freedom Fighters and the Red Hand Commando.
The releases will leave less than 50 embers of dissident republican organisations and the Loyalist Volunteer Force which do not qualify for the release scheme.
For those serving fixed terms there will be an increase in remission from 50% to 66%. That means someone sentenced to 15 years will serve only five.
All of this is being overseen by a Sentence Review Commission, also established as part of the Agreement.
The vast majority of the 400 inmates set for release are currently housed in the Maze prison.
It is to be rapidly run down over the next two years, possibly ending its life as a museum.
The prison, a penal institution unique in western Europe, has been dogged by controversy since it was established more than 25 years ago.
A total of eight Maze prison staff have been murdered, including two deputy governors.
The release of prisoners follows a breakthrough meeting on Thursday of Northern Ireland First Minister David Trimble and Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams.
Mr Adams and Mr Trimble put decades of hostility behind them and broke one of the last taboos in Ulster's difficult history when they met behind closed doors at Stormont, the future seat of government in Northern Ireland.
Following the meeting, the RUC Chief Constable, Ronnie Flanagan, announced that all army patrols would be withdrawn from the streets of Greater Belfast from this weekend because of the reduced risk of terrorism.