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Tuesday, March 23, 1999 Published at 09:35 GMT


Tebbit's anger over IRA prisoner 'bungle'

Lord Tebbit says "appeasing" the IRA is wrong

Former government minister Lord Tebbit, whose wife Margaret was paralysed by the Brighton bomb, has accused the Home Secretary Jack Straw of "bungling" the release of IRA prisoners.

Lord Tebbit: "The government is intent on appeasing the IRA"
Lord Tebbit's attack comes after Mr Straw announced that he was blocking the release of four IRA men, including Brighton bomber Patrick Magee.

Three of them were due to be released this week.

Magee, Thomas Quigley, Gerard McDonnell and Paul Kavanagh were convicted by courts in England.

[ image: Patrick Magee is due for release on 22 June]
Patrick Magee is due for release on 22 June
Mr Straw said he was postponing the release of all four while he obtained clarification on their legal position.

They are the first prisoners jailed for life outside Northern Ireland to be due for early release under the Good Friday Agreement.

'Extraordinary bungle'

Lord Tebbit told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "It seems the most extraordinary bungle.

"After all this time, after we have enacted this legislation releasing all these criminals, the Home Office should suddenly discover a flaw in it so far as the release of criminals convicted on the mainland."

The Search for Peace
The former Tory trade and industry secretary said individual cases did not matter and added: "It is clear the government is intent on letting these criminals out so they can be reunited with their guns and be a threat to the people of Northern Ireland."

Lord Tebbit said he did not believe the blocking of the prisoners' releases was designed to put pressure on the IRA to decommission.

'Policy of appeasement'

"They are not putting any pressure on the IRA ... they never have. This government is intent on appeasing the IRA and its programme is eventually to push Ulster into southern Ireland," he said.

Lord Tebbit said the impending release of Magee, who is due for parole under the agreement in June, came only days after the conviction of a gang of IRA "serial killers".

[ image: Norman Tebbit grimaces as he is pulled from the remains of the Grand Hotel]
Norman Tebbit grimaces as he is pulled from the remains of the Grand Hotel
One of the three, Bernard McGinn, was given sentences totalling 490 years but were told they would be released in 16 months under the terms of the agreement.

Lord Tebbit was himself injured when the Grand Hotel in Brighton was bombed during the 1984 Conservative Party conference.

He criticised the Good Friday Agreement for "excusing those who murder for political reasons".

Earlier he told Sky News it was unjust to free people like Magee when someone like former London gangster Ronnie Kray, who has served 35 years in prison, was being refused parole.

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