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Friday, December 19, 1997 Published at 07:44 GMT


IRA prisoners taste freedom
image: [ Magee, Kavanagh and Quigley will be allowed out of the Maze Prison for Christmas ]
Magee, Kavanagh and Quigley will be allowed out of the Maze Prison for Christmas

Nine IRA men are being released on Friday from jail in the Irish Republic as part of continuing efforts to move the Northern Ireland peace process forward.

The releases, approved by the Dublin government, mean that a total of 15 prisoners have been let out of prison in the republic since the start of the latest IRA ceasefire in July.

These latest releases include lifer Brendan Dowd, a leading figure in the IRA's British terrorist campaigns of the 1970s, who was subsequently transferred to prison in Ireland.

The other man serving life is Sean Kinsella, jailed for the 1974 murder of Irish politician Billy Fox. None of the released group is regarded as high-security risk prisoners.

In tandem moves, more prisoners sentenced for terrorism in Britain, have been repatriated to Irish jails.

Widower's protest to Tony Blair

The widower of a victim of the Brighton bomb is planning to write to the Prime Minister to complain about the decision to allow three of the IRA's most notorious bombers to go home for Christmas.

Paul Kavanagh and Thomas Quigley, both 41, who were convicted of the bombing of the Chelsea barracks in which two people lost their lives, and Brighton bomber Patrick Magee, are among 160 prisoners who have been given leave.

[ image: Patrick Magee]
Patrick Magee
Magee, 46, who was branded "a man of exceptional cruelty and inhumanity" by an Old Bailey judge, was given eight life sentences in 1986.

Kavanagh and Quigley were given five life sentences each in 1985 for a month-long campaign of terror which included the Chelsea bomb and a boobytrap bomb in Oxford Street which claimed the life of an army bomb disposal man.

Sir Donald Maclean, whose wife Muriel died in the Brighton bomb, said: "I am planning to write to the Prime Minister to complain about this. I thoroughly disapprove of the principle of it."

"But from my reading of the history of terrorism, wherever and whatever, the more concessions they get, the more demands they make."

The release has been condemned by the Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary, Andrew Mackay.

He said: "It is a pity and a mistake and I think it looks very bad, particularly in the eyes of those who have been the victims of terrorism."


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