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Tuesday, December 23, 1997 Published at 11:14 GMT


IRA prisoners released for Christmas
image: [ IRA convicts are being allowed out of The Maze prison to spend Christmas with their families ]
IRA convicts are being allowed out of The Maze prison to spend Christmas with their families

Two IRA men responsible for bombings have been released from prison for Christmas.

They are among 170 paramilitary prisoners being granted Christmas leave from jails in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Patrick Magee, who planted the Brighton bomb that killed five people at the Conservative Party conference is expected to leave the Maze prison, Northern Ireland, on Tuesday, to spend 10 days with his family.

Tommy McMahon, who killed Lord Mountbatten, is understood to have walked out of his jail in the Republic of Ireland last Friday.

[ image: Patrick Magee: home for Christmas]
Patrick Magee: home for Christmas
Magee, who has served 11 years of a minimum 35-year term, is among 161 inmates who will spend Christmas at home with their familes.

McMahon is one nine prisoners in the republic being allowed out for the holiday period.

Five people died in the Brighton bomb at the Grand Hotel, including Muriel Maclean, the wife of the former Scottish Conservatives Chairman, Sir Donald Maclean, and Roberta Wakeham, wife of former Chief Whip, Lord Wakeham.

McMahon, in the 19th year of a life sentence, was responsible for the bomb that killed Lord Mountbatten, his grandson and a boatboy on August 27, 1979.

He has since renounced his links with the IRA and is serving his time in Mountjoy Prison, Dublin. The other men being released in the Republic are IRA men being held at the high security prison in Portlaoise.

The releases have angered the relatives of many of the bombers victims and has prompted political comment.

Sir Donald Maclean, whose wife Muriel died in the Brighton bomb has written to the Prime Minister Tony Blair to complain.

"They are getting the concession of enjoying Christmas with their families but my wife has not been given that chance," Mr McLean said.

"The men chose terrorism and are among the worst of the criminal fraternity their crimes are indiscriminate thuggery and they deserve no leniency."

The move was also condemned by the Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary, Andrew Mackay.

"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," he said.

Ulster Unionist MP, Ken Maginnis, said the move to release IRA prisoners was ill-judged.

"This is badly considered ... it could be a big mistake."

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