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Last Updated: Monday, 19 February 2007, 17:58 GMT
Irish exempt from prisoner plans
Most Irish prisoners are to be exempt from deportation plans
Most Irish nationals are to be exempt from plans to deport foreign prisoners from Britain, the government has said.

Since last April, all nationals from European Economic Area countries jailed for two years or more in the UK have been considered for deportation.

This has led to deportation action against a number of Irish nationals.

However, on Monday UK Immigration Minister Liam Byrne announced an exception for Irish citizens due to Britain's close ties with the Republic.

"Irish citizens will only be considered for deportation where a court has recommended deportation in sentencing or where the secretary of state concludes, due to the exceptional circumstances of the case, the public interest requires deportation," Mr Byrne said.

Irish prisoners whose cases are not considered exceptional, whose sentences have expired and who are currently in custodial detention awaiting deportation will be released over the next week.

The Irish minister for foreign affairs, Dermot Ahern, has welcomed the announcement.

"Following discussions between the two governments, this is a very satisfactory result, which reflects the close ties between our peoples, the Common Travel Area and the excellent state of relations between both Governments.

"This will come as a great relief to individual prisoners and their families," Mr Ahern said.

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