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Andrew Mackay
I don't think it is justifiable to say one victim is different
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Thursday, 3 August, 2000, 11:42 GMT 12:42 UK
Pressure mounts to free killers
Sinn Fein logo
Sinn Fein wants IRA Garda killers freed from Irish prison
Sinn Fein has stepped up pressure for the IRA killers of an Irish police officer to go free under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

His demand came after Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern insisted that the gang would stay behind bars.

Garda officer Jerry McCabe was shot dead during a botched post office robbery at Adare, County Limerick, in 1996.

Four men pleaded guilty to his manslaughter at Dublin's Special Criminal Court last year when the murder case against them collapsed after a prosecution witness refused to testify.

They were given sentences of between 11 and 14 years, but the Irish Government consistently made it clear that they would not be considered for early release like other paramilitary prisoners.

Gerry Kelly
Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly wants inmates freed
But speaking on Thursday, Sinn Fein spokesman Gerry Kelly said the government's position "flies in the face of the Good Friday Agreement".

"There was a Good Friday negotiation and prisoners were part of that," he said.

"These men belonged to the IRA which was in ceasefire. You cannot have a two-tier system.

"Our negotiators made it clear that qualifying prisoners meant all republican and political prisoners."

Legal action considered

It is understood the four inmates are considering taking legal action in an attempt to overturn the Irish government's ruling.

Among them is Pearse McAuley, who shot his way out of Brixton prison in London in 1991 with Nessan Quinliven while awaiting trial on charges of planning IRA assassinations and bombings.

Pearse McAuley
Pearse McAuley: Convicted of manslaughter
Other paramilitary prisoners on ceasefire have been freed early from prisons on both sides of the Irish border over the past two years.

The final mass release was on 28 July - the cut-off point for the scheme as set out in the agreement.

Bertie Ahern's position has been supported by Shadow Northern Ireland spokesman Andrew Mackay, who said no releases should happen until the paramilitaries disarmed.

"It is a pity British Government were not so robust last week when they let out all the remaining eligible terrorist prisoners back onto the streets of Belfast," he said.

"It is a dramatic parallel which will not be lost on the British public who increasingly despair of their goverment's lack of commitment to the rule of law."

Andrew Mackay
Andrew Mackay backs Irish Government position
But Mr Kelly said: "What is happening here is a discrimination against four people. There are some 400 nationalists who were killed where no one from the British forces has been in jail.

"These men are the same as all the others who were released the other day."

McAuley, from Strabane, County Tyrone, is serving his sentence at Castlerea prison, County Roscommon, along with the other three.

They are Jeremiah Sheehy, Michael O'Neill and Kevin Walsh, all from County Limerick.

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See also:

09 Feb 99 | Latest News
IRA killers jailed
05 Feb 99 | Latest News
IRA killers sentenced
14 Apr 00 | Northern Ireland
Extradition order for IRA man
28 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
NI prisoners savour freedom
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