By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN – The speed at which IRA prisoners are being released by the Irish government has been criticized by David Ervine of the Progressive Unionist Party, who said it was regarded as insensitive by many in his community.
Two groups of IRA prisoners – nine in April 14 and three on May 2 – were freed from the Republic’s high-security prison in Portlaoise as part of confidence-building measures connected with the peace process.
The government has gave special weekend release to prisoners to attend the Sinn Fein ard fheis.
Ervine, whose party represents the loyalist Ulster Volunteer Force paramilitary group, said it had been part of his job to argue on behalf of prisoners.
“But we have to be aware of the pain that is causes and I think the government of the Irish Republic have to be aware of the pain it is
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causing in my community, the broader Unionist community who can’t
understand the speed with which IRA prisoners are being released,” he said.
Ervine added that he is not against releases “but there is a perception within our community that there is an insensitivity being shown by the Irish government.” He was also critical of what he said was perceived as an ambivalence in the Republic toward the death of policemen in Northern Ireland.
This subject has caused outrage in the South about the possible release of anyone convicted of the murder of Det. Garda Jerry McCabe, who was shot dead during an abortive post office van robbery in Adare, Co. Limerick, in June 1996. Four men are awaiting trial for the murder.
He said that to have the issue “paraded loudly” in the Republic was seen as a double-standard within his community.
“The levels of megaphone conversation about this issue should be left silent,” he said. “A judge will make his determination in the case of Garda McCabe and that is a matter for the justice system within the Republic.”
Meanwhile, a special meeting of the British-Irish Interparliamentary Body has been called for Dublin on Friday to consider the implications of the Northern Ireland peace deal.
Foreign Minister David Andrews and Northern Ireland Minister Paul Murphy will brief the 50-member body on planning for the historic joint referenda north and south on May 22.
In a statement, co-chairmen Michael O’Kennedy, from the Dail, and
David Winnick, from Westminster, said it was the first such special
meeting called since the joint body was set up eight years ago as a link between the two parliaments.
“The agreement represents an historic breakthrough in Anglo-Irish relations and provides a framework for enduring peace and harmony between all of the traditions in Ireland,” they said.