Category: Archive

Mowlam defends prisoner releases

February 15, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Andrew Bushe

DUBLIN – The early release of paramilitary prisoners as part of the peace deal was strongly attacked this week by the chairman of the Police Federation in Northern Ireland, Lesley Rodgers, who said his group was appalled and “dismayed and appalled” by the measure.

He told the annual conference that as a non-political organization, the Federation had merely referred to the need for sensitivity in the issue in the run-up to the May 22 referendum vote.

To applause, he then bluntly said to Northern Ireland Secretary Mo Mowlam, “I have to tell you now that the voting is over that we were dismayed and appalled at the decision and its implications.”

When Mowlam stood up to speak, a constable from Belfast who had witnessed the death of a colleague nine years ago, held up a newspaper montage of RUC members killed in the Troubles.

He shouted, “No prisoner releases,” and then left the conference hall in Newcastle, Co. Down.

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Mowlam moved to reassure the force and said there would be no disbandment of the RUC.

She said there would be no general amnesty for prisoners and individual licence conditions would be strictly imposed.

“I know that the prisoner accelerated releases is difficult for many people, and particularly problematic for the RUC and the families that have lost people,” she said, adding, however, that it was part of the overall agreement and was one of the tough decisions that had to be taken.

The commission to be set up under the peace deal to review RUC will be headed by Chris Pattan, the last Hong Kong governor and former chairman of the Conservative party.

Mowlam said it would be a “balanced” commission and the Irish government had been consulted about its composition.

Rodgers said that there were people in the Maze and Maghaberry Prisons who, by any objective measurement, “should not only get out in the next two years, they should never get out.”

“My Federation and I have no doubt that the general public will want to see the legislation and the new commission impose the tightest possible licence arrangements on those who will benefit from early release,” Mowlam said.

“Not only should there be no recidivism, but they should not be allowed to consort publicly with ex-prisoners either.

“Let’s have no more utterly offensive reunions such as we saw by the Balcombe Street gang at the ard fheis or of Michael Stone at the Ulster Hall.

“Anyone who thought that allowing Michael Stone to attend that rally somehow redressed the balance of offensiveness failed to realize that all decent people were disgusted by both events and shocked at the naivetT of the respective governments.”

He said that in any other society “serial killers” are kept behind lock and key for life.

“It is a pity that, for political expediency, we should be the exception.”

Rodgers said he came to see the commission to review the RUC as a welcome opportunity to end the debate on the future of the force for once and for all.

“There will be no two-tier policing, there will be no paramilitaries in our ranks and, above all, there will be no disbandment of this proud force,” he said.

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