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McCabe ruling profoundly disappointing

29 January, 2004


Sinn Féin TD Martin Ferris has described as "profoundly disappointing" and in "contradiction of the Good Friday Agreement" today's judgement in the Supreme Court which ruled that the release of prisoners qualifying under the Good Friday Agreement is at the discretion of the Minister for Justice. Mr Ferris made his comments as two men, Michael O'Neill and John Quinn convicted in connection with events surrounding the killing of Garda Jerry McCabe lost their appeal against the denial of their early release.

Deputy Ferris said: "It is profoundly disappointing that the Supreme Court has ruled in this fashion. The Good Friday Agreement does not draw any distinction between prisoners belonging to organisations on cessation at the time of its signing. It states that all such prisoners will be released within two years of the signing of the agreement.

"Today's judgement confirms that these men are in fact qualifying prisoners under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement as it has applied to others convicted of 'equally or even more serious' offences. However, in its ruling the Court has unfortunately said that it is acceptable for one party to the Good Friday Agreement to act unilaterally and take on itself to go outside the terms of that agreement. That is completely unacceptable and undermines the agreement itself.

"The Irish Government cannot preach to others about their obligations in relation to the peace process when they themselves are not willing to live up to their own responsibilities. And it is certainly not good enough that these men's rights under the Good Friday Agreement are left to the whim of a vindictive and anti-republican Minister for Justice." ENDS

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