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Sinn Féin raise political ex-prisoners issue with NIO Minister Paul Goggins

17 September, 2008

Sinn Féin Foyle MLA Raymond McCartney accompanied Sinn Féin President, Gerry Adams yesterday when he met with British Minister Paul Goggins to discuss the problems facing political ex-prisoners, particularly around employment.

Raymond McCartney said:

"We drew to Mr Goggins attention the British Secretary of State's acknowledgement in a recent letter to Gerry Adams that 'we all have a responsibility to ensure former prisoners are neither legally nor administratively penalised'.

"We pressed the Minister to deal conclusively with this problem. Former political prisoners are too often unable to access employment in government agencies, on statutory boards or in departments which are being run by ex-prisoners who are Government Ministers."

The Minister agreed to respond to Sinn Fein on this matter.

The Good Friday Agreement and St. Andrews both recognised political prisoners as an important sector of society. This was in line with the status accorded such prisoners during the conflict.

Mr McCartney added:

"The Irish and British governments supported programmes to facilitate the re-integration of former political prisoners into the community. The majority of former political prisoners successfully re-integrate into their own communities. However serious blockages and obstacles still exist, preventing them from, for instance pursuing employment opportunities and other economic activity.

"The root of this stems from the fact that the law makes no distinction post imprisonment between common criminal activity and arrest, and imprisonment arising from conflict related incidents.

"Employers are therefore required to apply the same policies, practices and procedures to former political prisoners as they would to anyone convicted of fraud or sexual offences. Accordingly political prisoners and their families are legally and administratively penalized in respect of a range of issues including:

  • Public Sector Employment
  • Recruitment and selection/child protection
  • Child adoption
  • Fair Employment legislation
  • Criminal injuries and criminal damage compensation
  • Freedom of Expression
  • Freedom of Movement
  • Access to Finance (mortgages, insurance, bank loans)
  • Pensions

"A sensible approach to resolving this anomalous situation for those imprisoned as a result of the conflict is required. This would allow for a fresh start for the thousands of ex-political prisoners and their families who currently face serious employment and other difficulties." ENDS

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