THE unconconditional release of Sean Kelly from police custody appears to end speculation about the status of his life sentence. The former IRA man was freed from the Maze prison in 2000 having served only seven years of nine life sentences for his role in the Shankill Road bomb.
Recalling paramilitary prisoners released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement is a relatively rare occurrence. As the most controversial strand of the 1998 peace accord, many victims were outraged that republican and loyalist inmates – some convicted of multable murders – would serve just a fraction of their sentence. However, the vast majority of those released quietly intergrated back into society. Many high-profile republicans and loyalists took up careers in politics or community work with ex-prisoners or interface groups. Others chose a more anonymose existence, fading into obscurity. As part of their early release conditions, prisoners had to sign an aggreement stating they would not become reinvolved in paramilitary activity.
Life-sentence licences can be revoked if a person is considered to be a threat to society. Such a decision could be based on intelligence provided to the Secretary of State. Since 1998 this has happened on a number of occasions, the first being with UDA boss Johnny Adair in 2003. Shankill bomber Kelly was the first republican to be recalled to prison after accusations he was involved in riots in Ardoyne in June 2005. He was released amid a major political row the following month, the night before the IRA officially ended its armed campaign. More recently bomber Marian Price and Lurgan republican Martin Corey have been returned to prison. While neither were released early under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, as life prisoners they both still have licence conditions. Of the 450 prisoners released between 1998 and 2000, only 23 have been recalled. Of that total, 17 were loyalist and six republican. There have been nine paramilitry life sentence prisoners released under other legislation – such as Price and Corey, who were released prior to the signing of the agreement. Of those nine, six were loyalist paramilitaries and three republican.
WITH MANY THANKS TO: ALLISON MORRIS,
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