Prisoner releases given cautious welcome
By MICHAEL PIERSE
Eighty six prisoners were released last Friday under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, including 47 Óglaigh na hÉireann POWs.
While the releases were welcomed by the IRA prisoners, disapointment was expressed that five republican prisoners remain in Castlerea jail in the 26 County state.
46 of the IRA POWs were released from Long Kesh and another was released from Castlerea . Two statements were made on behalf of the prisoners as they emerged from the jails north and south of the border.
Jim McVeigh, the most recent IRA Officer Commanding in Long Kesh, stated that republicans would leave the prison ``unbowed and unbroken.
``We are determined to pursue and achieve goals for which so many gave their lives,'' he said, ``the establishment of a united and democratic socialist republic.''
McVeigh also emphasised that republicans intend to build on the peace process with whoever is ``prepared to help build a new future for all our people.
``As republicans who have experienced suffering we understand the hurt of others.''
Pádraic Steenson, the only prisoner to be released in the 26 Counties, emerged from Castlerea to thank all those ``involved in securing my early release. As you are aware prisoner releases are an important step under the Good Friday agreement''.
However, the main thrust of Steenson's statement was critical of the 26-County government's failure to release the comrades he left behind.
``I have to stress that I am saddened that I have left behind some of my comrades,'' he said. ``It is hypocritical that the Irish governmnet have failed to release them under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement even though they are qualifying prisoners. They have no right to cherry pick who qualifies to suit their own political agenda.
``The remaining republican prisoners fully support the leadership of the Republican Movement in their efforts to secure a just and lasting peace in Ireland,'' Steenson concluded.