Controversy continues over Castlerea 4
Controversy continues over Castlerea 4

Garda police in the 26 Counties have called for four Provisional IRA members to be kept in jail regardless of any new peace deal in the North.

The four, who are serving sentences for manslaughter in connection with an abortive raid in County Limerick in 1996, are still being held at Castlerea prison in County Roscommon.

Garda Detective Garda Jerry McCabe died in the raid. The men are the only qualifying IRA prisoners under the terms of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement to still be behind bars.

Republicans have accused the Dublin government of using the men as political hostages in bargaining in the current negotiations.

Although the Good Friday Agreement made no exception for the men, the 26 County Supreme Court found earlier this year that there were no legally binding requirements for any prisoner releases under the Agreement.

A campaign for the four to be refused release has repeatedly pointed to private assurances given by Fianna Fail politicians on the matter. It has been strongly supported by Independent Newspapers and other mainstream media outlets.

In November 2000, Mrs McCabe insisted she had full confidence in the assurances to keep the men behind bars.

“I have every confidence in the government and future governments. Public opinion would not accept their early release and I know the people would be behind me,” she said.

At the weekend, Mrs McCabe and the Garda Representative Association attacked the Dublin government for even discussing the four in the northern talks.

Opposition Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny insisted the release of the men was not part of the Good Friday Agreement, but typically did not give a reason.

“How it got on to the agenda with a negotiator as skilled and experienced as the Taoiseach [Bertie Ahern] is beyond me,” he said.

“He said ‘no’ in the beginning and he should have the strength and sovereign leadership to stand by that.”

He insisted the releases would “completely undermine the integrity and authority of the office of Taoiseach”.

Sinn Féin chairman Mr Mitchel McLaughlin said that he “did not want to make Mrs McCabe’s suffering any worse,” but pointed out that the four men were entitled to be freed.

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