Dessie O’Hare, former leader of the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA), has finally been freed from prison, but not under the terms of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.
O’Hare was one of a handful of republicans who remain behind bars despite satisfying the conditions of the prisone release programme.
After an extended campaign by supporters, the 50-year-old was granted extended temporary leave after serving 18 years of a 40-year sentence.
The move effectively means that O’Hare will remain free unless he breaches the strong conditions of his release.
O’Hare had spent the past four years in Castlerea prison in County Roscommon from where he had been previously granted release on a temporary basis. he had previously been imprisoned in one of the South’s toughest facilities, Portlaoise Prison.
During his time in Portlaoise, O’Hare took a yogic vow of silence, refusing to speak for several years. He also studied history, psychology and metaphysics, among other topics.
The man known as the ‘Border Fox’ was a controversial figure even to supporters of the small INLA armed group, and a notorious and violent paramilitary to his opponents.
Although many of O’Hare’s actions were not carried out on behalf of the INLA and the organisation disowned them at the time, the INLA-linked Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP) has campaigned for O’Hare’s release.
O’Hare was at the centre of a major manhunt when his gang brutally kidnapped the son-in-law of a wealthy businessman in October 1987, holding him in a basement in Dublin.
After three weeks on the run, the INLA man was arrested during a shoot-out in which he was injured and an associate was shot dead.
O’Hare, who supported the peace process, went to the High Court earlier this month to seek a declaration that his continued detention was unlawful.
He will have to maintain good behaviour and regularly return to Castlerea Prison to sign on for his extended temporary release to be renewed.