Dáil Éireann - Volume 453 - 23 May, 1995
Written Answers. - Release of Prisoners.
Mrs. O'Rourke Mrs. O'Rourke
41. Mrs. O'Rourke asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will urge the British Prime Minister to adopt a programme for the phased release of both Loyalist and Republican paramilitary prisoners in view of the durable cessation of violence. [7960/95]
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Spring) Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Spring)
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Spring): The range of issues relating to prisoners is of central importance in the development of the peace process, and in light of the clearly reduced risk of reoffence in the new situation brought about by the ceasefires. I have devoted particular attention to these matters including the question of release and prison conditions in the  discussions which I have had with the Secretary of State in the framework of the Anglo-Irish Conference. The Taoiseach also raised the issues in his recent discussions with Prime Minister Major in Moscow. In addition, both the Taoiseach and I have availed of recent visits to London to brief the British Opposition parties fully on our concerns.
There are a number of areas where I see scope for rapid progress towards early and orderly releases from prisons in Northern Ireland: an increased rate of remission for long term determinate sentence paramilitary prisoners is one obvious step which would, I believe, have an immediate and positive effect. The rate of remission for such prisoners convicted since 1989 is currently 33 per cent. It was reduced from 50 per cent in 1989. I see an urgent case for a reversion at least to the status quo ante. Another area where I would hope to see movement is in the review arrangements for life sentence prisoners.
I attach importance also to greater flexibility in the Summer Home Leave parole scheme which applies to long term prisoners in Northern Ireland. Equally, I have argued for a more flexible approach to compassionate parole arrangements, which govern visits by prisoners to ill or dying relatives.
Dáil Éireann 453 Written Answers. Release of Prisoners.