Dáil Éireann - Volume 516 - 23 March, 2000
Written Answers. - Northern Ireland Issues.
Mr. Kenny Mr. Kenny
53. Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of prisoners by category released under the Good Friday Agreement; the number eligible to be released; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8398/00]
Mr. Cowen Mr. Cowen
Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Cowen): I assume the Deputy is referring to prisoners released in Northern Ireland under the provisions of the Good Friday Agreement. As the Deputy will be aware, responsibility for releases under the agreement in this jurisdiction lies with my colleague, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.
The Good Friday Agreement committed both Governments to put in place mechanisms to provide for an accelerated programme for the release of prisoners convicted of offences relating to the conflict in Northern Ireland. Prisoners affiliated to organisations which are not maintaining a complete ceasefire do not benefit from the arrangements.
The Northern Ireland (Sentences) Act, 1998, gives effect in Northern Ireland to that part of the Agreement dealing with the release of prisoners. Under the provisions of the Act, sentence review commissioners decide whether a prisoner is eligible for release and specify a release date.
The Northern Ireland (Sentences) Act came into force on 28 July 1998. Since then, 322 prisoners have been released under its provisions. Of these, 97 are life sentence prisoners, 51 loyalist, 44 republican and two others, while 225 are fixed term prisoners, 96 loyalist, 121 republican and eight others.
The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland recently suspended the licence of one of the persons included in the total above, and the matter is now being reviewed by the sentence review commissioners.
To date, the sentence review commissioners have issued declarations setting early release  dates for a further 108 prisoners. Of these, there are 64 republicans, 43 loyalists and 1 other. This number may increase as outstanding applications are dealt with.
Dáil Éireann 516 Written Answers. Northern Ireland Issues.