29/07/2005

Hain defends Kelly release decision

Secretary of State Peter Hain has defended his decision to release Shankill bomber Sean Kelly from jail in light of Thursday's IRA announcement.

Kelly was returned to prison in June following a decision by Mr Hain that he had breached the terms of his licence.

"Thursday's statement by the IRA has created a new situation and thereby changed the context of my original decision to suspend Sean Kelly’s licence," Mr Hain said. "The Government accepts that the statement by the IRA is intended to express an end to paramilitary activity and criminality. Having seen the statement I judged that it materially affected the evidence that I would have submitted to the Sentence Review Commissioners (SRC).

“In particular the material on which I based my original decision no longer supported the conviction that Sean Kelly would be a danger to others if he were at liberty."

Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey hit out at the move. "It will be seen as a cynical manipulation, not only of the legal process, but the political process," the East Belfast MLA said. "It proves that those who have access to the threat of force still have primacy over the democrats.''

Kelly originally received a life sentence for killing nine civilians in the bombing of a fish shop on Belfast`s Shankill Road in 1993 in which his accomplice, Thomas Begley, also died.

However, he was released in 2000 as part of the early release scheme for prisoners under the Good Friday Agreement.

(MB/KMcA)

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