Dáil Éireann - Volume 387 - 21 February, 1989

Written Answers. - Northern Ireland Parole Policy.

35. Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will outline his response to the increase in the number of life prisoners granted short-term parole over the Christmas period in the Six Counties; if this is in line with Government policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Lenihan): On 23 December I issued a statement welcoming the increase in the number of prisoners in Northern Ireland who were given special parole to enable them to share Christmas with their families. I especially welcomed the fact that of those receiving parole, 84 were life sentence prisoners, including nine young offenders serving indeterminate sentences and being held at what is termed “during the secretary of state's pleasure”.

Prisons policy in Northern Ireland is an important issue which is regularly discussed in the Anglo-Irish Inter-governmental conference. At the most recent conference meeting on 8 February, we reviewed recent encouraging developments in this area. The communique welcomed the recent decision, following a special review of the cases of the remaining 17 Secretary of State's pleasure cases, to refer 9 of these cases to the judiciary about the possibility of fixing provisional release dates.

I look forward to further positive developments in 1989 — particularly in relation to the current special review of the sentences of the remaining special category prisoners in Northern Ireland.