First life sentence prisoners freed from Maze under Belfast Agreement

 

The first life sentence prisoners to be released under the Belfast Agreement were freed yesterday from the high-security Maze prison. The inmates, four loyalists and one republican, had served between 10 and 14 years for murder.

Three of the four loyalist prisoners were members of the British army at the time the murders were carried out. These latest releases bring to 25 the number of inmates who have been freed by the Sentence Review Commission set up under the Belfast Agreement.

Two of the prisoners released yesterday were members of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF). Geoffrey Edwards had served more than 14 years for the murder of a Sinn Fein election worker, Mr Peter Corrigan, in 1982. Mr Corrigan was shot from a passing car as he walked through Armagh city. Edwards was a member of the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) at the time of the killing.

The other UVF prisoner, Thomas Mair, had served more than 13 years for the murder of a Catholic, Mr William Mc Laughlin, who was shot near his home in the Shore Road area of north Belfast in 1984.

Two Ulster Defence Association/Ulster Freedom Fighters inmates, both former soldiers, were also freed after serving 13 years for the murder of a Catholic, Edward Love, in Enniskillen, Co Fermanaghon, on Easter Monday in 1985. Robert Kenny was a private in the UDR at the time and Mark Trotter, the son of the policeman, was a member of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers.

When the two men, both from Enniskillen, were sentenced at Belfast Crown Court, Mr Justice Carswell described the killing as "cold-blooded murder". Mr Love was shot in the head and four more times as he lay on the ground.

The first prisoner released was IRA member, Damien Nicell, from Derry, who had served 10 years for the murder of RUC man, Constable Clive Graham, shot at a checkpoint in the Creggan area of Derry in 1988.

The Sentence Review Commission said yesterday it had received 445 applications for early release. The commission has responded to 364 of these and given 78 preliminary indications. Twenty-five prisoners have been released.

Families Against Intimidation and Terror (FAIT) spokesman, Mr Glyn Roberts, yesterday met the North's Political Development Minister, Mr Paul Murphy, to express dissatisfaction with the early release scheme. Mr Roberts said all the mainstream paramilitary organisations were still involved in "beating, shooting and exiling".

He said many victims of violence felt their concerns were being ignored. "There is a very real perception among victims that the needs of prisoners are being given much more attention than their own. We urged the Government to urgently address this alienation," Mr Roberts said.