SF urges Hain to release Shankill bomber

 

Sinn Féin has called on Northern Secretary Peter Hain to free Shankill bomber Seán Kelly, who was rearrested last month after trouble at an Orange parade in Ardoyne.

Party president Gerry Adams said of Mr Kelly: "The man should not be in prison and we made that very, very clear. To my knowledge, no one has given evidence around why the man was put in prison."

Ardoyne priest Fr Aidan Troy also called for Mr Kelly's release, claiming there appeared to be no supporting evidence for the decision to send him back to prison.

"If there is evidence and I am being misled, then present it and I will be the first to say 'I was wrong, I am sorry'," he said.

"But in the absence [of evidence] I am absolutely certain that this is something that has been wrongly done," he said.

However, both calls for Mr Kelly's release prompted a defence of Mr Hain's actions by the Northern Ireland Office and condemnation of the appeals by the DUP.

Mr Kelly was jailed in 1993 for the Shankill bombing, which killed 10 people including his IRA accomplice.

He was released under the terms of the Belfast Agreement in 2000 and Mr Hain claimed he had been involved in terrorist activity. Republicans and others say Mr Kelly had merely been working to ease community tensions in the face of a contentious Orange parade in Ardoyne.

A well-placed political source at Stormont insisted that Mr Hain suspended Mr Kelly's licence on foot of sound intelligence from the PSNI.

"There is no agenda going on here," The Irish Times was told.

"The Secretary of State took [ his decision] based on police advice. He knows it's difficult."

He added that the Kelly case would now go through "proper process" and would be considered by the sentences review authorities.

Some 13 paramilitary prisoners, freed on licence under the terms of the Belfast Agreement, have so far been returned to prison. The majority to date have been loyalists.

North Belfast DUP MP Nigel Dodds backed Mr Hain and criticised the intervention of Fr Troy.

"Fr Troy's call for Seán Kelly to be re-released from prison is crass, insensitive and inappropriate. I am utterly astounded that anyone would wish to support an individual who has been responsible for causing so much pain and Fr Troy's comments can only add to the hurt of Kelly's victims."

Mr Hain said it was his understanding that the police "has significant and weighty evidence against Kelly".

"Seán Kelly should never have been let out of jail in the first place," he added.

"The Shankill bomb was a heinous and brutal crime. Serving just six and a half years for the murder of so many people on the Shankill was an absolute insult."

The Sinn Féin delegation at the Hain meeting included senior negotiator Martin McGuinness and North Belfast Assembly member Gerry Kelly.

At their request, the talks did not address the question of the anticipated IRA response to Mr Adams's call for the organisation to adopt a purely political stance.