Sir, - Petra Schurenhofer raises an important point about political prisoners in her January 24th letter, published on the same day as the Mitchell Commission report. It was also the same day that the British Prime Minister, John Major, said on RTE that he had done everything possible to further the peace process.

Yet after Mr Major announced the introduction of an elected assembly for the North that afternoon - bypassing the Mitchell condition, if broadly acceptable" - the Sinn Fein leadership, was said on RTE to be "in despair" and John Hume was seen "fighting back tears." Earlier, the UUP leadership, David Trimble and John Taylor, were said by Tim Pat Coogan on the radio to have given off the record briefings to journalists that the IRA could be split and internment introduced, North and South of the Border.

Meanwhile, after all this "effort" by John Major, republican prisoners in England continue to endure worse conditions than prevailed before the IRA ceasefire of August 1994. As Ms Schurenhofer said in her letter, this has been highlighted in reports from Labour, Fine Gael and the Irish Commission for Prisoners Overseas.

It was extraordinary to read in The Irish Times, on this same eventful day, that one prisoner, Paul Normey, had been refused release "because of his failure to appear at the parole board hearing, since he was on temporary transfer to Northern Ireland at the time and was unaware that he was required to attend the board in person".

The question is clear. If the British Government wants to further the peace process, why does it, not treat republican prisoners in a humanitarian manner? - Yours, etc.,

Rothe Abbey,

Dublin 8.