01 July 2005

Passing the buck

Daily Ireland

By Jarlath Kearney

Now the psni is blaming prison service for rearrest of Seán Kelly

The Prison Service of Northern Ireland was involved in initiating the cycle of events that led to the detention of republican ex-prisoner Seán Kelly.
In a bizarre twist to the controversy over the arrest of the north Belfast man, the PSNI admitted yesterday that it had been contacted by the Prison Service of Northern Ireland in relation to the conditions of licence enjoyed by Mr Kelly, who was released in 2000 under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.
PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde said previously that he had no part in the process that led to Mr Kelly’s arrest.
At yesterday’s Policing Board meeting, Detective Chief Superintendent Noel Topping told members: “Following contact from the Northern Ireland Prison Service, PSNI passed to them information in its possession relating to the conditions subject to which Seán Kelly was released from prison.
“Subsequently, the secretary of state for Northern Ireland suspended Kelly’s licence and recalled him to prison.”
Last night, Sinn Féin spokesman Gerry Kelly accused the authorities of “lurching from excuse to excuse in desperate attempts to justify the re-arrest of Seán Kelly”.
“This shows up the farce which is British attempts to explain away their decision to intern Seán Kelly,” he said.
“The fact is that there is no reason why Seán Kelly should be in jail.”

The PSNI was approached by the North’s Prison Service about the case of Seán Kelly before the Belfast republican was arrested, it has emerged.
Yesterday’s revelation heightened concerns about the role of the Prison Service in the circumstances surrounding Mr Kelly’s arrest.
Last week, just four days after his arrest, Mr Kelly was threatened and assaulted by a loyalist inmate at Maghaberry prison in Lisburn, Co Antrim, after he had been placed in a communal holding area.
Campaigners for Mr Kelly argued that this Prison Service action had endangered his life by contravening basic conditions of the Northern Ireland Office’s jail segregation policy.
The composition of the Prison Service has increasingly been criticised by nationalist politicians. Figures released in May showed that less than nine per cent of the 2,000-strong workforce is Catholic.
Republicans have consistently accused the Prison Service of failing to adhere to safety provisions.
In one high-profile incident in 2003, a leading member of the Ulster Defence Association physically attacked a republican remand prisoner. Prison records later revealed that prison warders had stood watching as a verbal assault against the republican developed into an all-out attack over the course of six minutes. Loyalist inmates at Maghaberry prison continue to far outnumber republicans.
At yesterday’s public session of the North’s Policing Board in Belfast, PSNI Detective Chief Superintendent Noel Topping disclosed the role of the Prison Service.
“Following contact from the Northern Ireland Prison Service, PSNI passed to them information in its possession relating to the conditions subject to which Seán Kelly was released from prison.
“Subsequently, the secretary of state for Northern Ireland [Peter Hain] suspended Kelly’s licence and recalled him to prison.
“In pursuance of the suspension and recall, PSNI made arrangements to detain Kelly and return him to HMP Maghaberry,” Detective Chief Superintendent Topping said.
Along with other former political prisoners released early under the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, Seán Kelly has been prominent in north Belfast in attempting to calm interface areas.
He was arrested and reimprisoned in Maghaberry on June 18. His reimprisonment followed a sustained campaign by senior Democratic Unionist Party politicians and sections of the tabloid media.
Mr Kelly was convicted in relation to a 1993 bomb attack on west Belfast’s Shankill Road that killed ten people. His supporters argue that his conviction has been used by unionists targeting him as a “hate figure”.
His partner Geraldine Friel told Daily Ireland on Wednesday that his continued incarceration was putting his safety and welfare at risk. She said: “Seán is in a lot of danger in jail and I worry about him all the time.”
Sinn Féin representatives have raised the treatment of Mr Kelly with the British and Irish governments. The Irish government subsequently asked the British government about the case but Ms Friel has called for greater action in defence of her partner’s rights.
It emerged in a letter to Ulster Unionist Party assembly member Michael Copeland that Mr Kelly had not been under PSNI investigation for any misconduct just five days before his arrest.
Last night, a spoksperson for the campaign to free Mr Kelly told Daily Ireland that news of the Prison Service’s involvement “raises fundamental questions about Seán Kelly’s continued safety and imprisonment at the hands of the North’s prison regime”.
A Prison Service spokesperson refused to comment on the organisation’s role in Mr Kelly’s reimprisonment.

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