The Sinn Fein President, Gerry Adams, yesterday underlined growing fears that the Northern Irish peace process was stumbling when he said that the release of Private Lee Clegg had deepened and widened the gulf between the two sides.
But after a second night of rioting in protest at the freeing of the soldier after just three years of a life sentence, Mr Adams resolutely denied his party had orchestrated the violence which caused an estimated pounds 1m damage.
Saoirse, the group demanding the immediate release of all Republican prisoners as part of the peace process, said the outbreak of violence was a reflection of the frustration at the Government's double standards in releasing Clegg while failing to move on other inmates.
Ronnie McCartney, released in April after serving 17 years for attempted murder, told of the bitterness felt by the relatives of prisoners who have served long jail terms in England without any review of their cases.
"The absence of movement toward the release of Irish political prisoners has given rise to considerable anger," he said. "The release of all political prisoners is an essential ingredient to peace building. As party to the peace process Britain must act in a responsible manner."
Mr Adams said Clegg's release was jeopardising the peace. "The bitter picture, the impasse which I pointed out some time ago ... has deepened and widened."Reuse content