Court approves challenge to IRA releases
Tuesday 21 September 1999
Michelle Williamson, who lost both parents in an IRA bombing, overcame the first preliminary hurdle in a legal battle challenging the Government's decision not to suspend prisoner releases despite continuing IRA violence. Last month Mo Mowlam, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, said she did not believe the IRA ceasefire was breaking down, despite a murder and other illegalities including an attempt to smuggle guns to Ireland from America.
Early-release legislation requires Ms Mowlam to consider whether paramilitary groups are maintaining unequivocal ceasefires. Yesterday she indicated she will contest the attempt to overturn her decision.
Politically the case is seen as highly significant, since it is regarded as an attempt by the Ulster Unionists to pursue Sinn Fein through the courts. This is viewed as a further deterioration in the already poor relationship between the parties.
Commentators and other politicians also interpreted it as a sign that anti-Good Friday Agreement elements are gaining ground within the Ulster Unionist Party.
The move is particularly associated with Jeffrey Donaldson, who walked out of the negotiations that produced the agreement last year.
His stock has perceptibly risen within the party in recent months as Unionist opinion has become more anti- agreement. Yesterday he accompanied Ms Williamson to court in Belfast with the party leader, David Trimble.
Andrew Mackay, the Conservative Northern Ireland spokesman, said: "The terrorist ceasefires have been severely breached and as a result the release of terrorist prisoners should be halted immediately."
Lembit Opik, the Liberal Democrat Northern Ireland spokesman, condemned the Tory reaction: "What really bothers me is Andrew Mackay's delight that this extra tension has arrived." He said that hardliners among the Ulster Unionists were now in control of the party.
Ms Williamson lost her parents to an IRA bomb in Shankill Road in 1993, when nine people died. Yesterday she said: "I am delighted that finally I might be given the chance of justice for my mother and father and all the innocent victims."
Mr Trimble said the case was "a matter of upholding the Good Friday Agreement". He said the early release of terrorist prisoners should apply only to those organisations that maintained a complete and unequivocal ceasefire and his party believed this was not the case.
Mr Justice Kerr, granting Ms Williamson's application for judicial review, pointed out that for the moment she had to satisfy only a modest test - that there was a case worthy of further inquiry. He said: "It's clear to me that the applicant has an arguable case."
- 1 Isis 'jihadi bride' claims forced sex with Yazidi girls is never rape because Koran condones it
- 2 Woman accidentally shoots herself in the head while posing for a selfie
- 3 Art Garfunkel calls Paul Simon a 'monster' with a Napoleon complex
- 4 Isis burns woman alive for refusing to engage in 'extreme' sex act, UN says
Isis 'jihadi bride' claims forced sex with Yazidi girls is never rape because Koran condones it
Woman accidentally shoots herself in the head while posing for a selfie
Isis burns woman alive for refusing to engage in 'extreme' sex act, UN says
Puerto Rico, island of lost dreams: People are leaving the debt-hit territory in droves as near neighbour Cuba's star rises
16-year-old girl beaten and burned alive by lynch mob in Rio Bravo, Guatemala
As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
Scotland may have to leave the EU even if it votes to stay in, David Cameron confirms
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
Almost a third of school pupils believe 'Muslims are taking over our country', study claims
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
Gay marriage 'Bert and Ernie' cake bakery found guilty of discrimination in Northern Ireland
£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...
£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...
£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...