Killers freed under Ulster agreement
Belfast-born David McKittrick has been reporting on Northern Ireland since 1971, He has written for the East Antrim Times, the Irish Times and was The Independent's Irish correspondent for many years. He is the author of several books including Making Sense of the Troubles (2000) and Lost Lives (1999).
Saturday 19 September 1998
Five men serving life for murder walked free from the Maze prison, near Belfast, under the scheme which is scheduled to see the jails practically emptied of paramilitary prisoners within the next two years.
Four were loyalists jailed for killing Catholic civilians while the fifth was an IRA prisoner who shot dead a police officer. All had served between 10 and 14 years in jail. Since the terms they served are close to the average for those jailed for murder, none could be said to have benefited spectacularly.
Yesterday's releases bring the total number of prisoners freed to 24 - a tally that is expected to rise to about 200 by Christmas. The releases drew only a muted political response yesterday, apparently indicating that the issue has lost some of its shock potential.
The release scheme was initially the most controversial element of the Good Friday agreement, with the public unprepared for the idea that the jails would be emptied as part of the new political settlement. Since then, however, it appears to have become accepted, with much reluctance, that such releases are inevitable.
The republican released yesterday was Damien Nicell, who was convicted of shooting dead an RUC officer, Clive Graham, at a police checkpoint in Londonderry in 1988.
Three of the four loyalists released are former soldiers. Mark Trotter and Robert Kenny from Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh, were convicted of murdering Edward Love in 1985. Kenny was a private in the Ulster Defence Regiment, and Trotter, the son of a policeman, was a mechanic serving with the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers.
Another former UDR soldier, Geoffrey Edwards, was sentenced for the murder of a Sinn Fein election worker, Peter Corrigan, in 1982. The fourth loyalist, Thomas Mair, was sentenced to life for the murder of William McLaughlin in north Belfast in 1984.
The Irish Prime Minister, Bertie Ahern, is to meet Northern Ireland's First Minister, David Trimble, in Dublin next week to review political progress. Dublin is anxious to press ahead with the formation of an executive which would include Sinn Fein members, while Mr Trimble is pushing for IRA arms decommissioning in advance of such a move.
Mr Ahern said yesterday: "What we have to do is allow no single item be a stumbling block. I'm determined that we try to move the agenda in its totality forward."
Exclusive: Woolwich attacker named 'Mujahid' was known to banned Islamist organisation Al Muhajiroun
That's some guestlist! Stunning images show huge dynastic wedding between Ultra-Orthodox Jewish families which attracted 25,000 guests
'Sickening, deluded and unforgivable': Horrific attack brings terror to London’s streets
World news in pictures
Ingrid Loyau-Kennett, the mother-of-two hailed as a hero for confronting Woolwich attackers, thought: 'better me than a child'
- 1 Exclusive: Woolwich attacker named 'Mujahid' was known to banned Islamist organisation Al Muhajiroun
- 2 'Sickening, deluded and unforgivable': Horrific attack brings terror to London’s streets
- 3 Grace Dent: I’m not sure how these people can avoid being called ‘bigots’. And the more ‘civilised’, the worse they are
- 4 Ingrid Loyau-Kennett, the mother-of-two hailed as a hero for confronting Woolwich attackers, thought: 'better me than a child'
- 5 Woolwich attack: The EDL will seek to exploit this evil crime for their own evil ends
BMF is the UK’s biggest and best loved outdoor fitness classes
Find out what The Independent's resident travel expert has to say about one of the most beautiful small cities in the world
Win anything from gadgets to five-star holidays on our competitions and offers page.