The man is a former loyalist prisoner who was given a life sentence in 1972 for raping a Catholic woman and killing her 14-year-old mentally retarded son. He was released three years ago after serving 17 years of his sentence. He has been recalled to prison after being charged with the attempted murder of a Catholic man in north Belfast in August.
The development will be seen as a setback for a release policy which is markedly more liberal than that in operation in Britain, and which has been widely hailed as a success. In the past seven years 248 life prisoners have been freed, almost all of whom were republicans or loyalists jailed for murders committed in the 1970s.
The policy has not been criticised by either loyalist or nationalist politicians, and has helped to remove a potential republican rallying point. Events such as the 1981 hunger strikes have demonstrated how jails can become flashpoints for confrontation.