IRISH government sources yesterday denied a report that an IRA man who planted the bomb that killed Lord Mountbatten was let out of jail to take part in top-secret Northern Ireland peace talks.
They confirmed that Tommy McMahon had been freed from Dublin's Mountjoy prison for five days at the time of the IRA's Easter ceasefire this year, but insisted he been released 'on humanitarian grounds'. Senior republican sources also dismissed the claims as 'absolute nonsense'.
McMahon, 46, from Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan, was jailed for life in 1979 for his role in the bomb attack which killed Lord Mountbatten and three other people in Co Sligo.
According to yesterday's Mail on Sunday, he was smuggled out of top-security Mountjoy prison at 6am on 31 March - the eve of the IRA's Easter ceasefire - and taken to secret meetings in Dublin and on the Ulster border.
The report said that during his five days of freedom he joined talks with Sinn Fein leaders, members of the IRA army council, terrorists from the South Armagh brigade and other prisoners.
Ulster Unionist politicians reacted furiously to the report, accusing the government in Dublin and London of colluding with the IRA. Yesterday, an Irish government source confirmed that McMahon had been released for five days in March - but said long-term prisoners were sometimes released temporarily 'on humanitarian grounds'.