Freedom for Docklands bomber

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The Independent Online

The man who planted the Docklands bomb is to be freed this week, just two years after he was jailed for 25-years.

The man who planted the Docklands bomb is to be freed this week, just two years after he was jailed for 25-years.

James McArdle is among several Northern Ireland's most notorious killers who are to be given early release under the Good Friday Agreement. Others include loyalist Michael Stone and Shankill bomber Sean Kelly.

McArdle was convicted in June 1998 at the Old Bailey for his role in the 1996 bombing which devastated the area around Canary Wharf and marked the end of the IRA's ceasefire, killing two people and injuring 40 others.

The last batch of inmates eligible for early parole will be released on Friday.

Stone, 44, was convicted 11 years ago of six murders - three in a lone gun and grenade attack on an IRA funeral in 1988.

He is due to leave the Maze Prison near Lisburn, Co Antrim, in the morning along with another lesser-known loyalist inmate. On Friday another 86 men will be freed, some after serving as little as two years.

Among those walking from the Maze will be Shankill bomber Sean Kelly and Greysteel killer Torrens Knight, who between them murdered 17 people in the space of seven days in October 1993.

Bernard McGinn, found guilty of three IRA "single-shot sniper" murders along the Irish border, will also walk free. He also made the Docklands bomb which ended the IRA ceasefire in 1997 and killed two newsagents.

He was convicted of the murders but his trial was told that his co-accused, Michael Caraher - also due to get of jail on Friday - was the man who pulled the trigger on Lance Bombadier Stephen Restorick, the last soldier to die in Ulster's troubles.

The releases will all but empty the Maze leaving fewer than 20 inside, including three republicans who murdered a loyalist commander inside the complex in December 1997.

The Irish National Liberation Army killers of Billy Wright are likely to be freed by October and the prison is on course to close at the end of the year.

Members of groups ineligible for early release include dissidents on both sides like the Real IRA, Continuity IRA, the Orange Volunteers and the Red Hand Defenders.

They are jailed in Northern Ireland's two other prisons, Maghaberry, near Moira, Co Down, and Magilligan, Co Londonderry, where inmates are not allowed to organise internal paramilitary units.

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