Protestants Sentenced in N. Ireland
BELFAST, Northern Ireland (AP) _ Two Protestant militants were convicted and sentenced to life in prison Wednesday for the 1998 murders of a Catholic man and his Protestant best friend.
Under terms of Northern Ireland’s peace accord, however, the pair could win paroles within months.
Judge Brian Kerr convicted Stephen McClean and Noel McCready of murdering Catholic Damien Trainor and Protestant Philip Allen as they sat discussing Allen’s wedding plans in a pub in the village of Poyntzpass.
McClean and McCready smirked and joked as the judge pronounced them guilty, but relatives of the two victims gasped with relief.
The judge said McClean, McCready and the man driving their getaway car, Ryan Robley, had targeted the bar in the mistaken belief that everybody inside would be Catholic.
Robley pleaded guilty already to murder and received a life sentence Wednesday.
Kerr said the trio would be eligible for early parole in accordance with the April 1998 Good Friday peace accord. The accord says all imprisoned members of truce-observing groups convicted of offenses committed before the accord should go free by July 2000.
The Poyntzpass pub attack happened in March 1998. The anti-Catholic gang that took the blame called a cease-fire the month after the accord to qualify for the parole program.
Philip Allen’s mother, Ethel Allen, said she opposed the killers’ early release.
But ``at least they will be labeled guilty for the rest of their lives for the murder of my loving son,″ she said.