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Ahern: No Early Paroles for IRA Men

February 5, 1999

BELFAST, Northern Ireland (AP) _ Four IRA men found guilty of killing a policeman will not win early paroles, Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern said Friday, taking a position apparently at odds with Northern Ireland’s peace accord.

The Good Friday accord committed the British and Irish governments to grant early paroles by mid-2000 to all imprisoned members of truce-observing paramilitary groups.

More than 200 members of the IRA and outlawed pro-British groups have already been freed. Only those convicted of crimes that occurred after April 10, 1998 _ the date of the agreement _ were to be excluded.

But Ahern, during a visit to British-ruled Northern Ireland, said lawyers had advised him that four IRA men sentenced Friday ``will serve their sentence.″ He ruled out the prospect of freeing them next year.

The senior judge in Dublin’s anti-terrorist Special Criminal Court passed sentences ranging from 11 to 14 years on the men Friday for shooting two policemen guarding a cash-filled armored car in County Limerick.

One officer died and the other was seriously wounded in the June 1996 attack. The killing outraged residents in the Irish Republic, where attacks on officers are rare.

IRA-allied Sinn Fein’s chief negotiator, Martin McGuinness, said Ahern was wrong to say the men were not entitled to benefit from the Good Friday accord.

Sinn Fein’s position was backed by Northern Ireland’s most moderate party. Alliance Party chairman Philip McGarry said it was hypocritical for Ahern to demand normal punishment for the killers of a southern Irish policeman, when the accord was allowing the IRA killers of many Northern Irish policemen to walk free.

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