Statement by TUV leader Jim Allister:
“I am disappointed, but from previous experience not terribly surprised, that I have not been afforded the opportunity to question the Justice Minister about the proposed visit of an IRA escapee to a prison in order to discuss his book The Escape.
“While it is welcome that Gerry Kelly’s visit to a book club at Hydebankwood has been cancelled it is absolutely outrageous that this was ever contemplated in the first place. When I first heard of the plan on Friday morning frankly I did not know whether to believe it or not.
“Young people who have already started out along the wrong road will hardly be encouraged to reform their ways by someone discussing a book in which he glamorises escaping from prison! What practical benefit did the prison authorities believe the inmates would gain from Kelly’s visit? Tips on how to escape?
“Remember too that Kelly evaded giving an answer when questioned on BBC Radio Ulster a few weeks ago as to whether or not it was wrong to shot the prison officer during the escape in which he was involved.
“Many prison officers will take grave offence at this give that the escape in which Kelly was involved in resulted in a prison officer being shot in the head while another died of a heart attack.
“There are serious questions for the Prison authorities and indeed the Justice Minister to answer in relation to how the possibility of such an event ever arose.
“Although denied the opportunity to raise the issue by way of an urgent oral I will be pressing the Justice Minister via written questions. It is imperative that clear explanations are proffered as to how this could ever be contemplated and what measures have been put in place to prevent the like ever happening again.”
Note to editors
Mr Allister’s urgent oral question, which has now been tabled as a priority written question, was as follows:
To ask DOJ why was it that a prison escapee was invited to talk about his experiences to prisoners in HM Young Offenders Centre Hydebank Wood.