Written Answers. - Prisoner's Educational Opportunities.

Mary Wallace

Question:

119 Miss M. Wallace asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs the current status of his actions on the case of a person (details supplied); if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the British Home Office has sought to limit his opportunities to undertake an educational course; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16917/96]

The Deputy may be aware that the case to which she refers has been closely monitored for some years. I would refer her to my answer of 21 November 1995 — Official Report, Vol. 458, No. 5, Question No. 65 — regarding this case. This prisoner who is categorised as "exceptional risk" category A is currently held in Belmarsh prison. Court charges against him and several others arising out of an attempted escape from Whitemoor prison in September 1994 commenced on 16 September 1996. These proceedings have since been adjourned until January 1997 on grounds of contempt of court resulting from possible prejudicial newspaper coverage. The delay in proceeding with these charges was raised within the framework of the Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Conference.

The Government has on a number of occasions raised concern about the particular conditions under which this prisoner and other are being held in the special secure unit at Belmarsh prison as well as the policy of closed visits which is currently in operation. The British authorities have responded that categorisation of these prisoners is periodically reviewed. Further to representations made by the Embassy in London regarding the restoration of this prisoner's pursuit of a legal studies course, the British authorities confirmed in April of this year that the British Prison Service had agreed to fund this prisoner's law course and that the prisoner is in possession of all the required textbooks. I note that this prisoner has applied for transfer to this jurisdiction under the Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons. I would like to reiterate that we stand ready to receive all prisoners who seek to transfer to this jurisdiction under the Convention. I would like to assure the Deputy that the Embassy in London, on my instructions, will continue to follow all aspects of this case closely.