Written Answers. - Prisoner Transfers.

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

40 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of republican prisoners repatriated from November 1996 to 1997 and November 1997 to 1998; the number of these awaiting repatriation; the status of these applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20815/98]

The Government is committed to the principle that, wherever possible, prisoners should be permitted to serve their sentences close to their families.

Transfers of prisoners, including republican prisoners, to this jurisdiction are governed by the terms of the European Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons, which both Britain and Ireland have ratified.

Five republican prisoners were transferred to this jurisdiction under the terms of this Convention in the period November 1996 to 1997. Four were repatriated from Britain and one from the United States of America.

Since November 1997, 17 republican prisoners have been transferred from Britain to this jurisdiction.

There are currently six convicted republican prisoners in Britain. Five of them have requested transfer to this jurisdiction, and the remaining prisoner has not yet made a transfer application.

The Transfer of Sentenced Persons Act, 1995, gives effect to the provisions of the European convention in this jurisdiction. I am informed that the five applications, which are the only applications currently on hand from republican prisoners, are at different stages in the procedure set out in the Act.
The Deputy will be aware that implementation of the Act is the responsibility of my colleague the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. I assure the Deputy that every effort is being made by the Minister to expedite the transfer of the republican prisoners who have requested it, and I understand there are ongoing contacts with the Home Office with a view to facilitating this. I am hopeful that further transfers will take place soon. The Government attaches the highest priority to this issue.