by Democrat reporter
THE LONDON-based human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has called for the Irish justice minister Dermot Ahern to approve the repatriation of Irish prisoner Noel Maguire.
Maguire was sentenced to 22-years imprisonment in April 2003 after a British court found him and four co-conspirators guilty of conspiracy to cause explosions relating to the Real IRA's bombing campaign in England in 2001.
Maguire's family and supporters have always argued that the men were convicted on the flimsiest of evidence.
Noel Maguire, who is currently being held in Whitemoor prison in England, has applied for a transfer to Portlaoise prison in the Republic of Ireland to be closer to his family on five separate occasions.
Each of Maguire's applications has been categorically rejected. The last application rejection, in October 2008, insisted that Maguire had "closer ties to the United Kingdom than to this (Republic of Ireland) jurisdiction".
Family, supporters and human-rights campaigners have pointed out that Noel Maguire is an Irish citizen, carries a valid Irish passport and that his family, including his wife and two young children, live in the Republic of Ireland.
The true reason why Mr Maguire's application for prison transferral has been continually rejected remains a mystery. argue Mr Maguire's friends and family.
In his statement, Peter Tatchell said that minister Ahern's decision was "unbalanced, unfair and lacking in reason and compassion." Mr Tatchell also asked why Mr Maguire is being singled out for special penalisation, after all of his co-defendants successfully applied for prison transfer to the Republic.
"To continue to deny this man repatriation on compassionate grounds is senseless, cruel and heartless."
The Celtic League is among those to have campaigned for Maguire's repatriation. At its 2007 AGM, the organisation passed a resolution calling for Mr Maguire's repatriation to the Republic of Ireland.
The full text of Peter Tatchell appeal to Irish justice minister Dermot Ahern:
THE RECENT decision by Irish minister for justice, Dermot Ahern, to refuse Noel Maguire's fifth application for repatriation to Portlaoise prison in Ireland is unbalanced, unfair and lacking in reason and compassion.
While all four of his Irish co-accused have long since been repatriated to Ireland, Noel Maguire has not. He alone continues to repeatedly and unsuccessfully appeal for a transfer. Why is he being singled out for special penalisation?
In his most recent refusal, minister Ahern claims that Noel has "closer ties to the U.K." than Ireland. This is not true. Noel has an Irish passport and has no family in Britain.
His two sisters, living with their uncle in Kildare, have both visited him at least twice while he has been held in England, and have said they will visit him if he was to be transferred to Ireland.
Noel's closest blood relatives, his two children, live with his wife in Carlow; an hour's drive from Portlaoise.
I urge, in the strongest terms, justice minister Dermot Ahern to show mercy and accept Noel Maguire's application for transfer to Portlaoise prison, where he can serve out the remainder of his 20-year sentence closer to his wife and two children who he has not seen for nine years. To continue to deny this man repatriation on compassionate grounds is senseless, cruel and heartless.
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