Northern Ireland news

Prisoner group welcomes Martin Neeson court decision

A court has decided that it was wrong to stop former republican prisoner Martin Neeson from working as a groundsman
Connla Young

AN ex-prisoners group which supported a west Belfast man stopped from working as a groundskeeper has said it is dealing with several more cases.

A judge this week quashed a decision preventing former republican inmate Martin Neeson from working for a conservation charity.

Mr Neeson was released from jail in 1987 for a murder committed when he was 16.

He later took up a job cutting grass in the Poleglass area and declared his convictions.

However, he was deemed unsuitable for the job after undergoing new security checks following a funding change in 2013.

The High Court ruled this week that former First Minister Peter Robinson breached the ministerial code in 2007 when he decided that guidelines on employing ex-prisoners formulated as part of the Good Friday Agreement and St Andrews Agreement should not apply.

Prisoners group Coiste na nIarchimí said it is “dealing with a number of similar cases”.

Director Michael Culbert welcomed the court ruling as "historic".

“It challenges the status quo and the discrimination continually used against political former prisoners," he said.

"With 25,000 people from the broad nationalist and republican community having been in jail on conflict related charges we are dealing with a sizable proportion of the population being affected.”

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