Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein Gerry Kelly's jail invite sparks fresh row

BY NOEL MCADAM

Hardline unionist Jim Allister has hit out after being refused permission to ask Justice Minister David Ford why Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly was invited into a jail – to talk about his prison breakout.

The TUV leader said he was "disappointed but not surprised" at the ruling from Stormont Speaker William Hay, who did not allow the oral question in yesterday's proceedings.

Mr Allister is to table his questions to Mr Ford in writing.

As the Belfast Telegraph revealed last week, former junior minister Mr Kelly had been invited into Hydebank Wood to discuss his recent book on the 1983 Maze breakout, but governor Paul Norbury cancelled it.

The invitation to address the centre's book club tonight caused outrage among prison officers. One of their colleagues was killed during the IRA jailbreak in 1983.

Mr Allister said yesterday: "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."

He added: "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."

Mr Kelly sparked controversy last September after tweeting: "Happy 30th anniversary of the Great Escape 1983 from Long Kesh H-Blocks to all involved."

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