The release of a man once jailed for the murder of two policemen and who was four years ago deemed a risk to national security has provoked the expected reactions. Dissident and mainstream republicans have welcomed the decision to allow Martin Corey back on to the streets, while unionists have reacted angrily.
The unionists' position is understandable given that legal attempts by Corey to secure his release over the past four years have all failed. And Parole Commissioners who ordered his release on Wednesday had, in 2011, declined to set him free due to a risk of harm to the public. Against that backdrop there is puzzlement as to what has changed in the meantime.
Corey was released on licence after serving a lengthy sentence for the double murder, and that licence was revoked in 2010 after he was said to be a risk to national security. Corey is a member of Republican Sinn Fein, the political wing of the Continuity IRA, and the fact that dissident republicans are still regarded as posing a strong security risk adds a further puzzle to the mix.
It will come as a surprise to many that the decision of Parole Commissioners cannot be overruled by the Secretary of State and that it could be taken even though the courts had not seen fit to release Corey. However, it has to be remembered that he is again out on licence and that it can again be revoked if he breaches any of the conditions of his release.
Yet one of the conditions – apparently he is not to talk to the Press – seems unenforceable as he could well win a case under the right to freedom of expression. It also prevents journalists putting hard questions to Corey about his views or associations.
Given yesterday's revelations about police intelligence-gathering on dedicated dissident republicans, Corey is sure to find himself under overt and covert surveillance for the foreseeable future. He may be free but it is not an absolute freedom.