Michael Stone displays art at exhibition while on prison release
Convicted killer Michael Stone has displayed art work at an exhibition in east Belfast while on release from prison.
Stone, who was convicted of killing six people during the course of the Troubles, opened a sale of his work at a community centre run by Reach UK last month, with the exhibition lasting one week.
The brother of Dermot Hackett, who was murdered by Stone in 1987, told the BBC his family should have been informed his brother's killer was eligible for day release.
"I think it’s right that we should be told, because he did affect our lives and our families," he said.
"I would hate think that some of my immediate family or near relatives would happen to walk up the street in Belfast and happen to see him walking up the street towards them. I think it’s only right, they should have at least let us know."
Victims' families are required to register for a special scheme to be informed
The launch of the art sale was attended by the Grand Secretary of the Orange Mervyn Gibson, former DUP MLA Sammy Douglas, and east Belfast DUP councillor George Dorrian.
In a statement, the DUP said: “Cllr Dorian, like all DUP representatives, condemns all acts of terrorism, including the evil deeds committed by Michael Stone.”
Entitled 'Milestones 2018', the works displayed were produced by Stone his wife Karen who he married in prison two years ago.
The exhibition features more than 20 paintings mostly focused on loyalist themes.
The event was hosted inside east Belfast community project Reach UK, which was set up by former members of the Red Hand Commando paramilitary group.
Writing on its website, a spokesperson for Reach UK said: "Reach UK supports initiatives from all sections of the community and was invited to consider hosting a free one-week exhibition of artworks from Michael Stone’s ‘Milestones collection. Reach is a non-judgement organisation and volunteered space to host the art pieces and a free-to-attend opening evening in mid-July.
"Reach recognises that art can be a powerful tool to help people deal with personal issues and has been successfully used to promote mutual understanding between unionist and nationalist communities.
"The exhibition was undertaken with no publicity, in a low-key manner bearing in mind sensitivities of the past with full knowledge of the prison bodies which encourage all ex-prisoners to re-integrate into society in a positive and peaceful manner."
In a statement, the Department of Justice said the the Victims Information Scheme, which is in place to provide victims with information about prison releases and community sentences, is operated by the Probation Board for Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland Prison Service.
A spokesman said: "If a victim is registered with the scheme they will be provided with information including information in relation to prisoner Release. There is legislation in place which explains what information can be shared with victims."
Former UDA man Michael Stone came to notoriety for his bloody gun and bomb attack on the Milltown Cemetery in March 1988, when he attacked the funerals of three IRA members, shooting and lobbing grenades into the crowd.
Three people died during the attack, with Stone admitting to three other murders after being arrested.
He was released in 2000 under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, but was imprisoned again in 2006 after attempting to kill Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness at Stormont, and is currently serving the remainder of the minimum 20-year jail term he was given in 1988.
As he is coming to his release date, he is eligible for 24 hours of unsupervised day release every four weeks in advance of this.
Belfast Telegraph Digital