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Priest feared he could be killed by Provos after campaigning for release of IRA prisoners

Denis Faul
Denis Faul

By David O'Dornan

A CATHOLIC priest claimed he could be shot by the Provos - for campaigning for the early release of IRA prisoners.

Father Denis Faul of St Patrick's Academy, Dungannon, Co Tyrone made consistent appeals to Minister of State Nicholas Scott to let republican terrorists out of jail.

His pleas have been revealed in top secret files which have now been declassified by the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland, including when Fr Faul had a meeting with Mr Scott on May 16, 1986, bringing with him Fr Murray and Mr Canning, an independent nationalist councillor from Dungannon.

The note for the record said: "Father Faul set out at length his proposition that mass releases from the prisons now would end violence.

"He acknowledged that letting out the killers to stop the killing was a difficult concept to grasp, but claimed support from Irish history as well as the facts of the present."

It continued: "Many of those in prison today had only become involved in paramilitary activity because of injustice done to the Catholic community - he spoke of internment, torture, plastic bullets and the hunger strike.

"Still, their families regretted their involvement, and if the prisoners were released to them there was no doubt that their influence would be deployed to restrain them from further dealings with the paramilitaries.

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"…The commitment to the paramilitaries of many prisoners was, in any event, only ostensible. Families had told him that prisoners were now more often thinking for themselves, they felt the war was over.

"In prison, they moved to Provisional wings because they had less hassle from warders there than in mixed wings.

"…Father Faul spoke with real loathing of PIRA, which had cynically manipulated many young people. He knew of prisoners who had effectively delivered into the hands of the police whilst working for PIRA, because it had suited the organisation's purposes.

"It was to PIRA's advantage to have the prisons full. They were violently opposed to the release campaign: indeed Father Faul said he could be shot by them for his activities."

The document is contained in a Northern Ireland Office file on Prisons from 1983 to 1989, regarding Reforms and Restoration of Lost Remission (after the Hunger Strike 03/10/81).

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