30 June 2005

Kelly’s partner demands action

Daily Ireland

by Ciarán Barnes

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The heavily pregnant partner of jailed Belfast republican Seán Kelly has hit out at the Irish government for not doing enough to get the father of her children released.
Speaking to Daily Ireland, mother of three Geraldine Friel, who is expecting her fourth child in October, called on Taoiseach Bertie Ahern to put “real pressure” on the British government to secure the 33-year-old’s release.
Mr Kelly was sentenced to nine life sentences for his role in the IRA’s 1993 Shankill bombing, which claimed ten lives.
He was released in 2000 under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement but was returned to prison on June 18 this year.
Secretary of state Peter Hain, relying on intelligence provided to him by Britain’s Special Branch, has claimed that Mr Kelly reinvolved himself with paramilitarism.
The minister refused to elaborate on how the north Belfast man had breached his terms of release. This prompted the Taoiseach to call on his own officials to provide him with this information.
Irish senators Martin Mansergh and Maurice Hayes have also questioned the motives behind Mr Kelly’s return to jail.
However, Ms Friel said the Irish politicians could be doing much more to bring her partner home.
“I feel let down by the Irish government,” she said.
“They have not done enough to get Seán out of jail or find out why he was sent back there.
“They should be putting more pressure on the British government and demanding answers.”
Mr Kelly had only been in Maghaberry prison for four days when he was threatened by a loyalist inmate.
The mother of his children says she fears for his life inside.
“Seán is in a lot of danger in jail and I worry about him all the time,” said Ms Friel.
“The children are very scared. I let my nine-year-old know almost immediately that he had been jailed but I didn’t tell my five and three-year-olds for a couple of days. I pretended to them that he had gone on holiday.
“It was tough breaking the news to them, one of the hardest things that I have done.”
Ms Friel said she believed there had been a focused attempt to keep Mr Kelly from speaking to or seeing his family.
“Seán has been in jail for 12 days now and, in that time, I have seen him once and had just two telephone calls.
“The kids haven’t seen him at all. It’s as if the authorities don’t want him to get in touch with his family,” she said.
The arrest of Mr Kelly has led many republicans and former IRA prisoners to reconsider the role they have played in trying to prevent clashes in Belfast’s interface areas.
Mr Kelly played a key role in keeping the Ardoyne area of north Belfast calm while Orange parades passed nationalist homes. Now there is a fear among republicans that his arrest may not be the only one, something that his partner also recognises.
“Seán, like everyone else working on the interfaces in north Belfast, was trying to keep things quiet,” said Ms Friel.
“I know him better than anyone and, since he got out of jail, he has not been involved in any paramilitary activity, no matter what the British government says.
“All he has been doing is working for the benefit of his community and he has been sent to jail for trying to keep things peaceful.”

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