08 January 2006

Triple killer soldier in move to Ulster prison

Sunday Life

Exclusive by Stephen Breen
08 January 2006

AN Ulster-born former Irish soldier is on his way back to Northern Ireland - after 23 years behind bars in Dublin.

Belfast-born Michael McAleavey (44), who was jailed for the murder of three Irish Army colleagues in the Lebanon, has been branded the "forgotten man" of the Republic's justice system.

But Sunday Life can reveal he is now set for a transfer to a jail in Northern Ireland and could be free by Christmas.

The Lord Chief Justice, Sir Brian Kerr, set McAleavey's jail tariff at 24 years in Belfast last Thursday.

That clears the way for the west Belfast man to be transferred to Maghaberry, and he could be freed before the end of the year because of the length of time he has already spent in jails in Republic.

He is expected to be transferred over the coming weeks.

The ex-squaddie's family, who have fought to have him repatriated to Northern Ireland since the late 1990s, have been campaigning for over a year for the tariff to be set.

The prisoner's solicitor, Joe Rice, told us the tariff indication set by the LCJ was "real and substantive progress".

Said Mr Rice: "I spoke to Michael on Friday and he believes there is now light at the end of the tunnel.

"He is very anxious to be returned close to his family and wants to be transferred to Northern Ireland as soon as possible.

"His request should be given every consideration and urgency, on compassionate and humanitarian grounds, now that the tariff indication has finally been set. I believe he will be transferred to Northern Ireland very soon."

McAleavey was serving as a peacekeeper with the Irish Army in the war-torn region, when he riddled his colleagues to death with a machine-gun.

Although he initially claimed his unit had been attacked by Lebanese Pro-Israeli Christian militia, McAleavey later admitted that he had "cracked" under pressure and heat exhaustion.

McAleavey was found guilty in 1983, and sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Since then, he has been detained in Portlaoise, Limerick, Wheatfield and Dublin jails. McAleavey first applied to be repatriated to Maghaberry jail in the late 1990s without success.

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