By Karim El-Bar
LONDON (AA) – Emergency legislation introduced to the parliament by the British government to end the automatic early release of terrorist offenders will not extend to Northern Ireland, provoking criticism from unionist politicians.
The Belfast Telegraph speculated: “It may not have been considered for Northern Ireland as it could conflict with the early release provisions for paramilitary prisoners in legislation that followed the Good Friday Agreement.”
The 1998 agreement brought about an end to “The Troubles,” a 30-year low-intensity conflict between Northern Irish republican separatists on one hand and Northern Irish unionists and the British state on the other.
Doug Beattie, Ulster Unionist Party Justice spokesman in the Northern Irish legislature, said: “This part of the United Kingdom is not immune to global terrorist attack; in fact, we may find ourselves, being the frontier to the European Union, as the soft underbelly of the United Kingdom.”
“He added: “The same penalties should be available U.K.-wide for those who seek to attack our people and our way of life, in any part of our country.”
A terrorist attack in Belfast -- or anywhere else in Northern Ireland -- should be treated as seriously as a terrorist attack in Manchester or London.”
He said: “The same penalties should therefore be available U.K.-wide for those who seek to attack our people and our way of life, in any part of our country.”
Sudesh Amman, 20, stabbed two people earlier this month before being shot by police. He had previously been convicted of terror offenses and released from prison before completing his full sentence.
The emergency legislation will require convicted terrorists to undergo a risk assessment by a parole board before being released.
The government aims to pass the law by Feb. 27, the day before the next terrorist prisoner is due to be automatically released.
The law will affect current as well as future prisoners and as such will affect around 50 terrorist prisoners currently in prison.
The retroactive nature of the law is controversial among civil rights advocates and is expected to draw legal challenges, as it means that current terror offenders due for automatic release would have to spend more time in prison than was decided at their trials.