Prison bosses have said that two murderers placed in a house outside the walls of Castlerea Prison have been “risk assessed” and are suitable for temporary release.
A row has flared in the Roscommon town after it emerged Michael Doohan and John “Joe” O’Neill, both serving a life sentence for murder, were moved into Harristown House as part of a release programme.
Harristown is a building outside the walls of Castlerea Prison, but on the grounds of the jail.
The two men were moved into the house after serving a period in a semi-open centre in the jail, known as the Grove, before which they were in the closed prison.
Both men have been in custody for about13 years.
Doohan, aged 47, from Sligo, is serving time for the murder of Terrence Madden in Co Sligo in Jan 1999, resulting from a local feud. He paid two men to shoot Madden to “teach him a lesson”, but the injuries led to the death of the 52-year-old father of three.
O’Neill, aged 43, from Co Longford, murdered his girlfriend in London in 1997, during which he stabbed and strangled her.
He has been in custody since 2000 and was transferred to Ireland to serve out his sentence.
Local Fianna Fáil councillor Paschal Fitzmaurice said he was concerned at the lack of security around Harristown House.
“They can enter the town day or night if they wish to do so,” he told RTÉ radio yesterday. He said nighttime curfews and bans on going into pubs in the town were based on trust, adding: “How can you trust someone who murdered?”
Local Fine Gael councillor Michael McGreal accused his colleague of “scare mongering” and said the Prison Service were the “best people to decide” what was suitable for prisoners.
He said Castlerea Prison was there for 20 years and that people in the town had campaigned to have a jail.
Independent TD Denis Naughten said “the big issue” was “a lack of consultation in advance”.
The governor of Castlerea Prison, Martin Reilly, said a series of meetings had been held with the people of Castlerea and their public representatives.
CCTV cameras had been installed inside and outside the house and nobody could enter the town without prior permission, he said.
“I respect the safety concerns that have been raised but I am confident those living here will not be any threat to the community,” he said.
A Prison Service spokesman said that “public safety was paramount” and that the inmates had been “risk assessed”.
He added: “It’s not unusual for prisoners to have programmes for release prior to full release. They are subject to conditions and if they are breached they will be returned to closed prison.”
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