However, the well-known one-time prison chief said he backed measures by the Irish Prison Service to assist inmates such as Lillis by educating them, assisting them on the day of their release, and setting up support structures for them afterwards.
He said the release of Lillis in a controlled manner from Wheatfield Prison on Saturday morning — after he refused to leave early, as planned, on Friday — would have been done with the assistance of officers.
Lillis got into a taxi and took a circuitous route to Dublin Airport, where, after he checked in, did some shopping. He then took a flight to Southampton, where his sister lives.
The 57-year-old was followed by a number of media crews, who he reportedly told: “I’ve done my time.”
Responding to the remark, Mr Lonergan said: “The comments are annoying and upsetting for people: That if you do five years in prison that that exonerates your behaviour.”
Speaking on The Marian Finucane Show yesterday, Mr Lonergan added: “Your behaviour was obnoxious and unacceptable. He was convicted of manslaughter. It was an arrogant statement to make after just five years.”
Lillis was sentenced to six years and 11 months in prison for the manslaughter of his wife, Celine Cawley, in the family home in Howth, north Dublin, in September 2008. He got out after five years, once the standard one-quarter remission was applied.
Responding to reports that Lillis took Spanish, French, arts, and literature courses in prison, Mr Lonergan said educated people were “far more likely to add layers” to their education than semi- illiterate prisoners were to take basic courses.
Seán Gillane SC told the show that the public might find it hard to understand the sentence handed down to Lillis.
However, he said the judge, Judge Barry White, could not ignore the statement from the jury that they were not satisfied Lillis had intended to kill or seriously injure his wife.