Campaigners: John Whelan and Ronan Quinn
The families of murder victims in Kilkenny have welcomed the establishment of a new independent parole board.
Minister for Justice Helen McEntee recently announced that the board is to be established and fully operational by July 2021.
Ronan Quinn’s mother Christine was murdered in her home Greenfields in Kilkenny City in 2002. Mark Costigan was convicted her murder and is currently serving a life sentence.
Costigan has never admitted to the murder or apologised or shown any remorse to his victim’s family.
Ronan Quinn, along with family members, has tirelessly campaigned for changes to the parole system.
“My family and I welcome this news as it has been a long time waiting since it passed through the Seanad and Dail Eireann and was signed into law by the president on July 23, 2019,” he said.
“It was first introduced by Deputy Jim O’Callaghan in 2016 and was later reintroduced last July in a private members bill after extensive amendment by the Department of Justice and Equality.
“The Parole Act 2019 formalises the parole process through the creation of a statutory Parole Board that is to make decisions on the release of Life Sentenced prisoners which will be independent of the Minister for Justice and Equality,” he continued. “This legislation indicates a shift towards a more human rights-based framework that is more consistent with other European jurisdictions.
“Some of the measures that are included in the Parole act are as follows: the new independent parole board authority, new minimum term of 12 years up from seven years and the option of both offender input with legal representation and victim input with legal representation before the Parole Board,” he added.
“Some of the issues with the new Act include the removal of the conditions of being of ‘good behaviour and sober habits’ from the offender’s parole order and the imbalance of the parole board having a prisoner rights advocate on the board but no victim right advocate written into the Act.
“Overall this Act is a very positive step in the right direction,” he said. “I feel this offers more transparency for the victims of murder with proper face-to-face representation before the parole board rather than a letter which I feel can be very hard to get concerns across to the parole board. With the minimum term being increased from seven to 12 years this will have a positive impact on the grieving process for victims not having to relive everything again for another five years.”
John Whelan, brother of Sharon Whelan who was murdered at her home in Windgap on Christmas morning in 2008 along with her children, has also welcomed the legislation.
“The changes are very welcome, it’s a small step in the right direction when it comes to victims families rights,” he said. “However for us it does not go far enough. Until the tariff system is adopted here for all violent crime families will never feel like they have received justice.
“It’s also a very welcome change to see the Minister looking for someone to represent the families of victims on the board itself, something we in Save have been advocating for a long time now.”
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