THE Attorney General has become involved in the complex legal wrangle over the release, on compassionate grounds, of jailed businessman Sean Quinn.
The 66-year-old bankrupt, who is serving a nine-week sentence for contempt, wants compassionate temporary release (CTR) to attend his granddaughter's christening on Saturday and to spend Christmas with his family.
The christening of the newest addition to the Quinn family, a daughter for Ciara Quinn and her husband Niall McPartland, can't be cancelled as the infant's godfather-to-be has to return to China before Mr Quinn's January 4 release date.
The Irish Independent has learned that requests from Quinn and his family have now been referred to Attorney General Maire Whelan because anyone convicted of contempt of court, unlike other criminal offences including murder and rape, isn't entitled to remission and can only be released by the courts.
Ireland has no formal law on contempt of court despite repeated calls for contempt to be placed on a statutory footing, raising novel legal questions about whether people like Quinn can be released early on compassionate grounds.
When he was sentenced last month, Quinn's legal team applied to the High Court for CTR.
But Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne said that any application for compassionate release would have to be made to the prison authorities.
Quinn's lawyers have made three separate representations, seeking CTR, to the governor of Mountjoy Prison – where Quinn is serving his sentence at the jail's training unit.
The Irish Prison Service, the Department of Justice and Office of the Attorney general, have also received legal submissions on the matter.
Last night, Kevin Winters, the Belfast-based human rights solicitor who represented Quinn during his sentence hearing, said that the application for CTR was at "an advanced and sensitive stage".
"It would not be prudent for me to go into details at this stage, mindful as we are of the sensitivities," said Mr Winters, adding that he did not want to risk prejudicing Quinn's application for compassionate release.
Mr Winters said he appreciated the case was legally complex, but believed his client was eligible for CTR.
Separately, the High Court has heard that Sean Quinn Jnr is to travel to Moscow to get statements on bank accounts held there by himself and some other family members.
Judge Dunne welcomed the development and other news that Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC), formerly Anglo Irish Bank, is accepting Mr Quinn Jnr's offer to sell his Dublin home.
Those were "two positive developments" in the efforts by Mr Quinn Jnr to purge his contempt of court orders, she said.
The judge last June made findings of contempt against Mr Quinn Jnr, his father, and his cousin Peter Darragh Quinn, of orders restraining stripping of assets from the family's international property group (IPG).
Mr Quinn Jnr was jailed for three months.
A warrant for the arrest of Peter Darragh Quinn to serve a three month term remains unexecuted while he remains at home in Northern Ireland.