JAILED businessman Sean Quinn will be released from prison following an impassioned plea on behalf of his wife Patricia, who could not bear to be separated from her husband at Christmas after almost four decades together.
The 66-year-old bankrupt, who is serving nine weeks for contempt of court, has been granted compassionate temporary release for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and St Stephen's day.
But he will not be freed to attend the christening of his granddaughter Orna tomorrow in Staghall, Belturbet, Co Cavan.
Sean Quinn Jnr said his family were delighted that his father would be home for Christmas.
"We were waiting all day and we didn't know what way it would go," he said.
"As a family, like any other family, we are looking forward to spending Christmas together. We are delighted."
An eleventh-hour application for Mr Quinn's temporary release on compassionate grounds, due in the High Court this morning, was averted after the State confirmed there would be no objection to the brief respite from prison.
Because he is a contempt prisoner, Mr Quinn is not entitled to remission. This compares to other criminal offences, such as murder or rape, which legislation allows a reduction in sentence of more than a quarter for model prisoners.
Prisoners held for contempt can only be released by the courts, but Mr Quinn's legal team provided legal submissions to the Attorney General and Justice Minister Alan Shatter after prison officials queried whether they could grant compassionate temporary release (CTR) to a contempt prisoner.
When he was sentenced last month, Mr Quinn's legal team applied to the High Court for CTR.
But Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne, who sentenced Mr Quinn and his son Sean Quinn Jnr, said that any CTR application would have to be made to the prison authorities, who subsequently sought advice from Mr Shatter.
Last night, Kevin Winters, the Belfast-based human rights solicitor who represented the 66 year-old bankrupt at his sentence hearing, said that the application for CTR had "at times" been protracted.
The complex legal wrangle had involved a number of parties, including Attorney General Maire Whelan, Chief State Solicitor Eileen Creedon, the Governor of Mountjoy Ned Whelan as well as the Irish Prison Service.
"In our view, it is right and fitting that he be granted that facility because it is no more or less than that enjoyed by many other prisoners at this time," said Mr Winters.
As well as legal submissions, the Quinn family provided a series of letters outlining the impact on Mr Quinn if he missed his granddaughter's christening and Christmas with his family.
In a letter to Mountjoy Governor Ned Whelan, Ciara Quinn described the birth of her daughter in August of this year as "the only good in my life over the past 19 months".
She said that not having her father at the christening "will leave a large void in the ceremony and a dark cloud over the entire day".
She added: "My father is a devoted family man, and to miss his granddaughter's Christening would negatively affect him."
Last night, Father Gerry Comiskey, the Parish Priest of Drumlane Parish where the Quinns reside, said of the Christening: "This is a private family event and, as such, both I and the family expect their privacy and the privacy of the child receiving the Holy Sacrament to be respected."
Mr Quinn's son, Sean Quinn Jnr, who has already served three months in jail, has admitted to the Irish Independent that he fears he may be sent back to prison in the New Year.
"I've accepted that may happen," he said "It will be a matter for the courts, and I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.''
The former owner of the Belfry Golf and Hotel Resort confirmed that he and his wife Karen Woods have agreed to sell their apartment in Dublin in an effort to purge his contempt.