Macarthur among 160 to get Christmas parole
CHRISTMAS parole has been sanctioned for 160 prisoners, who account for 3pc of the overall jail population.
The group includes Malcolm Macarthur, who can sleep on Christmas night without being under the watchful eye of prison staff for the first time since he was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1983.
Another long-serving inmate to be released temporarily is Sean Courtney, who is in the open centre at Loughan House, in Blacklion, Co Cavan.
He is also completing a life sentence, imposed for the murder of Dublin woman Patricia O'Toole. He was convicted in January 1993.
Courtney had admitted killing Ms O'Toole, but claimed at his trial that he was insane at the time due to post traumatic stress disorder as a result of his experiences while serving as a soldier with the Irish Defence Forces in Lebanon.
More than 60pc of those being let out are serving their sentences in the three lower security institutions, the Training Unit, which is a semi open prison in part of the Mountjoy complex, and the two open centres at Loughan House and Shelton Abbey in Arklow.
They are all deemed to be nearing the end of their sentences. The periods of release vary from a few hours on Christmas Day up to a maximum of seven nights.
In some cases the prisoners must be accompanied by a responsible person, acceptable to the prison authorities.
Macarthur, who is serving life for the murder of nurse Bridie Gargan, has been allowed out for the past four Christmases to enjoy dinner with his family in south county Dublin. But he had to return to Shelton Abbey that evening.
Last year all but two of the 134 allowed parole returned on time and one of the others showed up in early January.