Two of the killers of Detective Garda Jerry McCabe have been ordered by the High Court to pay the costs of their unsuccessful legal action aimed at securing their early release from prison.

The two are Pearse McCauley, aged 40, originally from Strabane, Co Tyrone and Jeremiah Sheehy, aged 45, from Limerick.

The normal rule on costs was that they go to the winning side, Mr Justice Daniel Herbert indicated. It was only in 'exceptional' circumstances that rule would not apply and this case was 'not sufficiently wide enough' to be considered exceptional.

Rejecting the men's challenge last December, Mr Justice Herbert said it was 'wholly legitimate' for the Minister for Justice and the Government to require that the prisoners convicted of the killing should, as punishment for 'the unique and shocking nature of the crime', serve the sentences imposed on them.

He rejected arguments by McCauley and Sheehy that they should be released because they were qualifying prisoners under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement and ruled there was 'no unjustifiable discrimination' between the two men and the 57 other prisoners who have been freed under the Agreement.

The two men had claimed that the failure to specify them as qualifying prisoners for early release breached their rights under the Constitution, the Belfast Agreement and the European Convention on Human Rights, and unjustly discriminated against them.

McCauley and Sheehy were jailed for 14 years and 12 years respectively in 1999 after pleading guilty at the Special Criminal Court to the manslaughter of Det Garda McCabe during an attempted robbery outside Adare post office, Co Limerick in June 1996.

If granted remission, McCauley is due for release on 5 August 2009 and Sheehy on 4 February 2008.