The High Court has reserved its decision on legal proceedings by INLA leader, Dessie O'Hare, who is seeking his release from prison under the Good Friday Agreement. Mr O'Hare is serving a 40-year jail sentence for kidnapping dentist John O'Grady in 1987. The High Court heard today that the Minister for Justice has specified Dessie O'Hare as a qualifying prisoner for early release.

Dessie O'Hare kidnapped and tortured Dublin dentist John O'Grady in 1987. He demanded a £1.5m ransom for his safe return. But Dr O'Grady was successfully rescued by Gardaí and Mr O'Hare was finally captured in a shootout in County Kilkenny. Since then Mr O'Hare has been serving a 40-year prison sentence in Portlaoise. In an affidavit in the High Court today, Mr O'Hare said that he was a member of the INLA and Officer Commanding the INLA group in Portlaoise prison. In May of last year he applied with two other prisoners for release under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. The other two were released 18 days later.

Counsel for Mr O'Hare, Patrick Gageby said that his client had received only a holding response from the Department of Justice. Dessie O'Hare has been held to be a qualifying prisoner. He said that the Good Friday Agreement provided for the release of all qualifying prisoners by July last year. All such prisoners in the UK and Northern Ireland had been released. The Minister for Justice has said that Mr O'Hare's case was referred to the Release of Prisoners Commission in November and his application is being processed. Because of this, he says, his application to the court is premature.

Counsel for the Minister, Sean Ryan, said that the Minister is bound under the Act to wait to hear the advice of the Commission. It has requested three reports and Mr Justice O'Caoimh was critical today of the delay by the Department in responding. The judge reserved his decision in the case but has left it open to the Department to come in again later this month to explain the Department position on Mr O'Hare's application.