The former Fine Gael leader Michael Noonan has accused the government of 'slithering away' from an absolute commitment it had given not to release the killers of Garda Gerry McCabe.

Mr. Noonan, who is also a former minister for Justice was speaking on RTE's the Week in Politics.

He said it was clear from recent statements by the Taoiseach and the Minister for Justice that conditions had been put in place that would allow for the men's release from prison.

Speaking during the day the Minister for Justice Michael McDowell said that the Government's position was that the four men would serve their full terms of imprisonment, but that this could change if there was a total end to paramilitarism by the provisional movement.

The comments follow media reports during the week that the government had been prepared to release the four men convicted in connection with the killing as part of a failed deal to restore the North's institutions.

Yesterday, the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, denied that a deal was made last year regarding the early release of the men.