A convicted murderer who has spent 20 years behind bars has brought a High Court challenge over what he claims is a refusal by the Minister for Justice Helen McEntee to consider his entitlement to parole.

The action has been brought by 46-year-old Paulo Nascimento who was jailed after he admitted shooting dead a young woman after he robbed the hotel they both worked at in 2002.

He claims he applied for parole on several occasions under the non-statutory Parole Board system, which had been in operation between 2001 and last year.

Under that regime, the board reviewed applications from prisoners serving lengthy sentences after being advised by the Minister for Justice who should be considered for temporary release.

He claims in early 2021 a parole board recommended that he be granted temporary release, sometime at the start of this year.

The board which reviewed his case stated that the risk the applicant would re-offend was "as low as it can get"; that keeping him in custody was "no longer productive"; and that his case did not need any further review.

However, Nascimento's lawyers have told the High Court that he remains in custody because since the new Parole Board has been established the minister has refused to decide on his entitlement to temporary release.

Represented by Michael Lynn SC, instructed by solicitor James MacGuill, Nascimento claims that last year a new parole system came into place.

The state established a statutory Parole Board, which makes its decisions on the release of prisoners independently from the Minister.

It is claimed that, as a consequence, the Minister has abandoned the administrative processes undertaken by the boards that had operated under the former parole system.

Nascimento contacted the new Parole Board to ensure that the regime change would not impact on his proposed temporary release.

However, the new board said it is entirely separate from the previous board. The new board said that it would review his case.

Given the purported decisions that were made under the previous parole regime, Nascimento's lawyers wrote to the Minister seeking a response.

It is claimed that no substantive reply has been given by the Minister, and it is claimed that the Minister has adopted a position that Nascimento's entitlement to temporary release is now a matter for the new Parole Board.

It is claimed that the extension of his incarceration, without any rehabilitation plan to prepare him for release, is a breach of his rights and amounts to failure by the Minister to fulfil her duties.

The Portuguese native was given a life sentence at the Central Criminal Court in 2003 after he pleaded guilty to the murder of Grainne Dillon at Jury's Inn Hotel, Steamboat Quay, Limerick, in January 2002.

Nascimento had been working as a night porter at the hotel. The two had been working a night shift together when Nascimento shot the 24-year-old victim three times with a shotgun after he robbed €3,000 from the hotel.

He is currently serving his sentence at Shelton Abbey Prison in Co Wicklow.

The matter came before Mr Justice Charles Meenan today. On an ex-parte basis, the judge granted the applicant permission to bring his challenge.

The matter will return before the court in October.