In the High Court today Justice Peter Kelly rejected Michael’s application to overturn the Minister of Justice’s refusal to grant him enhanced one-third remission. In arriving at his decision, Justice Kelly deliberately chose not to adhere to two previous High Court decisions [Ryan and Farrell], where it was decided that prisoners were entitled to enhanced remission once they were of good conduct and had engaged in twenty-five hours of “authorised structured activities” each week.
Michael’s application for enhanced remission stood on similar grounds to the previously cited Niall Farrell. Both are republican prisoners detained in E2 Portlaoise Prison. Both have been of good conduct during their respective periods of detention. And both completed the weekly 25-hours of authorised structured activities. However, here the similarities end. On August 8th Justice Hogan overturned the Minister for Justice’s decision to refuse Niall Farrell enhanced remission and ordered him to be immediately released. While, as a result of today’s High Court decision, Michael (65) now faces his fourteenth Christmas in prison. Where is the legal consistency to be found here? Where is Justice in these divergent and discriminating rulings?
Justice Kelly’s decision today not to follow two previous High Court rulings is highly unorthodox. Under normal circumstances Justice Kelly should have been bound by the rulings in Ryan and Farrell. For it is a feature of the Irish legal system that courts of similar stature [in this instance, the High Court] are bound by one another’s decisions in the interest of legal certainty. Indeed legal convention holds that it is a matter for superior courts or courts of appeal to overturn the decisions of inferior courts. However, those familiar with the Irish judicial system’s treatment of Michael will not be surprised by unorthodox legal decisions. Michael has never been subject to normal legal rules!
If one takes a step back and adopts a wider perspective, it is clear that Michael has been discriminated against. Contrast his ongoing detention with Niall Farrell’s welcome release. And note how from the outset Michael’s application for enhanced remission has been met with obfuscation, delay upon delay, a lack of transparency, heavy handed cell searches, the confiscation of all of his legal documents and a continuing refusal to return them, the re-writing of the prison rule-book, specially convened emergency hearings of the Supreme Court to overturn judgements that could prove favourable to Michael, and even – at one point – the unavailability of members of the judiciary to hear his case.
These are the features which have characterised this legal process. These are the lengths the Irish state has gone to keep one man detained. And this is the price Michael has had to pay for his republican beliefs.