On the day of Magee`s release, Prime Minister Tony Blair acknowledged that the releases were “very difficult to digest.” In early 1999, Opposition Leader William Hague called for an end to early release because he said the deluge of sanctions on both sides was contrary to the Good Friday agreement. One of the most controversial parts of the Good Friday agreement was the decision to grant early release to some paramilitary prisoners. Up to 500 pre-agreement loyalist and republican prisoners are expected to be released before the program deadline, which is currently set for July 2000. Prisoners sentenced to five years or more in prison serve only one-third of their sentence. Prisoners sentenced to life imprisonment serve prison terms comparable to those of a non-convict who has not been convicted of terrorist crimes, less than one third. Four paramilitary groups, the IRA Continues, the Real IRA, the Red Hand Defenders and the Orange Volunteers, are not eligible for the release of prisoners, as they were not in a ceasefire at the time of the agreement. The publications were a radical move to win the support of the broader republican and loyalist communities in favour of the Good Friday Agreement. But politicians and the families of the victims are struggling to accept the deal, as well-known assassins such as Patrick Magee, the man responsible for the 1984 Brighton bombing that killed five people at a Conservative party congress, are released. On the day of Magee`s release, Prime Minister Tony Blair acknowledged that the releases were “very difficult to digest.” In early 1999, Opposition Leader William Hague called for an end to early release because he said the deluge of sanctions on both sides was contrary to the Good Friday agreement. The audience is also divided, as emails sent to BBC News Onlinees Talking Point showed that “Mr Blair should bear in mind that appeasement did not work for Mr Chamberlain,” wrote Jon Vincent of the United Kingdom.
“At the moment, the peace process seems to be a cynical ruse for some participants.” But Jim Gulliford, also from the UK, said peace was a priority. He wrote: “Without peace, unnecessary killings and mutilations will continue. Peace can only be achieved through compromise. At least by continuing the publication programme, the British government is showing signs of the two qualities that can put an end to unrest: trust and goodwill. It is time for the IRA to do the same and lay down its arms forever. The requests were forwarded to the Northern Ireland Prison Service, which had three weeks to verify the accuracy of the offences and sentences described in detail and to confirm that the prisoners were group members eligible for release. Among those who now enjoy freedom are some of the most famous republican prisoners in the North, including Brighton bomber Patrick Magee; Sean Kelly, convicted for his role in the 1993 bombing of Shankill, in which nine Protestants were killed; Thomas Begley, IRA man; Docklands bomber James McArdle and soldiers convicted of murdering bomber Stephen Restorick in the North.