BELFAST, Northern Ireland – Britain sent an Irish Republican Army veteran convicted in the deaths of nine Protestants back to prison Saturday after accepting police evidence that he had resumed activities with the IRA.
The decision represented a significant warning to the IRA, which had more than 200 members paroled early from prison as part of the province’s 1998 peace accord.
Among them was Sean Kelly, who was convicted of nine counts of murder and sentenced to life for his role in blowing up a fish shop in a hard-line Protestant neighborhood in October 1993. Among the dead were an elderly couple and two children.
Kelly, 33, was paroled in 2000 but, like the others released as part of the peace process, was warned he could be sent back to serve the rest of his sentence if he resumed IRA activity.
“I am satisfied that Sean Kelly has become reinvolved in terrorism and is a danger to others and, while he is at liberty, is likely to commit further offenses,” said Peter Hain, the British governor for Northern Ireland.
Hain declined to specify the evidence against Kelly, who became the first high-profile IRA veteran returned to prison after winning parole as part of the peace process.
But Protestant political leaders accused Kelly of playing a prominent role in stoking Catholic rioting within his neighborhood of Ardoyne, north Belfast, and praised his reincarceration.
Ardoyne Catholics on Friday night attacked police and a Protestant parade with bottles and gasoline bombs – police said 18 officers and 11 civilians were injured – but it wasn’t immediately clear if Kelly participated.
But the IRA-linked Sinn Fein party warned that Kelly’s reimprisonment was likely to stir up more violence in north Belfast.
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