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lifers New figures show 11 prisoners in Irish jails have been locked up for over 35 years

Of the 362 inmates who are serving life-sentences in prisons throughout the country, some 352 of are men and 10 are women

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Brian Meehan was jailed for life in 1999

Brian Meehan was jailed for life in 1999

Brian Meehan was jailed for life in 1999

New figures have revealed that there are 11 prisoners in Irish jails who have been behind bars for more than 35 years. 

Of the 11 men, four lifers have been locked up for more than 40 years while another seven have served at least 35 years.

They include English national John Shaw who has been in custody in Ireland since September 1976 when both he and another English man, Geoffrey Evans, were arrested for the abduction, rape, torture and murder of Elizabeth Plunkett (22) in Wicklow and Mary Duffy (24) in Mayo of that year.

The Freedom of Information figures released to Newstalk show that of the 362 inmates who are serving life-sentences in prisons throughout the country, some 352 of are men and 10 are women.

One of these men is Brian Meehan, who is the only person who has ever been convicted of the murder of the Sunday Independent journalist Veronica Guerin in 1996.

The 55-year-old was jailed for life in 1999 and has now served 22 years in prison.

The figures also show that the 14 lifers released last year had spent an average of 21-and-a-half years in custody.

One of them was one of Ireland’s longest serving prisoners, Bernard Dunne (60) who was released 36 years after he brutally stabbed a pensioner to death in a public toilet.

Dunne was just 25 when he was convicted of the murder of Arthur Reynolds (79) who he randomly and brutally stabbed to death in a public toilet on Bray’s seafront on June 29, 1985.

Former prison guard John Cuffe told the show that sentences have increased a lot in recent decades.

“When I joined the service in 1978, prisoners from five years onwards were eligible to get out of jail on a life sentence,” he said.

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Sanjeev Chada. Photo: Frank McGrath

Sanjeev Chada. Photo: Frank McGrath

Sanjeev Chada. Photo: Frank McGrath

Kathleen Chada, whose two sons 10-year-old Eoghan and five-year-old Ruairi were murdered by their father Sanjeev in County Mayo eight years ago said Ireland needs tougher sentencing laws.

“For me I would say a whole-life order to be honest with you,” she said.

“I don’t believe that somebody who would break the trust of such innocence deserves to get out of prison so I would advocate for a whole-life order.

“That is not available here in Ireland so the next-best thing would be 25 to 30 years.”

She said she wants him to stay behind bars for the rest of his life.

“In the next ten years, my ex-husband who murdered our children will potentially be granted parole based on the current average number of years a prisoner serves,” she said.

“You know, he will still only be in his early to mid-60s at that point - he has a life ahead of him - and to me, that is an insult. It is an insult to my sons.”

Of the 362 life-sentence prisoners in custody, the highest numbers are in both Wheatfield Prison in Dublin and Midlands Prison in Portlaoise.

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