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Ex-prisoners anger at 'denial of basic rights'

Ex-prisoners can serve as government ministers in Northern Ireland but cannot get a taxi licence, it was claimed today.

By:Press Association

Former political prisoners told a conference in Dublin that barriers to full citizenship for ex-inmates made a mockery of equal rights.

The 447 republican and loyalist prisoners released under the Good Friday Agreement have joined up to 30,000 other inmates, who claim they are suffering ongoing discrimination north and south of the border.

Sinn Fein`s Raymond McCartney said former prisoners and their families were being denied basic rights in jobs, adoption, insurance, education and training.

The Foyle MLA said: "Full citizenship rights are essential and need to happen immediately. This is a key element in any process of conflict resolution.

"Many former political prisoners are striving to build a life for themselves and their families."

Mr McCartney, who served time in prison for the murder of English-born businessman Jeffrey Agate, was speaking at a conference in Dublin which brought loyalist and republican ex-prisoner groups together to share their ideas and experiences.

`Building The Peace - The Role of Loyalist & Republican Political Ex-Prisoners` was organised by the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland.

It was chaired by Fianna Fail Senator Mary White and Northern Ireland businessman, Sir George Quigley.

Conference organiser Annie Campbell said: "It is vital that the skills and talents of ex-prisoners are valued, the work they are doing to move society out of conflict is recognised and supported."

Of the 447 prisoners released under the Good Friday Agreement, 241 were republican, 194 were loyalist and 12 were non-aligned.

There are also up to 30,000 other men and women on the island of Ireland who have also served prison sentences related to the Troubles.

According to the Community Foundation, former prisoners live in social exclusion and are often barred from political, social and economic positions.

There are 6,000 former prisoners in west Belfast and they represent one quarter of the area`s jobless total.

Mr McCartney insisted that republican ex-prisoners now play a central role in the political, social and cultural fabric of communities.

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