PRISON authorities are making plans to release two of the most notorious inmates in Ireland, the killers of Detective Garda Jerry McCabe.
Kevin Walsh (52) and Pearse McCauley (44) have reached the end of their 14-year sentences, which they received in 1999 for the killing of the garda.
The two men will be released in a fortnight's time during the August bank-holiday weekend, prison sources have confirmed.
The men's sentences officially expire on 2 August and arrangements are being made to have the men released from jail in Castlerea around that date.
Both of the men will benefit from the standard one-quarter remission available to all prisoners, meaning three-and-a-half years has been cut from their jail term.
Long-serving prisoners are routinely granted temporary day and weekend releases towards the end of their sentences.
However, the two men have not benefited from any such release as political considerations and past behaviour behind bars ruled out temporary periods of freedom.
The two men were jailed for their part in a botched armed raid in Adare, Co Limerick, in 1996, which left Det Gda Jerry McCabe dead and his colleague Det Gda Ben O'Sullivan wounded.
The two officers had been providing an escort for a post-office van, which was delivering cash to a number of premises around Co Limerick.
One of the co-accused in the crime, Jeremiah Sheehy, was released in 2008, while Michael O'Neill, who was also convicted of manslaughter, left prison in 2007.
The bulk of the mens' prison sentences was served in Castlerea jail, Co Roscommon, but they were briefly moved to Portlaoise high-security prison.
The inmates had been involved in a some serious incidents behind bars. In one, they briefly took a prison officer captive.
Prison staff have complained about the lenient conditions the men enjoyed while inside. They made home brew, ordered in Chinese food and engaged in paramilitary parades.
One prison source said: "Every sentenced person in Ireland is automatically entitled to remission of one quarter of the duration of their sentence.
"There are procedures in place to cancel some of this remission in cases where prisoners misbehave but it would be very difficult to enforce and would set a legal precedent."
The family of Jerry McCabe have been kept fully briefed on developments and are aware of the two men's impending release.
UK authorities are still seeking the extradition of Pearse McCauley in connection with conspiracy to murder and explosives charges. It is understood that he will face arrest shortly after his release from prison.
McCauley escaped from London's Brixton prison in 1991 together with fellow IRA man Nessan Quinlivan. McCauley was awaiting trial for conspiracy to murder Charles Tidburn, the chairman of Whitbread Breweries.
However, the extradition proceedings are likely to take years and will be vigorously challenged under the terms of the Good Friday agreement, republican sources have said.