FINE Gael deputy Bernard Durkan last week asked if a convicted drug dealer would be granted a day release to allow the prisoner attend a child's first holy communion on Saturday next. The Kildare North TD put down a written Dáil question last Tuesday to justice minister Dermot Ahern asking if "a person" – whose identity was not disclosed in the question – "serving a prison sentence in Portlaoise Prison" will be granted day release "to enable them attend their child's first holy communion on 9 May" and if he would "make a statement on the matter".

In response, Minister Ahern said he had been informed by the Irish Prison Service that this request had been refused.

"The person referred to by the deputy was given a six-year prison sentence (with two years suspended) for possession of drugs for the purposes of sale or supply and is not due to be released until late 2010," Ahern added.

Speaking to the Sunday Tribune this weekend, Durkan said that in putting down a Dáil question, his actions had been "fully transparent" and "above-board".

Durkan emphasised that he hadn't written a letter to the minister on the matter, but had chosen to follow "correct procedure" and put down a Dáil question.

He added that he was simply inquiring if the person might be released and that the decision on that was entirely a matter for the Minister for Justice. "I have taken a hard line with drug dealers, as you well know," Durkan said, adding that, however, he had visited people in prisons who had committed all types of crimes.

He also said the issue of day release for prisoners was "not as simple as it looks", noting that a person granted such a release recently had committed a crime.

Many prisoners had been granted day release in the past 18 months, Durkan added.