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August 07, 2005

Colombia 3 Likely to Stay in Ireland

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News about Ireland & the Irish

SB 08/07/05 Colombia 3 Here To Stay Despite Fury –V(1)A(2)
IT 08/08/05 Extradition Of 'Colombia 3' Appears Unlikely
IT 08/08/05 Process Of Extradition Fraught W/ Difficulties
IT 08/08/05 Three Do Not Need Deal To Ensure They Can Stay
IT 08/08/05 No Legal Basis For Expulsion Case, Say Family
IT 08/08/05 Prison Conditions Fugitives Escaped From
IT 08/08/05 Garda May Not Act On Interpol Warrant
IT 08/08/05 Reappearance To Be Raised At US Committee
IT 08/08/05 FARC: Fighting Against Colombian Govt Since '64
IT 08/08/05 There Was No Deal Over Men's Return


This Week: Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams says the return
of the three men has not negatively affected the ongoing
peace process

This Week: Taoiseach Bertie Ahern says that the three
republicans are not 'on the run'

Nine News: Tommie Gorman, Northern Editor, reports as Sinn
Féin comments on the return of three Irishmen sought in

Colombia 3 Here To Stay Despite Government Fury

07 August 2005 By Pat Leahy Political Correspondent

The Colombian government has formally requested the men's
return, but legal sources suggested it was highly unlikely
that the men - Niall Connolly, Martin McCauley and James
Monaghan - could be setback to Colombia.

In a recent extradition case before the High Court, Mr
Justice O'Sullivan ruled that an Irish priest charged with
sex abuse in the US could not be extradited because his
constitutional rights would be endangered in Arizona. It is
likely that lawyers for the men would make a similar
argument if there was any attempt to send them back to
Colombia. Caitriona Ruane, a campaigner for the three men
and a Sinn Féin assembly member, told The Sunday Business
Post that they had received legal advice suggesting it is
highly unlikely that the government could extradite them.

Sinn Féin denied that it had any involvement in the men's
return, although the party's statements on the matter were
viewed with disbelief in government circles. Government
sources were scathing about Sinn Féin's behaviour.

The Taoiseach denied that any deal had been done with Sinn
Féin about the men's return, a statement which was echoed
by the Sinn Féin leadership.

The Department of Justice said that Ireland would "fulfil
its international obligations subject to the scrutiny of
the Irish court''.


Extradition Of 'Colombia Three' Now Appears Unlikely

Government officials will examine in detail this week
Irish and international extradition law amid a growing
belief in legal and political circles that the extradition
of the Colombia Three would be unlawful, write Mark
Brennock, Chief Political Correspondent and Mark Duffy in

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has promised to consider any
"request for assistance" from the Colombian government, and
that the Government would "abide by its obligations under
international law".

He acknowledged the return of the men had caused "an
enormous amount of difficulties", and was "not helpful to
the peace process".

In an article in today's Irish Times, Mr Ahern said "this
country does not have an extradition treaty with Colombia".

Several legal sources said yesterday the absence of such a
treaty made the prospect of the men being returned to
Colombia - to serve jail sentences of up to 17 years for
training Farc guerillas - remote.

In his article Mr Ahern calls for "calm and clear-headed"
consideration and debate on the matter.

He leaves open the prospect of the men being tried here,
possibly for travelling on false passports.

However, he also distanced the Government from any decision
to proceed in this way.

"Any question of a breach of Irish law is a matter for
investigation for the Garda Síochána and the independent
office of the Director of Public Prosecutions."

He said the men's return had not been part of any deal with
the Government, which had no prior knowledge of their

The director of operations of Colombia's administrative
security department, Luz Miriam Rodriguez, told The Irish
Times she would today ask the Colombian embassy in London
to request the extradition of the three.

She said this could take some time, but her office had been
preparing paperwork over the weekend.

Colombia's justice and interior minister Sabas Pretelt de
la Vega said yesterday his government was studying
mechanisms to bring the men back to Colombia.

His government "could not stand idly by with its arms

Colombia's attorney general Mario Iguaran said
"international mechanisms do exist that enable us to issue
an extradition request".

The Irish Government would not comment on whether it
believes an extradition request from Colombia could

A spokesmen said the matter required more examination, and
that no formal request had been received from Bogotá.

However, Irish legal sources said that the absence of an
extradition treaty, and the fact that there appeared to be
no international convention to which Ireland and Colombia
had signed up and which covered the offences of which the
three were convicted, suggested there was no legal basis
for an extradition request.

Meanwhile Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams yesterday
rejected claims the return to Ireland of the three - who
jumped bail after being freed in March 2004 pending an
appeal by the Colombian authorities against their acquittal
on the charges of training Farc guerrillas - would cause a
peace process crisis.

"These men should not be extradited under any circumstances

© The Irish Times


Process Of Extradition Is Fraught With Numerous Legal

The legal view: Insofar as the 'Colombia Three' took a
gamble in returning home it is a reasonably safe bet that
they will remain here, writes Remy Farrell

The legal view

Since the return of the "Colombia Three" in recent days,
much of the focus has been on the response of the
Government to any prospective request for extradition from
the Colombian authorities.

While it is often the refuge of government to refer
difficult political decisions concerning criminal
investigation and prosecution to An Garda Síochána or the
DPP, all issues relating to extradition are a matter for
the Government and specifically the Attorney General and
the Minister for Justice.

It has been said that the three men have taken a very
considerable gamble in choosing to return home
notwithstanding the possible risk of future extradition
proceedings being brought against them.

However, the practical reality is that such proceedings are
at best a remote possibility and even in the event that
extradition was sought the process itself would be fraught
with legal difficulty.

While the Colombian authorities have made much of the fact
that there is an Interpol arrest warrant in existence in
respect of the three men, this is of little relevance from
the point of view of domestic Irish extradition law as
there is no basis for executing such a warrant in this
jurisdiction. Extradition could only take place on foot of
an agreement or treaty between Ireland and Colombia.

There are a number of treaties which can be considered
extradition agreements for the purposes of Irish law to
which both Ireland and Colombia are signatories but these
relate to very specific offences such as the hijacking of
aircraft, torture and trafficking of nuclear materials and
drugs and could not be invoked to extradite the "Colombia
Three". These are, in any event, multilateral treaties and
as such are difficult (possibly to the point of being
unworkable) to invoke for the purposes of an extradition
request as their provisions generally do not take account
of many of the technical and procedural aspects of Irish
extradition law.

So long as there is no bilateral extradition treaty between
Ireland and Colombia there can be no extradition.

This then begs the question as to whether or not the
Government would enter into such an agreement. The most
significant difficulty in this regard would be the
propriety of doing so in circumstances where Colombia
continues to be roundly criticised by the United Nations
for persistent and apparently systematic human rights

While the operation of extradition agreements are
ultimately a matter for the executive, Article 29 of the
Constitution requires any treaties which involve a charge
on public finances to be approved by the Dáil.

This applies to extradition treaties due to the associated
legal costs and the costs of transporting those being
extradited outside the jurisdiction. It would, therefore,
be impossible for the Government to enter into an
extradition treaty with Colombia without seeking the
approval of the Dáil.

Even assuming that there was a treaty between Ireland and
Colombia which allowed for extradition, a number of serious
impediments would still lie in the way of an extradition,
not least of which is the general prohibition on
extradition for political offences found in Section 9 of
the Extradition Act, 1965. Although the scope of this
exception has been limited since its heyday in the 1980s
when it was the cause of significant disquiet in the UK as
a result of the Irish courts refusing extradition in
respect of a number of IRA suspects, it nonetheless would
be very much a live issue which would arise in the context
of any extradition proceedings.

Other technical legal hurdles would also have to be
overcome such as showing that there was correspondence
between the offences for which the men were convicted and
offences in this jurisdiction. In other words that were the
same offences committed here that they would be punishable
by a term of imprisonment. This is not as straightforward a
proposition as it may at first appear and necessarily
involves the Irish courts in a detailed analysis of the
offences for which the fugitive has been convicted.

If one takes matters a step further and assumes that an
extradition request overcame these hurdles, was given the
imprimatur of the High Court and an order was made for the
extradition of the three men, this would be far from the
end of the matter. It is open to anyone who has had an
order for extradition made against them to bring
proceedings under Section 50 of the Extradition Act, 1965.

This is a procedure where the fugitive seeks to prevent the
order for his extradition being acted upon on various
grounds. Perhaps the most relevant ground in the case of
the "Colombia Three" is the apprehension previously voiced
by their supporters that their lives would be at risk from
pro-government paramilitary elements in the event that they
were returned to Colombia.

A brief perusal of material available through Amnesty
International and the United Nations High Commissioner for
Human Rights would suggest that such concerns have a firm
basis in reality.

The Supreme Court has in the past prohibited extradition on
the grounds of an apprehension as to the safety of the
fugitive once handed over to the requesting state. In the
1990 case of Finucane v McMahon the applicant, Dermot
Finucane, had been the subject of an extradition order in
relation to offences alleged to have occurred during a mass
breakout from the Maze Prison in 1983 during the course of
which a prison officer died. There was evidence that in the
days following the escape the remaining IRA prisoners were
subjected to systematic assaults and mistreatment by prison
officers by way of retaliation for the death of their

This abuse was subsequently covered up and the prison
officers refused to co-operate with any of the official
investigations. The Supreme Court ultimately took the view
that against such a background and particularly in
circumstances where the relevant authorities had taken no
disciplinary action against the prison officers, it was
probable that Finucane would be subjected to similar abuse
if returned to Northern Ireland to serve out his prison
sentence. Consequently they granted an order prohibiting
his extradition.

It is not difficult to see how such precedent is relevant
to the apparent failure of the Colombian government to act
against paramilitaries with whom it shares a confluence of
interests. In circumstances where the concern is that the
lives of those extradited is at risk rather than simply the
prospect of ill-treatment by prison authorities, there is a
strong possibility that the Irish courts would feel obliged
to intervene.

Insofar as the "Colombia Three" took a gamble in returning
home it is probably best regarded as a reasonably safe bet
that they will remain here. While none of the legal
impediments to their extradition is of itself insuperable,
the cumulative effect of the many problems which would lie
in the path of such an extradition effectively means that
the possibility of their being returned to Colombia remains
at best slight.

• Remy Farrell is a practising barrister


Three Do Not Need Deal To Ensure They Can Stay

Mark Brennock

Analysis: Unionists insist there was a political deal.
The main Opposition parties have suggested there might be.
But it seems that now that they have got back to Ireland,
the "Colombia Three" don't need any political deal to
ensure they can stay here.

The Government appears to be off the

'Colombia Three' hook, writes Mark Brennock

For there was consensus among legal sources yesterday that
as things stand the three men cannot be extradited to
Colombia. There is no extradition treaty between the two

It is theoretically possible that extradition could be
sought under some international convention covering
specific crimes to which both Ireland and Colombia have
signed up.

However these conventions cover very specific offences and
none seems immediately to cover the offences of which the
"Colombia Three" have been convicted.

Even if a suitable convention could be found and the
Government was to consider that an extradition request was
in order, a court decision to extradite would be far from

The protections afforded to citizens under the Constitution
take precedence over any international convention.

Colombia faces regular international criticism for human
rights breaches; the original trial judge suggested the two
main witnesses against the men should be investigated for
possible perjury, only for their evidence to be accepted by
the appeal tribunal; Colombian political and military
figures referred to the men as guilty long before the

Therefore in the event of an extradition request being
considered acceptable under some international treaty, it
would still face enormous obstacles in the Irish courts.

The existence of an Interpol arrest warrant for the three
is of no assistance either to those who wish to see them
sent back to Colombia.

Gardaí arrest people on the basis of Irish warrants only.

This analysis of the legal position therefore backs up the
contention of the Taoiseach and his Ministers that the
question of extraditing the men has "nothing to do with
us". Extradition requests are made to the Government, and
the Attorney General then acts upon them. But the current
situation seems to be that there is no basis for the making
of an extradition request.

Should the Colombian government nevertheless make an
extradition request, it would be for the Government
formally to decide, with advice from the Attorney General,
that there was no basis for proceeding with it. However,
legal sources suggested yesterday that the Government would
not have any real discretion. To seek to extradite the
three men on the basis of a Colombian government request
would, in current circumstances, be unlawful, the sources

It also seems highly unlikely that the Government would
seek to change this situation by conducting speedy
negotiations with Colombia to agree an extradition treaty.
It does not seem realistic to expect the Government to seek
such a treaty - or for the Opposition to demand that it did
- with a state whose human rights record has been
criticised by the United Nations.

The Government therefore appears to be off the hook in
relation to the fate of the "Colombia Three". It has little
discretion, and no difficult decision to make.

So if the possibility of extradition to Colombia is indeed
closed, what is left is the possibility of charging the men
with travelling on false passports. This is a matter for
the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Garda, not for
the Government.

Government spokesmen said at the weekend that senior
officials in the Departments of the Taoiseach and the
Ministers for Justice and Foreign Affairs, as well as the
Attorney General's Office, would this week examine
carefully all of the legal possibilities. However, no
official extradition request has yet been made by the
Colombian government, and there is no sense in Government
circles of any imminent dramatic developments.

This is the second alleged "secret deal" with Sinn Féin and
the IRA that Mr Ahern had unambiguously denied in recent
days. Mr Ahern indicated through a spokesman last week that
claims by Gerry Adams that he [ Mr Ahern] had agreed to
give Northern Ireland MPs the right to speak in the Dáil on
a wide range of policy issues were wrong. Rather, the
spokesman indicated, the Taoiseach had indicated support
for a much narrower initiative: the idea that Northern MPs
could be invited from time to time to speak at Oireachtas
committees, but only on matters relating to Northern
Ireland and the peace process.

"There has been much exaggerated comment on this point" the
Taoiseach writes in today's editions of The Irish Times.
"What we have in mind is sensible but modest. It would not
involve speaking rights or privileges in the Dáil." He adds
that "there are no other understandings or side deals".

The fact that other parties North and South suspect such
deals - whether they be in relation to Dáil speaking rights
or the "Colombia Three" - is down largely to the emergence
last year of the news that at one point the Taoiseach had
agreed secretly to release the killers of Det Garda Jerry
McCabe in the context of a comprehensive deal in the North.
This idea has been abandoned now.

The evidence against a deal on the "Colombia Three" is not
only that the Taoiseach has clearly denied it, but the fact
that no such deal appears to be necessary to ensure the
three men can remain in Ireland and are not extradited back
to Colombia to serve 17-year sentences.

© The Irish Times


No Legal Basis For Expulsion Case, Say Family

Deaglán de Bréadún, Foreign Affairs Correspondent, and Mark
Duffy in Bogotá

Family reaction: The family of Niall Connolly, one of
the so-called "Colombia Three", say they do not believe
there are grounds for extraditing the men to Colombia and
that, in light of that country's human rights record, the
Irish people would not want their citizens sent there.

It also emerged yesterday that lawyers for two of the men,
James Monaghan and Martin McCauley, have lodged appeals on
their behalf with the Colombian Supreme Court and that an
appeal on Mr Connolly's behalf is to be filed shortly.

Eduardo Matias, who represented Mr Connolly during the
trial, said in Bogotá yesterday that the appeals for Mr
Monaghan and Mr McCauley were filed "in the last two
months" and that Mr Connolly's appeal would be lodged later
this month.

The fact that the men were in Ireland would not have any
effect on the hearing, he said, adding that, because of the
backlog of cases, it could be "at least five years" before
there was a verdict.

Broadcast journalist Charlie Bird, who interviewed Mr
Monaghan on RTÉ last Friday and was questioned by gardaí
afterwards, told The Irish Times he did not know where the
three were.

"No, is the answer. I have no idea and I told the guards
when they questioned me that I had no idea where they
were," he said.

He did not know where the Monaghan interview had taken
place. "I had no idea where I was. I was taken in the back
of a van from a particular location," he said. He was
brought back to that location after the interview: "The one
thing I am not prepared to say is what that location was."

Dan Connolly, brother of Niall Connolly, said yesterday:
"The Connolly family's main priority at all times was to
see the men home and this has come to pass. As at different
stages in the last four years there has always been a new
twist and we will watch and see how things develop.

"We don't believe there are grounds for an extradition case
against the men and if one were brought we believe it would
be defeated in the courts. We don't believe either that
Irish people would want their citizens being sent back to
Colombia, particularly where there is an understanding of
the human rights situation in that country."

Expressing gratitude to all those who provided assistance
during the case, he said: "Obviously we are delighted and
we have a lot of people to thank, Caitríona Ruane, Peter
Madden and the Colombian lawyers; the observers; the
Department of Foreign Affairs for their kindness; the
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and former minister for foreign
affairs Brian Cowen for their interventions; the Sinn Féin
leadership and grass roots; Irish people across the 32
counties for their support and concern."

© The Irish Times


Prison Conditions Fugitives Escaped From

Deaglán de Bréadún reports on the conditions the men
could face if sent back to finish sentences

Colombia is the heartland of "magic realism", the literary
genre associated with the country's most famous writer,
Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The term could also be applied to
the way of life in that fascinating and beautiful country,
where events do not always take the most logical or
predictable turn.

Developments around the "Colombia Three" case have often
had a fantastic or dreamlike quality that would not be out
of place in a magic realist novel. The latest twist is the
sudden surprise appearance of the trio on the Irish scene.

Inevitably there have been demands for their extradition,
both from the Colombian authorities and opposition
politicians here at home. Supporters of the men counter
that the human rights situation in Colombia, as well as
prison conditions in that country, should preclude any
possibility of sending James Monaghan, Martin McCauley and
Niall Connolly back there to serve out their 17½-year

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a Colombian official
pointed out at the weekend that the men had been in custody
in Colombia for about three years from August 2001 and
nothing untoward had happened to them.

As far as the Colombian authorities are concerned, they are
fighting to protect their state from the Farc
(Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) guerrillas, whom
they characterise as terrorists and drug-traffickers.
Colombia is pivotal to US interests in the region,
especially now that neighbouring Venezuela is ruled by a
left-wing neo-Castroite regime led by President Hugo

But there is widespread criticism of the human rights
situation in Colombia. Front Line, an international
organisation to protect human rights defenders with
headquarters in Blackrock, Co Dublin, has prepared a
special report.

According to this report: "Brutal paramilitary groups -
under the command of the United Self-Defence Units of
Colombia (AUC) - work symbiotically with the army to
protect the interests of various elites including large
landowners, drug-traffickers and US-based corporations."

The prison at La Modelo, outside Bogota, where the three
men were held for most of their time in Colombia, contains
guerrillas of both left and right. The Irishmen were
billeted with the left-wing guerrillas but, according to
visitors such as Independent TD for Dublin North-Central
Finian McGrath, this was "very, very near" the section
which housed the right-wing paramilitaries.

Mr McGrath, who visited the prison in late 2002 says: "The
men themselves were in a kind of a room, like you would say
the size of a double sitting-room in a house, with 43 other
prisoners and they were sharing toilet facilities and
kitchen areas and all that in one kind of block, but it was

"Number two, it was the whole question of fear and
intimidation, there was a sense of fear there the whole
time and there was absolutely no safety at all.

"I had a good look around La Modelo and for me it was a
hellhole basically," says Mr McGrath. "I wouldn't send a
cat back to Colombia on any extradition warrant whatsoever
and I do accept the fact that we don't have an extradition
treaty with Colombia.

"But in relation to the prison itself, it is probably one
of the most dangerous places to be in the whole wide world.
It's absolutely appalling, it has a very, very bad track
record of deaths, destruction, people being shot, people
being murdered in their cells, and you could not send any
Irish citizens, regardless of what you think of them, back
to a situation like that. It would be unacceptable to any
human rights organisation throughout the world."

It should be pointed out that the human rights record of
the Farc, the Marxist guerrilla movement the three Irishmen
were in contact with, has also been widely criticised. Farc
currently holds 63 hostages, including the French-Colombian
politician Ingrid Betancourt of the Green Party, who was a
candidate in the last presidential election and whose
husband Juan Carlos Lecompte visited Ireland earlier this
year to campaign for her release.

Front Line Director Mary Lawlor says human rights abuses
are committed by all sides in the conflict. "The army,
guerrillas and paramilitaries commit serious violations -
assassinations, massacres, rape of women and some

"'Disappearances' and torture are widespread, impunity is
the norm and, in addition, human rights defenders who work
against such abuses are also targeted."

Lawyers for the three are understood to have been appealing
the lengthy sentences prior to the reappearance of the men
in Ireland.

The initial judgment in the case by Judge Acosta and the
subsequent appeal were both closely argued, but critics of
the process have pointed to a number of public statements
by leading political and military figures in Colombia which
they said had created a prejudicial atmosphere around the

Seemingly this is not unusual in that country, whereas in
Ireland such interventions would not be the norm.

© The Irish Times


Garda May Not Act On Interpol Warrant

Olivia Kelly

Gardaí would not confirm last night whether they intended
to seek the arrest of the so-called "Colombia Three" on
foot of an Interpol arrest warrant.

A Garda spokeswoman would not say if they planned to arrest
the men, or whether or not they had been requested to do so
by Interpol. She also refused to confirm reports the men
had been in the State since last March.

She said she did not know if the Irish authorities would be
obliged to comply with an arrest warrant. However, it
remains unclear whether the men are the subject of an
Interpol warrant.

Martin McCauley, James Monaghan and Niall Connolly, who
reappeared in Ireland last week after fleeing jail
sentences of more than 17 years each in Colombia, are
understood to be the subject of an Interpol "red notice".

The organisation states that a red notice is "not an
international arrest warrant".

© The Irish Times


Reappearance Of Men To Be Raised At US Committee

Sean O'Driscoll in New York

US reaction: The reappearance of the "Colombia Three" in
Ireland is likely to be raised before a congressional
hearing on Colombia this year, senior political advisers
said yesterday.

In a strongly-worded statement released to The Irish Times
yesterday, a source representing the chairman of the
International Relations Committee, which overseas
congressional legislation on foreign policy, said the Irish
Government should honour its commitment to extradite the
three for "helping to train narco-terrorists in our own

Speaking on behalf of committee chairman Congressman Henry
Hyde, he said the US hoped the Government had not made a
deal with the IRA as the issue "had nothing to do with
Northern Ireland" and related to the drug war in the
neighbourhood of the US. The US has made tremendous
progress in Colombia in recent years, and the arrest of the
"Colombia Three" was one event that set it back.

"The US takes this issue very seriously. We hope the Irish
Government honours its agreements and carries out the
Interpol warrant for these three Irishmen who are wanted on
serious charges by the Colombian government after
conviction for helping to facilitate the training of narco-
terrorists in our own hemisphere."

He said the republican movement had created a very
difficult situation for the Taoiseach. "With friends like
these guys, who needs enemies?"

The committee is due to hold a hearing this year on US
funding for Colombia, and it is likely to hear evidence
about the case.

In March 2002, the committee held hearings on the "Colombia
Three", and heard evidence from CIA operatives and others
who monitor links between Farc and international terrorist

© The Irish Times


FARC: Fighting A War Against Colombian Government Since

Mark Duffy, Bogota

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or Farc, has
been waging a war against the Colombian government since

It started as an offshoot of the Colombian Communist Party
trying to protect the rights of peasant farmers in the
countryside far from Bogotá. The conflict here is the
longest-running in Latin America and the Farc is the oldest

Despite recent blows by the armed forces since President
Álvaro Uribe came to power in 2002, it is still the biggest
guerrilla movement in the region.

Mr Uribe, a close Washington ally, was elected on promises
of crushing Colombia's insurgency and strengthening
democratic security in this war-weary Andean nation.

Right-wing paramilitaries are also involved in the conflict
which claims more than 3,000 lives each year, mostly

In recent months, the FARC has stepped up its campaign of
attacks aimed at undermining President Uribe's re-election
attempts next year.

President Uribe has been pursuing an unprecedented, US-
backed build-up against Farc rebels. Military commanders
here claim the Farc has been forced into decline.

The Farc gets its funding from extortion, kidnapping and
drug trafficking to the tune of billions of dollars every

The three Irishmen were arrested in August 2001 on their
return from a Farc-controlled safe haven in Colombia's
southern jungles.

In the months before and immediately after their arrest, it
was widely claimed here that the Farc's military strength
and bomb-making capabilities had greatly improved.

Several bombs in towns and villages around the country
showed signs that the Farc had changed its methods and
authorities said this was due primarily to training given
by the Irishmen.

Military commanders claimed the rebel group had received
training in urban warfare tactics and instruction in bomb-
making skills from the IRA.

On August 7th, 2002 mortars were fired at the presidential
palace in downtown Bogotá during Álvaro Uribe's swearing-in

They fell short of their target and killed more than 20
people in a nearby poor neighbourhood. Authorities claimed
that the tubes the mortars were fired from bore a strong
resemblance to those used by the IRA in Northern Ireland.

At the trial of the three Irishmen, these claims were
refuted by a leading British forensic expert, Dr Keith

Despite recent government claims that the Farc is on the
decline, attacks over the past few months have damaged the
Colombian army's offensive in several rural areas.

The southern state of Putumayo, a traditional Farc
stronghold is currently at a standstill, and it is believed
that the rebels may be trying to attract the limited army
resources away from other areas of the country in order to
mount more attacks.

© The Irish Times


There Was No Deal Over Men's Return

The peace process requires us to be calm and clear about
the return to Ireland of the 'Colombia Three', writes
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern. At the end of last month, the IRA
announced an end to its armed campaign.

At the end of last month, the IRA announced an end to its
armed campaign.

I welcomed that statement. If it is borne out by actions,
it will indeed be a momentous and historic development that
gives renewed momentum to the peace process.

I also said there would be challenges ahead. Events in
recent days have proven that to be all too accurate.

The return of the three men from Colombia has caused
enormous controversy and, in many quarters, anger. That is
understandable. I am very mindful of the damage that this
entire episode has done to the peace process, since the men
were first arrested in Colombia four years ago. It has
undermined trust and given rise to many legitimate
concerns, not just in Ireland but internationally.

But we must be calm and clear-headed in how we deal with
this matter, and how we debate it.

First, let me make it absolutely clear that the return of
these men was not part of any deal between the Government
and Sinn Féin or anyone else in the lead-up to the recent
IRA statement. The matter was not even discussed.

Neither had the Government any prior knowledge of their
return to Ireland.

This new situation gives rise to a number of issues that
must be addressed by the appropriate authorities. Any
question of a breach of Irish law is a matter for
investigation for the Garda Síochána and the independent
Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The Government will abide by its obligations under
international law. It is the case that this country does
not have an extradition treaty with Colombia. If we receive
a request for assistance from the Colombian government, it
will be considered in accordance with our legal

That will be subject to scrutiny in the courts, as is right
and proper in a democracy.

There are, of course, other challenges to be faced.

In our joint statement on July 28th, Tony Blair and I set
out the agenda. We want to see verified actions to follow
IRA words. We want to see the restoration of the political
institutions, support for policing and the ending of
loyalist paramilitary and criminal activity.

The scourge of violence and sectarianism has not gone away.
Even in recent weeks, people on both sides of the community
have been forced from their homes. Tensions always rise
further during the marching season. Loyalist paramilitaries
have been engaged in a vicious feud that has already cost a
number of lives.

I know that for many people, there is uncertainty and
suspicion at recent developments. That is not confined to
the unionist community. The pace of events has fuelled
suspicion. So it is important that we are very clear about
the broader peace process and the position of the

In all of my recent contacts with the Sinn Féin leadership,
I have stressed the need to end all paramilitary and
criminal activity and to complete decommissioning. That has
been my only message. The IRA statement promises that
outcome and is the result of that pressure and the united
position of both governments, supported throughout by the
Government and our many friends in the United States.

The next step is to see the steps promised implemented in

Both governments have made clear that this must be
verified. The completion of decommissioning, which I hope
will not be long delayed, will be overseen by the
Independent International Commission on Decommissioning,
headed by Gen John De Chastelain. The ending of
paramilitary and criminal activity will be assessed by the
International Monitoring Commission, which will report in
October and again in January. The governments will know if
this happens. The people will know if this is for real.

Some things have begun already, such as demilitarisation.
The British government's proposals, while they have been
updated, have been public since the Joint Declaration of
2003. Everybody on this island should welcome the
downscaling of the British military presence and its
eventual return to pre-1969 levels.

Similarly, it has always been made clear in public that
both governments intend to introduce schemes to deal with
the question of so-called "on-the-runs", or OTRs, who
committed offences prior to the Good Friday Agreement. The
governments and parties discussed this in Weston Park in
2001. We published detailed proposals in the Joint
Declaration in 2003.

Just as with the early release of convicted prisoners, this
is a difficult but necessary aspect of the peace we have
achieved in recent years. The Government will publish a
scheme in November 2005 to address this issue.

However, I have already made clear that any scheme will not
apply to anyone wanted in connection with the killing of
Det Garda Jerry McCabe. Nor is there any question of the
early release or any other concession for those already
convicted in that case.

Another issue that has been the subject of debate in recent
weeks is the question of Oireachtas participation by
Northern representatives. Again, this proposal has been
part of the public debate for some time. It is an important

One of the many lessons of the last century is that the
South cannot ignore the North. For too long, we neglected
our relationship with Ulster unionism. We also paid scant
attention to the real concerns of our fellow Irish citizens
in the North. There has been much exaggerated comment on
this point. What we have in mind is sensible but modest. It
would not involve speaking rights or privileges in the
Dáil, but rather facilitate committee discussions with
Northern MPs on matters relating to Northern Ireland and
the Good Friday agreement.

It would also be consistent with Seanad reform that has
been discussed for many years. Most importantly, nothing
that I would propose will cut across the architecture of
the agreement. It can moreover complement the North-South
parliamentary forum under the agreement, which we hope to
see established soon.

The British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body is already in
existence and thriving. There is also a distinguished
history of Northern appointees to the Seanad to build on.

This is ultimately a matter for the Oireachtas and I will
make my proposals directly to all of the other party
leaders in September.

These are the only issues that I have said I will pursue
following the IRA statement. They have been in the public
domain for some time. There are no other understandings or

I made all of this clear in public on July 28th.

Twenty years ago, my predecessor, Dr Garret FitzGerald,
signed the Anglo-Irish Agreement. It was a shaft of light
at a time of despair with no end to the violence in sight.

Last Saturday, Dr FitzGerald wrote in this newspaper about
the transformation in relations between North and South and
the success of the North-South bodies. This is concrete
proof of the value of engagement and dialogue.

We have had hundreds of years of political violence on this
island, sometimes sporadic, sometimes sustained.
Relationships between unionist and nationalist in the
North, between North and South and between Britain and
Ireland, seemed impossible to resolve.

The Good Friday agreement has provided the means of
resolving these issues and of ensuring peace and

That is the real story of the peace process. It takes time
and patience.

In partnership with the British government, we will
continue to drive this process in a fair-minded and
balanced way. I believe that this is what the people of
Ireland want. And I believe that this has helped us to
achieve the undeniable progress we have already made.

I hope that all the parties will apply themselves fully to
the remaining political challenges in the months ahead.

© The Irish Times

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