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August 05, 2005

Colombia 3 Return to Ireland

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Colombia Three Return To Ireland
08/05/05 10:41 EST

The three Irishmen who were acquitted of training FARC
rebels in Colombia have returned to Ireland.

Martin McCauley, Niall Connolly and Jim Monaghan left
Colombia after they were released from jail pending an
appeal in their case.

In an interview with RTE, the national Irish broadcaster,
Jim Monaghan confirmed that the men had returned to Ireland
in the past few days.

However, he would not say how they got here. He said that
they had got a 'lot of help from a lot of people' and that
he would not endanger them.

Mr Monaghan said that no deal had been done with either the
British or Irish governments for their return and that he
did not consider himself to be on the run.

He said that he hopes the Irish Government will not place
any obstacles in the way of the three staying in Ireland
and that the Irish Government would be 'very remiss' to
send anyone back to a country like Colombia. He also said
he would not be hiding from the gardaí.

Mr Monaghan said that he was not prepared to return to
Colombia if the men lost their appeal in their case and
that the three men will be seeking legal advice about the
possibility of extradition back to the country.

He said he did not believe that their return to Ireland
would damage the peace process. He said that their return
to Ireland was 'a good thing and should be celebrated'.

However, he acknowledged that the United States would not
be happy with their reappearance in Ireland.

Mr Monaghan denied that the three had gone to Colombia to
train FARC rebels. He claimed that they visited the country
in good faith to learn about the peace process there,
saying that he had no opinion on FARC and that he was not
going to get into condemnation.

Mr Monaghan also said he saw the end of the IRA military
campaign as a positive step.

The Fine Gael Leader, Enda Kenny, has demanded an immediate
statement from the Taoiseach and the Minister for Justice
on the circumstances surround the men's return.

He also asked the Taoiseach to clarify whether this issue
was part of the negotiations between the Government and
Sinn Féin in the run up to the recent IRA statement on its
future intentions.

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