State must pay Maze escapee €15,500 over kidnap case delay
A FORMER student priest turned terrorist leader is to be paid €15,500 because of a delay in his prosecution for allegedly being involved in the kidnap of supermarket chief executive Don Tidey.
Last night, the Government was studying the decision by the European Court of Human Rights in favour of Brendan 'Bik' McFarlane, a Maze prison escapee and one-time Provisional IRA commander.
McFarlane (59) had already taken a case to the European Court before the Special Criminal Court in Dublin acquitted him in 2008 of false imprisonment and possession of firearms.
The charges arose from the IRA's abduction of Mr Tidey from his south Dublin home in November 1983. His 23-day ordeal as a hostage ended when gardai and troops surrounded the kidnappers' hideout in Derrada Woods at Ballinamore, Co Leitrim.
During the rescue, a 23-year-old garda recruit, Gary Sheehan, from Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan, and Army private Patrick Kelly (35), from Moate, Co Westmeath, were shot dead by the IRA.
The European Court ruled in favour of McFarlane's claim that the 10-year gap between his arrest in Dundalk in 1998 and his trial in the Special Criminal Court was excessive.
McFarlane, who is from Belfast, joined the IRA in the city after quitting a seminary in his final year of studying for the priesthood in Wales.
He was sentenced to life imprisonment for his part in the bombing of the Bayardo bar on Belfast's Shankill Road in 1975. Four men and a woman, all Protestants, died in the blast.
He became head of the IRA prisoners in the Maze and escaped in the mass breakout by 38 inmates in 1983.
It was alleged that McFarlane was one of number of Maze escapees who took part in the Tidey kidnap, which was intended by the Provisional leadership to be a big fundraising operation for the movement.
He was subsequently arrested in the Netherlands in January 1986 and extradited to Northern Ireland, where he was again put behind bars and, from 1993 to 1998, was released twice a year for periods of one week as part of a pre-release programme
He was due for full release from prison in Northern Ireland on the day of his arrest here -- January 5, 1998.
McFarlane's lawyers made two attempts in the High Court to stop his trial going ahead and the case eventually ended up in the Supreme Court, which decided in March 2008 that he should face the charges.
Despite the acquittal, McFarlane went ahead with his case in the European Court. He argued that the authorities had delayed bringing criminal proceedings, so key prosecution evidence was lost and there was a lack of evidence, other than questionable police interviews.
The European Court found that while his own conduct had contributed somewhat to the delay, it did not explain the overall length of the proceedings against him and found that length was excessive.
Department of Justice officials said last night they were studying the judgment and would be consulting with Attorney General Paul Gallagher on the issues raised in the findings.
A statement said the issues raised by the European Court had been satisfied with the measures taken to address the historical delays in the High Court and that the establishment of a court of appeal was designed to reduce the delays in Supreme Court lists.
The award to McFarlane comprises €5,500 damages and €10,000 for costs and expenses.