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State Papers 1988: Attorney General blocked extradition of priest to UK on terror charges as fair trial 'not possible'

  

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The attorney general warned the government that Fr Patrick Ryan would not receive a fair trial in the UK if he was extradited to answer terrorism charges.

A secret briefing note, released as part of the 1988 State Archive, sheds new light on a decision which sparked a furious stand-off between the Irish and British governments.

Attorney general John Murray ruled that it would be "improper and an abuse of process" to sanction the extradition. Instead, he said Fr Ryan could face action in Ireland under the Criminal Law (Jurisdiction) Act, 1976.

British prime minister Margaret Thatcher later clashed with Taoiseach Charles Haughey over extradition.

The crisis was sparked when Patrick Ryan was flown to Ireland on November 25, 1988, from Belgium.

The Tipperary cleric - who vehemently denied UK claims of terrorist involvement - insisted an Irish citizen could never receive a fair trial in the UK.

In a secret briefing note to government, the attorney general outlined his concerns: "In the opinion of the AG the effect of the (UK) material which has been published has, manifestly and inescapably, been to create such prejudice and hostility to Patrick Ryan that, were he to be extradited to Britain, it would not be possible for a jury to approach the issue of his guilt or innocence free from bias."

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