Monday 22 January 2018

US tried to force action on Colombia Three

Tom Brady Security Editor

THE United States warned the Government that Ireland would be seen as a "haven for terrorists" unless it extradited the Colombia Three, leaked embassy documents reveal.

US officials warned there could be severe repercussions for US-Irish relations if the three suspects were not sent back to Colombia after they mysteriously reappeared in Ireland following their escape from Bogota.

Officials from the US embassy in Dublin also criticised in the strongest terms Ireland's general attitude towards extraditing suspected criminals to foreign countries.

The diplomats were scathing in their criticism of Irish judges over their perceived reluctance to send criminals back to the US to stand trial.

The revelations have emerged in the Ireland Cables -- a tranche of more than 1,900 leaked US embassy cables obtained by the Irish Independent from the whistleblowing organisation WikiLeaks.

A series of leaked confidential cables -- sent by the US embassies in Dublin and Bogota back to Washington in 2005 and 2006 -- reveals for the first time the extent of the pressure put on the Irish Government to take action against the three.

The cables also reveal how, behind-the-scenes, the Government felt humiliated after the three men -- Jim 'Mortar' Monaghan, Martin McCauley and Niall Connolly -- re-entered the country.

In a confidential dispatch to Washington in August 2005, former US ambassador James Kenny said the Irish Government was deeply embarrassed at the return of the three.

"Their interest in finding a legal mechanism to deal with them is sincere, whether through new charges, extradition or having them serve their sentences in Ireland," he wrote.

"Of these three options, new charges for false use of an Irish passport would be most likely, depending on whether the garda can produce evidence that would satisfy a prosecutor."

The following month, then Justice Minister Michael McDowell told Mr Kenny the Government was investigating all its options including whether new charges could be brought against the three.

During the first meeting detailed in the cables, then Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern told the Republican chairman of the US foreign relations committee, Senator Dick Lugar, and Mr Kenny there were legal difficulties with a prospective Colombia request for their extradition.

Mr Ahern said the return of the three to Ireland was a "brazen, choreographed" republican act that had caught the Government by surprise.

Mr Lugar warned that if Ireland did not extradite the three, it could be seen as a "haven for terrorists".

Mr Kenny also pointed out the Irish government had failed to act on numerous US requests to extradite fugitives.

Commenting on the meeting, Mr Kenny said: "The problem for US law enforcement remains a judicial philosophy on extraditions here that will make nearly every potential bilateral extradition case a very tough sell, and extradition of criminals or terrorists to third countries, with less than stellar rule of law records, nearly impossible."

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