Call to take veteran republicans off govt ‘hit list’

A group campaigning against the US extradition of former Official IRA leader Sean Garland has called on the Dublin government to raise the matter with the Obama administration during their visit to Washington next week.

So far 26-County Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheal Martin has refused to address the issue with US counterparts.

Mr Martin, who is among the delegation travelling to the White House, yesterday claimed extraditions such as Mr Garland’s are not discussed.

“I don’t get involved in legal issues like that. The courts have to be allowed take their course,” he said.

The US is seeking to extradite Mr Garland over allegations he conspired with others to counterfeit US$100 notes.

Now aged 76 and extremely infirm, Mr Garland is to appear in High Court to face extradition charges again on March 24th.

One of his supporters, Rev Chris Hudson, minister of All Souls Unitarian Church in Belfast, said the US should withdraw the extradition warrant and invite Mr Garland to attend next year’s St Patrick’s Day celebrations in recognition of his role in the Northern peace process.

“Sean Garland is not only an innocent man but an Irish patriot who dedicated his life to progressive causes and to ending political violence,” he said.

Rev Hudson said he hoped US president Barack Obama would consider Mr Garland’s case with more compassion than his predecessor George W Bush.

He also said Mr Garland was in poor health, having undergone cancer treatment, and he would be concerned about this if he were extradited and imprisoned in the US while awaiting trial.

Support for the campaign to stop extradition proceedings against Mr Garland has grown to include Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, Labour and Sinn Fein members of the Oireachtas, members of the Northern Assembly and the European Parliament, as well as academics, entertainers, trade unionists and local authorities.

Fianna Fail TD Chris Andrews, who opposes the extradition, said he had written to Taoiseach Brian Cowen, who is also travelling to the White House, about issues including Mr Garland’s case.

“He’s an elderly man and I think on purely justice and humanitarian grounds he should be unburdened of this,” he said.


Meanwhile, a veteran republican credited with helping secure the release of ten Irish people wrongly convicted of IRA attacks should now be freed himself, members of the Birmingham Six and Guilford Four have said.

West Belfast man Ronnie McCartney served 21 years in prison for an IRA attack in England in 1974.

However, in April 2008 the 56-year-old’s early release licence was revoked by British Direct Ruler Shaun Woodward and he was returned to prison.

Despite not facing any charges the 56-year-old remains in jail after Woodward declared he is still a “serious risk to the public”.

Billy Power, Paddy Hill and Gerry Conlon who were wrongly jailed for the Birmingham and Guildford pub bombings in England in 1974, have backed calls for McCartney to released.

Describing the veteran republican as a “fervent” supporter of the peace process, Mr Power said: “It should not be allowed that the authorities should use the evidence, that two English juries refused to accept, to continue to hold him in jail.

“This is outrageous in light of the not guilty verdict entered.

“Every former prisoner who is still serving a life sentence on licence for conflict-related activity is vulnerable and open to any allegations of any kind whether false or not, as they could be recalled to prison and take years to be released again.”

He urged political parties in the north to support efforts to secure Mr McCartney’s release from Maghaberry jail.

“Let us not abandon Ronnie McCartney,” he said. “He has already served 21 years, plus another two. “He was found not guilty of the charges against him.

“He needs all our pro-active support in our call upon for secretary of state Shaun Woodward for his immediate release.”

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