Peace campaigner and former republican prisoner Patrick Magee said he was refused permission to board a flight last week, simply because it was due to pass over US airspace.
Mr Magee was sentenced to 35 years in jail in connection with the IRA attack on Britain’s war cabinet in Brighton in October 1984. He had intended to fly from London to Mexico City to take part in a high-profile conference on public policy when authorities turned him away because the “flight would cross into US air space”.
Mr Magee (pictured) was travelling directly to Mexico with Jo Berry, whose father Anthony Berry died in the Brighton attack. She was allowed to continue with her journey, but he was refused boarding, apparently at the request of the US.
After being banned from the planned flight from London, the 64-year-old then flew to Madrid where he was due to catch a second direct flight to Mexico, but was again turned away.
After consulting with conference organisers he then caught another flight from Madrid in Bogota in Colombia before connecting to Mexico City. However, on arrival he was detained by authorities before being deported back to Colombia and then Spain.
He said he was not given any explanation for his deportation but believes it is due to his 12-year involvement in the IRA.
He had been expected to take part in an eight-day talking tour of Mexico which was to finish off at the high profile Ciudad de las Ideas (City of Ideas) conference.
In the past he has travelled across the world with Ms Berry giving talks about reconciliation.
He said: “I have spent the last 15 years working in reconciliation field but we still have a lot of work to reverse the American view of it.”
‘OTR’ MAN ARRESTED
In a separate development, a Tyrone man has been arrested and released on bail in connection with a Provisional IRA bomb attack at Coalisland PSNI (then RUC) station in 1997.
Paul Campbell returned to Coalisland in late 2001 and worked as a barman in McGirr’s pub in the town. The court was told the police always had evidence against Campbell, but “failed to act on it”.
He only became a ‘person of interest’ after a property connected to him was searched as part of the investigation into an attack by a breakaway IRA group in 2011. After living in the town for years without incident, he was arrested late last month.
He was granted bail by Mr Justice Horner who said: “It seems absolutely extraordinary that no steps were taken to detain him” before last week.
The father of three had been assured that he was not wanted in connection with the attack as part of the ‘On The Run’ (OTR) scheme for republicans facing potential prosecutions.
During the bail hearing it was pointed out that Mr Campbell was stopped twice by the PSNI in 2010 in relation to driving matters and was not arrested despite giving his personal details.
Last year Donegal republican John Downey, accused of involvement in the 1982 IRA Hyde Park bombing, was released from the Old Bailey after it was confirmed he’d been given an OTR letter through Sinn Fein’s Gerry Kelly. A judge ruled that despite a claim the letter had been given “in error”, the 63-year-old could not be prosecuted.
Mr Campbell is expected to rely on a similar assurance he was no longer wanted as part of his defence against the allegations against him.