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11 August 2005 Edition

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"Nonsense" to say men's return threatens process

Niall Connolly, Jim Monaghan and Martin McCauley

Niall Connolly, Jim Monaghan and Martin McCauley

Fine Gael challenged on "partitionism"

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP, responding to early reports on Friday 5 August that the Colombia 3 had returned to Ireland said that he welcomed the news. "It will be a great relief to the three men's families and friends and I would hope that they can now get on with their lives," he said.

Responding to comments on the issue by DUP Deputy Leader Peter Robinson and Fine Gael's Enda Kenny, Adams said: "I want to make clear that this issue was not discussed with the Irish Government nor was it either a deal or a side deal related to recent developments in the Peace Process."

Also responding to early reports of the men's return Sinn Féin MP for Newry/Armagh Conor Murphy said the news would come as a great relief to their families and to all those who have supported the Bring Them Home Campaign over the past four years. "Since 2001 the men's lives have been in grave danger and they had their prospects of a fair trial completely undermined due to prejudicial comments from the Colombian military and senior politicians including the then President.

"During the lengthy trial the prosecution case collapsed before the world's media and the trial Judge found the men innocent of all serious charges. This verdict was disgracefully overturned by a secret appeals procedure. "Now that the men have returned home I hope that they will be allowed to get on with rebuilding their lives along with their families."

As unionists and opposition parties in the 26 Counties began to kick up a fuss over the issue, Sinn Féin Vice President Pat Doherty MP told journalists after a meeting of the Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle in Dublin on Saturday 6 August: "It is a nonsense to suggest, as some people did last night, that the Peace Process is somehow in crisis as a result of their return. That is patently not thenstitutions of the state as he claims. The leading figures whom Fine Gael regards as its founders all expressed the desire to re-unite Ireland — from Collins and Griffith to those in the 1930s who founded Fine Gael in its present form and subtitled it 'the United Ireland party'. Fine Gael members should ask their leader if this is still part of the ethos of their party, or has partitionism taken over in theory as well as in practice.

"Railing against any plan to allow for limited northern representation in the Dáil has exposed the Fine Gael leadership's position as partitionist in the extreme and mirrors the comments of the most reactionary of DUP members. Are all Fine Gael members happy to endorse such a position? "It should be noted that Fine Gael voted for a Government motion in May 2003 which sought to 'take forward' the report of the All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution which had recommended allowing for Northern representation in the Oireachtas. This needs to be seen as an integral part of the Peace Process and Sinn Féin will be pressing the issue in the months ahead. Fine Gael should reflect on its position and endorse the common sense of All-Ireland politics."

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