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22 October 1998 Edition

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H-Block 3 out on bail

Families welcome men home

By Christy Ward of The Irish People

Three Irish political prisoners enjoyed their first breath of freedom in more than a year when last Friday a judge ordered their release on bail from a California federal prison where they were being held pending extradition to the Six Counties.

Kevin Barry Artt, 39, Pol Brennan, 45, and Terry Kirby, 42, all from Belfast, were among 38 POWs to escape from Long Kesh in 1983. They will enjoy restricted freedom under new court guidelines, but will not have to wear ankle monitors as was the case the last time they were released. The three men will not be allowed to travel beyond a restricted zone in northern California.

Bail remained at $500,00 each for Artt and Brennan, while Kirby's bail remained at $1million.

Contacted on Monday, Kirby said it was good to be out and that he was looking forward to time with his wife, Colleen, and his 4-year-old daughter, Keeley.

``Colleen's done a tremendous job raising Keeley,'' Kirby said. ``She's a very normal little girl and she knows the truth about everything. Colleen told her just before I was released that she had something to tell her about her Daddy and wasn't sure she'd understand, and Keeley just said, `Try me''' said Kirby.

Even as he spoke, Keeley could be heard calling her father from another room. ``She keeps checking to see if I'm still here,'' he said, with a laugh.

Commenting on his release after 14 months in a California prison, Kirby said, ``Good things are worth waiting for.''

Kirby has been suffering from an undiagnosed medical problem and said he was looking forward to seeing a doctor.

After their escape from Long Kesh, the three made their way separately to California where they have since made their homes. Both Kirby and Brennan are married to American women and have children, while Artt is engaged to be married.

The three have been in and out of jails in California since their identities were discovered. Artt was first arrested in the U.S. in June 1992. Brennan was arrested in January of 1993 and Kirby in February 1994. All three were out on bail when on 22 August 1997, they were ordered to turn themselves in to authorities to await extradition under orders of Judge Legg.

Unionist politicians reacted bitterly to the freeing of the three men.

Ian Paisley Jr.said, ``What happened to American cooperation? It really is a disgrace. The American authorities are in breach of the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement themselves by not following through on extradition proceedings.''

Ken Maginnis said, ``It is unhelpful when an American court calls into question the integrity of a justice system which has served the people of Northern Ireland well during 30 difficult years.''

The release of the H-Block 3 on bail, leaves only Richard Johnson, 52, as the remaining Irish Republican political prisoner in a US jail. Johnson is serving the last year of a 10-year sentence in a prison in Pennsylvania, more than 1,000 miles from his aging parents.


MacBride Principles now US law

After a long campaign by equal rights activists the Mac Bride Principles on fair employment in the Six Counties were yeasterday passed into law by the US Congress and Senate. They now form part of the framework of US investment through the International Fund for Ireland.

Sinn Féin's US representative Rita O'Hare said the passage of the legislation was ``a great vindication for the Irish American organisations and activists who campaigned for support for the Mac Bride Principles. It is also a great credit to those members of the Senate and the House who supported the campaign and have worked to establish them in legislation.''

She said the legislation will be key to the implementation of the equality agenda in the Good Friday Agreement.''


Adams meets Canadian PM

Gerry Adams ended his successful North American tour by meeting with the Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien and Foreign Minister Lloyd Axourthy on Tuesday.

He briefed both men on the current state of the peace process. When Adams later visited the Parliament for Prime Minister's question time he was greeted with a standing ovation.

His trip to Canada came after a hectic seven-day visit to the east coast of the United States during which he attended eighteen functions and met Irish-American, media and political leaders. He told reporters that his visit was ``to motivate people to keep focused on the prize. And the prize is a just and a lasting peace. We want to see a healing process for all of the pain of the last 30 years and decades and centuries before that. For hurt done, for hurt inflicted and for hurt suffered.''

He touched on the hard-fought immigrant stories of Irish-Americans. ``You people here are the survivors,'' he said, describing a placard he keeps that reads, ``No Irish Need Apply.''

``You must want to be people who can sit back and talk to the ghosts of your grandparents and great-grandparents and say to them, `When Ireland needed me, when the children of Ireland needed me, when those wanting peace and justice needed me, I helped,''' Adams said.

Adams invited to Palestine

SF President Gerry Adams held a ten minute phone conversation with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat on Wednesday. During the call Arafat invited Adams to visit Palestine in the near future.

The two men were said to have discussed the struggle for justice in their respective countries and the centrality of self-determination and democracy in securing a lasting peace settlement.

The call took place during Adams's visit to Canada where he met Prime Minister Jean Chretien.


Eire Nua to play in USA

One of Belfast's best known and successful republican flute bands, the Eire Nua band from the Upper Springfield/Upper Whiterock Road of the city, has been invited to the United States next year for St Patrick's Day.

Pat O'Malley, a city councillor from Cleveland, Ohio, a regular visitor to the North, invited the band out and hopes to have them on the St Patrick's Day parades in both Cleveland and Detroit.

Sean McLaughlin, the band leader said, ``we are really determined to raise the funds for this trip. A lot of bands have tried to make it in the past but never done it. We want to be the first''.

Eire Nua will celebrate its 17th year on the road in a series of events starting on 13 November with a battle of the bands competition and a band parade on Sunday 15.November.

The band parade to take place in the Upper Springfield area will be followed that evening with the annual Pearse Jordan memorial quiz in the Trinity Lodge club in Turf Lodge.


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