25 April 2002 Edition
Adams declines Colombia Hearings invite
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP told a press conference in Belfast ion Tuesday that he would not be travelling to give evidence at the Committee on International Relations Hearing.
"Let me begin by saying at the outset that I have written to Henry Hyde, the Chairperson of the Committee on International Relations, declining his invitation to attend the Committee on International Relations Hearing," said Adams. "I have offered to meet the Committee the next time I am in Washington.
"My priorities in approaching this important matter have been to defend the peace process, to defend Sinn Féin's essential contribution to it, and to give proper consideration to the plight of the three men presently in detention in Colombia, their right to a fair trial and the anxieties of their families.
"I have received legal advice from the lawyers representing the three men in Colombia. It argues that the Congressional hearings and my presence at them may well be prejudicial to any possibility of a fair trial.
"It is also my view that the hearings are only coincidentally about Ireland. They are essentially about the relationship between the USA and Colombia. These matters are for the governments of these two countries.
"I am satisfied with the IRA statement of 19 September last year in which the IRA leadership made it clear that it 'sent no one to Colombia to train or to engage in any military cooperation with any group'. Crucially, the IRA asserted that it 'has not interfered in the internal affairs of Colombia and will not do so'. And it went on: 'The IRA is not a threat to the peace process in Ireland or in Colombia.'
"In my conversations with US officials and with political representatives I have made it clear that Irish republicans, whether as ordinary citizens or as activists have no desire to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries.
"We have a desire to learn from other conflict resolution processes and if possible to be helpful to those who want to build peace.
"Irish republicans pose no threat to US National Security interests in Colombia.Anyone who observes our record and our role in the peace process will know our commitment to peace in our own country and throughout the world is steadfast."
Bring Them Home welcomes decision
The Bring Them Home Campaign for Jim Monaghan, Niall Connolly and Martin McCauley welcomed Adams' decision not to attend the US Congressional Hearings. The Campaign and the legal team had requested that he not attend in the interests of fair trial and justice.
Caitriona Ruane, a spokesperson for the campaign, said: "We welcome the decision by Gerry Adams not to go. We made our concerns known to him, as did Peter Madden, the men's solicitor, saying that the Hearings were inherently unfair and that they could prejudice the right to fair trial of the three Irishmen. Gerry Adams has put fair trial and justice before his own party interests and we welcome that.
"It is unfair because the three men or their legal team have no input, they will not be able to examine any material presented at the Hearings or refute what is presented as 'evidence'. All this will be broadcast around the world live. We have raised our concerns about the possible prejudicial nature of the Hearings at the United Nations last week.
"In the run up to the Hearings we have had saturation coverage of this case, much of it prejudicial, including extraordinary comments by the President of Colombia, President Pastrana. These Hearings have helped create a climate whereby people who should know better have made prejudicial comments and endangered the lives of three Irishmen."
Madeleine Connolly, mother of Niall Connolly said: "My son will not get a fair trial in Colombia. I am very worried about him, his life is in danger and these hearings make it more dangerous."
IRA reiterates Colombia position
The following statement was received from the leadership of Óglaigh na hÉireann on Wednesday, 24 April
"In recent days the issue of the arrest of three Irishmen in Colombia has been used again in an intensive way by opponents of the peace process in Ireland and Britain, in an attempt to undermine and subvert the democratic peace process
This is a very serious matter indeed. We therefore feel compelled to respond and reiterate our position on this matter. We wish to make clear that:
The Army Council sent no one to Colombia to train or engage in any military cooperation with any group.
The IRA has not interfered in the internal affairs of Colombia and will not do so.
The IRA is fully committed to a successful outcome of the Irish peace process.
The threat to that process does not come from the IRA."
Irish Republican Publicity Bureau