14 November 2002 Edition
Labour pulls Costello from Colombia trip
Bring Them Home Campaign spokesperson Caitríona Ruane says she is "surprised and disappointed" at the decision by the Parliamentary Labour Party not to allow their justice spokesperson, Joe Costello, to travel to Colombia as part of a cross-party delegation to observe the trial of the three Irishmen detained in Bogota.
The Labour Party dramatically decided on Wednesday not to allow the Dublin TD to travel. Fine Gael Senator Paul Bradford, Fianna Fáil TD John Curran, Sinn Féin TD Seán Crowe, Independent TD Finian McGrath and Fianna Fáil Senator Mary White have all confirmed that they will travel.
The Labour meeting took place after the campaign announced that six parliamentarians had accepted its invitation to travel to Colombia. A Labour Party press officer told An Phoblacht that the decision had been taken because the party's TDs and Senators felt there was already adequate representation from Ireland at the trial, including from the government. He added that the delegation was only going for a week, whereas the trial is due to go on for much longer. RTE's Charlie Bird later reported that Labour members had felt their attendabnce would "send the wrong message to the unionist community".
Fianna Fáil TD John Curran stressed that he was travelling out of concern for human rights.
Speaking on RTE after the meeting, Costello said that the discussion on the invitation had taken up most of the meeting but he refused to be drawn on what stance new Labour leader Pat Rabbitte had taken on the issue.
Caitríona Ruane noted Costello's comments on radio after the decision that he too was "disappointed" he would not be allowed travel. She thanked the Dublin TD for the interest he has shown and the meetings he has attended on the issue. Ruane indicated that she would be seeking a meeting with Pat Rabbitte to discuss the reasons for the withdrawal.
The parliamentarians who will be travelling have requested meetings with senior members of the Colombian government, the prosecution, the defence, the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights office, the International Red Cross, and the Ombudsman's office. They will also visit Niall Connolly, Martin McCauley and James Monaghan in the notorious El Modelo jail in Bogota.
The trip follows a series of successful fundraising events by the campaign, including a recent concert in Ravensdale that raised €17,000. It is understood the parliamentarians concerned will also make a contribution towards the cost of the visit.
The Bring Them Home Campaign has consistently outlined the difficulties of the men getting a fair trial.
"International attention is essential to ensure the safety of the men," said Ruane. "They are currently housed in one of the most dangerous jails in Colombia. We called on national and international observers to attend this trial and are very pleased that a delegation of parliamentarians will be coming over from Ireland."
Gerry Monaghan, brother of Jim Monaghan, also expressed concern for the safety of the three men. "The three families would like to thank the TDs and Senators for travelling to Colombia‚" he said.
BRING THEM HOME - THE COLOMBIA 3
INFORMATION NIGHT ON COLOMBIA
The families support campaign is organising a public event to provide information on the present position in Colombia and to outline the legal and human rights issues in relation to the detention and trial of the three Irishmen Niall Connolly, Martin McCauley and Jim Monaghan.
The campaign event will be held on Sunday 24 November at 8pm in the Liberty Hall Centre Dublin. Tickets for the event are €10 available at the door, from Connolly Books 43 Essex street Temple Bar and online from www.centralticketbureau.com or at the bureau office on Eden Quay beside Liberty Hall Ph: 872 1122
A key objective of this event is to raise awareness of the current position in Colombia in political, social and economic terms. There will be speakers from a number of Colombian support groups and human rights activists. The speakers will include Liam Craig Best of the Colombian Peace Association, who has spent the last two years in Colombia providing human rights protection to the leader of the main trade union in Colombia, the CUT. Andy Higginbottom of the Colombian Solidarity Campaign will also speak. His organisation has been actively involved in supporting the trade union movement in Colombia and has recently developed links with trade union activists in Ireland. In addition, there will be a speaker on the legal and human rights situation in Colombia.
Dan Connolly and Cristin McCauley, who have visited the men a number of times, will speak for the three families on the conditions and treatment of the men and the effect on their families. Caitriona Ruane, spokesperson for the Bring Them Home Campaign, will speak on the trial process and the legal defence strategy.
Prominent musicians and writers will perform at the event. Well known writers, including Brian Keenan and Danny Morrison, will appear alongside a number of well known musicians, to be announced prior to the event.
This campaign event is aimed at community, trade union and human rights activists as well as members of political organisations and NGOs. Publications and information from Latin American support groups, trade union solidarity groups and human rights organisations will be available at the event.
All those who are concerned with the situation in Colombia and Latin America and who wish to support the families of the three men in their campaign to bring them home are invited to attend.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT PADDY CONNOLLY @ 087 258 1239