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11 August 2005 Edition

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Colombia 3 issue being cynically exploited

Colombia 3 issue being cynically exploited

The Colombia 3 have returned to Ireland. The men must now be left to live in peace with their families who have been through a terrible ordeal over the past four years.

The men themselves have been held in appaling conditions under a discredited legal process in Colombia. They were initially found innocent of all the major charges against them. In the first case Judge Acosta ordered that prosecution witnesses be investigated for perjury.

The appeal by the Colombian Government was a secret Judicial process, incredibly sentencing the men to 17 years in jail. The men have already served sentences for false documents in Colombia. Their lives were in danger from right-wing paramilitaries every minute that they spent in Colombia

While there is no case for the arrest in Ireland of Jim Monaghan, Martin McAuley or Niall Connolly, this has not stopped reactionary elements and political opportunists attempting over the past week to pressurise the Dublin Government to do so. Worse still some of them have called for the men to be extradited back to Colombia.

Those making these outlandish and unreasonable calls understand that the extradition of the men is not possible but are cynically exploiting the issue for their own narrow political agenda. These same individuals and parties have also attempted to portray the return of the three men as 'plunging the Peace Process into crisis'. Such a claim is laughable, particularly coming as it does from the very same elements who have never lifted a finger in support of the Peace Process over the past decade.

Those politicians and commentators making such demands would more productively spend their time addressing the real issues threatening peace in Ireland. These include the ongoing and lethal feud by unionist paramilitary gangs in Belfast which has already left a number of people dead. Or the ongoing sectarian campaign against nationalists in various parts of the Six Counties.

This latter, vicious onslaught has in recent weeks and months seen the attempted murder of nationalist children, women and men in their own homes through the use of blast and petrol bombs. It has seen innocent people attacked with machetes, bats and knives on a weekly basis.

Nationalists have been 'ethnically cleansed' from several parts of the North, but particularly parts of County Antrim, the political heartland of DUP leader Ian Paisley. Neither Paisley nor his party have raised a whimper about this ongoing persecution of nationalists and have done absolutely nothing to use their influence with unionist paramilitaries to cease this campaign.

Furthermore where is the energy and outrage from Enda Kenny or Pat Rabbitte about this scandalous abuse of Irish citizens rights, safety and security?

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1