Able activist maintains support

CATRÍONA RUANE is the high-profile leader of the campaign in support of the Colombia Three.

She has no family connection to the trio but began leading the campaign shortly after they were arrested nearly three years ago.

While Sinn Féin officially distanced themselves from the three when they were first picked up at the airport in Bogota, Ms Ruane has been closely connected to the party for some years.

This was officially confirmed in 2002 when she was parachuted in to the South Down constituency to fight for a seat in the Northern legislative assembly. She was elected with more than 5,000 first preference votes.

Ms Ruane, a 41-year-old married mother-of-two, is the daughter of a Castlebar engineer and was a promising tennis player in her youth.

Intelligent, articulate, from a respectable, non-republican background, like Mary Lou McDonald she represents the future of Sinn Féin.

Ms Ruane, who is in her early 30s, has a track record as an organiser.

She moved to Belfast in the early 90s and established herself as a community activist. She was the driving force behind the soaring success of the West Belfast Festival, often described as the largest community festival in Europe.

Ms Ruane, who now lives in Louth, was also centrally involved in developing the St Patrick’s Day festival in Belfast.

Although Ms Ruane always publicly tried to disassociate the festivals from politics, unionists and some moderate nationalists viewed both her and them with some suspicion.

Ms Ruane has used her considerable organising skills to drum up both national and international support for the Colombia Three campaign. The suspension of the Northern assembly has allowed her to work nearly full time on the campaign.

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