Colombia Three ‘could serve prison sentence in Ireland’

THE Government last night insisted a proposal to enable the Colombia Three to serve their sentences here was feasible despite predictions the measure would never stand up in court.

The proposal, which would involve the Colombian Government signing up to a Council of Europe Convention on the transfer of prisoners, is one of several being considered by the Government as a possible solution to the crisis.

Outlining the initiative yesterday, Tánaiste Mary Harney said a bill currently passing through the Dáil to give effect to a new section of the European Convention could enable the Government to imprison Niall Connolly, James Monaghan and Martin McCauley in Ireland for the duration of their 17-year sentence.

Contacted by the Irish Examiner last night, a spokesperson for the Colombian Vice-President, Francisco Santos Calderon, said he had not yet formally received the proposal which will be outlined to the Colombian authorities by Irish Ambassador Art Agnew later this week.

However, vice president Mr Calderon has already said the Colombian authorities would be prepared to settle for the full sentence being served in Ireland.

Should the Colombian authorities agree to the move, and become a signatory to the convention, it would also clear the way for the transfer back home of any present or future Colombian citizens in Irish jails.

The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) said it would make sense for the sentence to be served here but discounted the feasibility of the move. “Maybe in some kind of bureaucratic fantasy world somewhere. I find it very hard to believe that it would stand up in the European courts,” said the IPRT’s Edward Boyne.

Although privately Government sources said they expected the matter to end up in the courts regardless, a spokesperson for the Taoiseach defended yesterday’s proposal, saying it would take some time “to work through all the issues and options”.

A Department of Justice spokesperson rejected suggestions the move was a political gesture which would prove unrealistic when challenged. “I don’t think that’s fair,” she said, pointing out that five South American countries including Bolivia and Venezuela had signed up to the convention.

More in this section