Colombia Three must not hurt Irish-US relations, says envoy

THE Colombia Three issue must not cause difficulties in relations between Ireland and America, US envoy on Northern Ireland Mitchell Reiss said yesterday.

He said the re-appearance of the three alleged IRA members in Ireland after eight months on the run from terrorist offences in Colombia was a concern but should not be allowed to sour transatlantic ties.

DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson, who spent last week holding official meetings in Colombia, said on Sunday that Bogota will serve extradition papers on the Government this week to force Jim Monaghan, Martin McCauley and Niall Connolly serve out their 17-year sentences in South America.

Speaking after a 30-minute meeting with Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, Mr Reiss said: “Dublin and Washington may have disagreements from time to time but let’s not lose sight of the bigger picture here.

“We don’t want the issue to cause problems in the broader relationship. I don’t think there are muddy waters. Dublin and Washington are extremely clear on where each one stands.

“Let’s see how this issue plays out and before jumping to conclusions.”

The three men, convicted by a Colombian appeal court last December of training rebels, were voluntarily questioned by gardaí last month but released.

At the meeting, Mr Ahern also passed on the sympathy of the Irish people to Mr Reiss and US Ambassador James Kenny on the Hurricane Katrina disaster.

Mr Reiss said: “It hasn’t been an easy time for us. But we’re going to get through this and it is always easier with the support of good friends like Ireland.

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