McFarlane arrested 'hours before parole'

Maze prison escapee Brendan McFarlane was arrested just hours before the Northern Ireland Secretary of State Mo Mowlam was due to sign his final papers releasing him from parole, the Special Criminal Court heard today.

Maze prison escapee Brendan McFarlane was arrested just hours before the Northern Ireland Secretary of State Mo Mowlam was due to sign his final papers releasing him from parole, the Special Criminal Court heard today.

Superintendent James Sheridan said that he arrested McFarlane on a bus travelling from Dublin to Belfast in 1998 after he received confidential information that a man fitting his description was in the State.

Superintendent James Sheridan said that he was aware that McFarlane was being sought for interview by the Gardaí in connection with the kidnapping of Mr Don Tidey and the possession of firearms at Derrada Wood in December 1983.

The Superintendent said that he received a phone call from Detective Chief Superintendent Dermot Jennings, now an Assistant Commissioner, at 11am on January 5, 1998. Following that, he went to a permanent garda checkpoint at Dromad near the border where the Dublin to Belfast bus was stopped at 11.45am.

He said he boarded the bus with two other gardaí and saw a man fitting McFarlane's description seated near the front beside a female passenger.

He identified himself to the man and asked him his name and the man told him he was Brendan McFarlane and showed him a current Irish passport in that name. He arrested the man and brought him to Dundalk garda station.

Cross-examined by defence counsel Mr Hugh Hartnett SC, the superintendent said he had no knowledge that Mo Mowlam was due to sign his final release papers at 3pm that afternoon but he said that McFarlane informed him of this and requested him to communicate the fact that he has been arrested to the Northern Ireland Office, which he did.

He was giving evidence on the fifth day of the trial of Maze prison escapee Brendan "Bik" McFarlane.

McFarlane (aged 56),a father of three, of Jamaica St in Belfast was arrested outside Dundalk and charged in January 1998.

He has pleaded not guilty to falsely imprisoning Mr Donald James Tidey on dates unknown between November 24 and December 16, 1983. He also denied possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life at Derrada Wood, Drumcroman, Ballinamore, Co Leitrim between November 25 and December 16,1983 and possession of a firearm for an unlawful purpose between the same dates.

Brendan McFarlane was the OC (officer commanding) of the Provisional IRA prisoners at the Maze prison at the time of the hunger strike in 1981 and escaped in the mass break-out by 38 prisoners from the jail in September, 1983. He was later arrested in Amsterdam in January, 1986, extradited to Northern Ireland and released on parole from the Maze in 1997.

He was arrested by gardaí outside Dundalk in January , 1998 as he travelled back to Belfast from Dublin following a trip to Copenhagen.

Supermarket executive Don Tidey was kidnapped by an IRA gang in 1983 and rescued after 23 days in captivity. A trainee garda, Gary Sheehan (aged 20) of Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan and a member of the Defence Forces, Private Patrick Kelly (aged 35), from Moate, Co Westmeath were killed in a shoot-out with the kidnap gang when Mr Tidey was rescued.

The trial is continuing.

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