By Ray O’Hanlon
Maze escapees Pól Brennan, Terence Kirby and Kevin Barry Artt have been freed on bail after the Ninth Circuit federal appeals court earlier ruled that their cases should be reconsidered.
The releases were ordered by Federal District Judge Charles Legge. Legge, who had previously ordered confinement of the three, was in Hawaii, but his decision was relayed by another judge in a San Francisco courtroom.
By late Friday afternoon all three men, who are facing British extradition warrants, were celebrating in a downtown San Francisco restaurant.
Meanwhile, no-jury Diplock courts and controversial interrogation techniques at the Castlereagh holding center in Belfast are likely to once again come under the scrutiny of a U.S. court in the aftermath of the Ninth Circuit ruling.
The British authorities are known to be highly sensitive about details of the courts and RUC questioning methods being exposed in the U.S. courts.
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They may decide, therefore, to wait a few months and quietly drop their demand for extradition of the three to the Maze, from where they would be freed by the year 2000 under the terms of the Good Friday peace agreement.
Unionists reacted angrily, meanwhile, to news that the three had been granted a chance to prove claims of wrongful imprisonment.
Ian Paisley Jr. accused the U.S. of breaching the terms of the Good Friday deal by not following through on extradition proceedings.
— Joe O’Neill in San Francisco and Anne Cadwallader in Belfast contributed to this story.
Ireland’s minister for Foreign Affairs, David Andrews, has welcomed the decision by both houses of Congress to unanimously back the bill that will provide 12,000 "Walsh Visas" for Northern Ireland and six border counties of the Republic. Andrews, who signaled the Irish government’s backing of the bill during recent meetings with Capitol Hill leaders, praised Friends of Ireland chairman Jim Walsh for his efforts and also the Irish Immigration Reform Movement for first formulating the idea of temporary work visas linked to the North peace process. The bill is expected to be signed into law soon by President Clinton.
Pataki swipes British
New York Gov. George Pataki took aim at Britain’s historical role in Ireland last week during a meeting in Albany with visiting Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams.
Pataki, flanked by Adams, related a tale from his mother’s side of the family of British soldiers threatening to transport one of his Irish ancestors to Australia.
Pataki includes the story in his autobiography and also spoke of it recently in a speech at the ICCUSA ball in Manhattan.
"How more deplorable it is in the 1990s that this kind of circumstance could exist in a country like Ireland," Pataki said at the Albany meeting with Adams.
Aer Lingus jet returns
An Aer Lingus aircraft en route from New York to Shannon last week made an emergency landing at JFK airport after crew detected a "minor technical fault" with the plane’s auxiliary power unit. Later examination revealed a small oil leak. The aircraft was an MD-11. The Swissair plane that recently crashed off Nova Scotia was the same model. However, the Aer Lingus plane, which is leased for the summer peak season, made a perfect landing and all 150 passengers were flown later to Shannon on another aircraft.
Pay — and pay again
Richard Clark Johnson, serving a 10-year term for his involvement in the Boston missile technology case, has been billed by the IRS despite his confinement. Johnson, who’s 50, failed in his recent attempt to secure presidential clemency and is not due to be released until this time next year. According to a reliable source, Johnson cashed in a retirement fund in an effort to fund his own defense. He is now being taxed on that transaction, with added interest to the tune of $7,000.
The Irish American Unity Conference is gathering in Newark, N.J., this weekend for its 15th annual national convention. One of the convention events is being dedicated to the late Paul O’Dwyer, while honorees include union leader Thomas Giblin, human rights activist Ed Lynch and IAUC member Winifred McNeill. The convention is at the Hilton Gateway Hotel and runs from Friday, Oct. 23, through Sunday. For details, call (800) 947-IAUC.