By Ray O’Hanlon
Only days after his fellow Maze escapees were granted bail by a San Francisco federal court, Jimmy Smyth walked out of the prison he once fled during a mass breakout.
Smyth, who came to the U.S. after the massive September 1983 breakout, was arrested by U.S. authorities in 1992 and extradited to Northern Ireland in 1996 after a prolonged legal fight that galvanized the Irish community in San Francisco and beyond.
Smyth’s freedom came as part of the phased release of prisoners outlined in the Good Friday peace accord.
He was greeted outside the Maze prison near Belfast by his wife, Julie, an American citizen, and the couple’s young son, Conor.
One of Smyth’s first reactions to freedom was to extend thanks to all those in the U.S. who had helped during his battle against extradition.
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Smyth was jailed in 1975 after being convicted in a non-jury Diplock court of attempting to murder a prison officer. He continues to deny the charge.
Clinton to sign
President Clinton has until this Saturday to sign into law the bill, recently passed unanimously by Congress, that will provide for 12,000 non-immigrant "Walsh Visas" to Northern Ireland and the border counties of the Republic over a three-year period.
The White House has indicated that the president will sign the measure.
The appointment of former Wyoming Gov. Mike Sullivan as the new U.S. ambassador to Ireland has been formally approved by the U.S. Senate in one of the last acts of the 105th Congress.
Sullivan will take over from Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith, who has returned to the U.S. Sullivan is expected to be sworn-in as ambassador before the end of the year and take up residence in Dublin in January.
The Irish Republicis not yet 100 years old, but by the time it surpasses the century mark there will be only one Ireland, the new Ancient Order of Hibernians’ national president, Thomas Gilligan, said last weekend at the 100th anniversary commemoration of AOH Div. 87 in Philadelphia.
"The justice that will ultimately be the foundation of peace in Ireland must be built on the truth and not the self-serving lies of British bureaucrats," Gilligan, who is from Fort Layuderdale, Fla., said.
Nobel Peace Prize winners John Hume and David Trimble have been congratulated by the head of of the U.S. Catholic bishops International Policy Committee, Archbishop Theodore McCarrick of Newark, N.J.
In his letter to both winners, Archbishop McCarrick described the Good Friday peace agreement was a way forward that respected the equal rights of both traditions in Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland talks chairman George Mitchell will be presented with an honorary doctorate in law this Friday by John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. Mitchell, speaking last week at the University of Connecticut Storrs campus, said that the North peace agreement made the achievement of peace possible but that many difficult steps remain.
The perspective of the residents of the Garvaghy Road in Portadown is being relayed directly to U.S. ears this week by their spokesman, Breandan MacCionnaith, who is here on a visit lasting several days.
Meanwhile, Bernadette Sands McKevitt of the 32 County Sovereignty Committee is expected to outline her views of the current situation in Northern Ireland on the WBAI show "Radio Free Eireann" this weekend.
The Irish American Unity Conference gathered in Newark, N.J., last weekend for its 15th annual national convention. One of the convention events was dedicated to the late human rights activist Paul O’Dwyer.
Honorees included union leader Thomas Giblin, human rights activist Ed Lynch and IAUC member Winifred McNeill. The convention was held at the Hilton Gateway Hotel.
The work of a Limerick-born sculptor will be a centerpiece of celebrations at the University of Maryland this Sunday marking the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Camp David Agreement between Isr’l and Egypt. The historic agreement was brokered by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter.
David Gleeson, from Bruff, a graduate of the Limerick School of Art and Design, was commissioned to design the commemorative sculpture, which will be presented by the widow of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat to Carter.
Gleeson’s sculpture, entitled "Hero," is a teak presentation of a curved wall. On either side of the wall are six figures, only two of which reach over to shake hands.
Gleeson now lives in Baltimore, having moved to the U.S. in 1984. He obtained a master’s degree at the University of Pennsylvania and went on to specialize in sculpture.