Two Steps Forward; One Step Back

In today’s Irish Times (subs. req.)Vincent Browne argues that not only is the question of the extradition or imprisonment of the Colombia Three an irrelevance – given that the US Administration could not care less about the issue (or Ireland in general for that matter) as long as the Government continues to make Shannon available to military aircraft and supports the US in UN votes – but also that, contrary to claims from some media quarters, their reappearance in Ireland does not represent the same old cynical IRA modus operandi or the “one step forward; two steps back” scenario posited by Fintan O’Toole on Monday’s Newsnight.

  • Naoise Nunn

    Browne further argues that
    “…even if this is wrong and the Americans do want us to extradite or jail the “Colombia Three”, then we might have a few questions for them.

    If they know so well that the “Colombia Three” were in Colombia to teach Farc in the arts of terrorism, why did they not arrange to have this evidence presented in court in the men’s original trial?

    If it was because the information was sensitive “intelligence”, why should we pay any attention, since we know about the reliability of American “intelligence” on far more serious matters?

    Like most other people, I don’t buy the claim that the “Colombia Three” were in the demilitarised zone of Colombia, controlled by Farc, either to examine the peace process or to engage in a spot of bird watching. I suspect they were there for some nefarious purpose.

    However, he askes:

    “…what have my suspicions, or anybody else’s suspicions, got to do with whether these people should be extradited or put in jail?

    Even if there were an extradition treaty with Colombia, surely the courts would have to be satisfied about the validity of the men’s convictions? And if they were to be jailed here, surely it would be on the basis of some evidence, not suspicions?

    These men were acquitted by the court that heard all the evidence, assessed the credibility of witnesses and heard submissions from the prosecution and defence.

    The court that found them guilty heard no evidence, was in no position to assess the credibility or reliability of witnesses and heard no submissions. This appeal court believed the evidence of the witnesses although it never heard their evidence, ever assessed their credibility and even though the trial judge thought some witnesses should be investigated for perjury.

    What kind of appeals court is that?”

    He concludes that cause of bringing Unionism is not best served by propositions that the process is and has been “one step forward; two steps back”

    “The denigration of the peace process has contribution significantly to unionist obduracy. Unionists have not perceived the huge advantage to them of the process and of the Good Friday agreement, and those who talk in terms of one step forward and two steps back have contributed to that, recklessly.

    It was inevitable the “Colombia Three” would return at some stage, once it was obvious they had fled Colombia. What were they to do, dissolve into cyberspace?

    Their return signifies nothing relevant to the peace process. They should not be extradited – not because of the peace process, but because it would be unjust. They should not be jailed here for the same reason.

    So, let’s get a grip.”

  • peteb

    Sheesh.. not more from Vincent ‘benign scenario’ Browne? He’s making a habit of putting a positive spin on the evidence.. even when he acknowledges reality – for example his previous Irish Times article noted here – “A ball of smoke”

    No wonder he criticises anyone who points out that The Process is itself corrosive to the democracy it claims to be advancing towards.. let’s get a grip, indeed.

  • Macswiney

    Prediction – (1) They will NOT be extradited. (2) They will NOT be jailed in Ireland (3) This affair is NOT going to be a ‘runner’. The Irish Government know there is no personal gain in extraditing them to a dubious judicial system and the Americans have bigger fish to fry. As for the British, they are’nt going to derail the latest peace initiative over this. There will be the occasional snipes from Unionism, but the issue (in real terms) is already a dead duck.

  • middle-class taig


    The “evidence” doesn’t need spinning. It does not exist.

    What spin would you put on the “evidence”?

    What’s your alternative to the Process, oh wise and democratically pure one?

  • lonely pint

    What was the gist of Fintan O’Toole’s piece? Does anyone know?

    I was actaully amazed at the amoutn of coverage this issue got in all the Sunday and in the Irish press in general last week.

    People are being shot dead on the streets, intimidated out of their homes, stabbed to death etc by loyalists and yet the anti-Sinner industry, having exhausted all the ‘whataboutery’ articles in the wake of the IRA announcement, have now pounced on the Colombia Three story as their latest meal ticket.

  • joemomma

    “What was the gist of Fintan O’Toole’s piece? Does anyone know?”

    Fintan O’Toole’s “piece” was merely an off-the-cuff soundbite on BBC’s Newsnight. He may even have meant to say “Two steps forward, one step back”, in any case Browne makes too much of it.