SF dance for man wanted in Colombia

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Questions have been raised about how the Irish government allowed a major celebration in Dublin for a man wanted by the Colombian government for international terrorism.

Sinn Fein held “a night of celebration and remembrance” for Jim Monaghan in the Gresham Hotel on Saturday night.

He was arrested with Martin McCauley and Niall Connolly in Colombia in 2001. They were given 17 years there for being IRA members who trained rebel FARC guerrilla forces.

The US state department later claimed IRA bomb technology killed 117 civilians, including women and children, in a Colombian church.

But the three avoided imprisonment by fleeing Colombia in 2004 – turning up in the Republic of Ireland a year later.

They were never extradited to serve their sentences as Colombia has no extradition treaty with Dublin.

They claimed they were in Colombia to review the country’s peace process but the authorities said they trained FARC in explosives.

Sinn Fein’s Mary Lou McDonald was the chairwoman of Saturday night’s “dinner and dance” in Dublin, which was organised by Sinn Fein Dublin volunteers.

Dublin Sinn Fein councillor Paul Donnelly tweeted on Saturday night: “Fantastic night for Jim Monaghan, a true Irish patriot and Irish socialist republican.”

His party colleague councillor Janice Boylan added: “The man of the moment the heroic and amazing Jim Monaghan.”

Photos were tweeted of him dynamically addressing the crowd and having his photograph taken with four Sinn Fein TDs.

TUV North Antrim representative Timothy Gaston said: “This is yet another reminder of the links between Sinn Fein/IRA and terrorism. Monaghan is still a wanted terrorist and there are serious questions about why he is allowed to live openly in the Republic of Ireland while this is the case.

“Of course there will be many innocent victims across Northern Ireland who will recall how the Republic served as a safe haven for IRA terrorists long before now. My party will be in contact with the Dublin government to demand to know why Monaghan hasn’t been extradited.”

DUP Chief Whip Peter Weir MLA said: “Terrorism should not be celebrated. It should be condemned no matter where is takes place. Events like this send out a confused message to this generation. Terrorism was never honourable. It was criminal whether in South America or Northern Ireland. Those who carried out acts of terrorism should have been brought to justice and should have served their time behind bars.”

But a Sinn Fein spokesperson defended the event. “Jim Monaghan is a valued lifelong Irish republican and member of Sinn Fein,” he said. “An event was held at which the 70-year-old was honoured.”