IRA extradition case will test Clinton's nerve
Sunday 31 January 1993
Mrs Lynch gave the dog the name of the late hunger striker soon after she found out the truth about her husband. Until then, she was a happy-go-lucky Californian, married to a painter and decorator called Jimmy.
Now she knows better. The Irishman she married is not 'Jimmy Lynch' but James Smyth, one of 38 republicans who escaped from the Maze prison 10 years ago in Northern Ireland's biggest breach of prison security. He was serving 20 years for the attempted murder of a prison officer.
The effect on Mrs Lynch was unusual. She says she had no idea that her husband was on the run until the FBI told her. Far from being angry, however, she has immersed herself in the complex, murky politics of the Irish question: 'I have concluded that this man has spent enough of his life without his freedom, and that the way he has been treated is wrong.'
Smyth, 38, was arrested in June as he set off to begin a day's work in San Francisco. The FBI had found out that he had applied for a US passport under a false name, and had identified him as a Maze fugitive. On the same day, they picked up his friend Kevin Artt, 34, another Maze escaper with a false identity working as a car salesman in San Diego.
Ten days ago the number of Irish fugitives in custody in California rose to three, when Paul Brennan, 39, was discovered in Berkeley, near San Francisco. He was also a Maze escaper, convicted of explosives offences, who fled to the West Coast and a job in the construction trade.
Maggie Lynch's enthusiasm for her husband's case could be seen as exceptional, were it not for the many others who support her. All three cases could become a cause celebre in the United States, and an embarrassment to Britain as it attempts to extradite them.
Thousands of dollars have been raised for Smyth and Artt in San Francisco, a city with at least 10,000 Irish-born residents and a large Irish-American community dating from the 1840s Gold Rush and the Irish famine.
Smyth has given numerous interviews on local television and radio stations. Dozens of supporters have packed the courtroom for his appearances. Sympathetic articles, including some by Smyth and Artt themselves, have appeared in The Gael, a local Irish monthly newspaper, as has a picture of Smyth shaking hands with the popular mayor of Boston, Ray Flynn, a key figure in President Bill Clinton's election campaign.
The prisoners' lawyers and US prosecutors believe the cases will be test an untried clause in the US-UK extradition treaty, which was amended in 1986, after considerable pressure from the Thatcher government, with the intention that it no longer offered political protection to terrorists.
But another clause, Article 3(a), states that a defendant will not be extradited if he is likely to be 'punished, detained or restricted . . . by reason of his race, religion, nationality or political opinions'. This is a key part of Smyth's and Artt's cases.
The British government could be facing a repeat of their problems over Joe Doherty, the IRA man who killed an SAS soldier and later fled to the US. Doherty spent years in New York jails before being deported back to Britain, amid a huge outcry in the US.
By the time he left, he was nationally known. The top-rated 60 Minutes programme made him the subject of a two-part documentary. The New York Times wrote a five-part series on his life. He was described by one commentator as the best ambassador the IRA had ever had in the US.
Smyth's extradition hearing is due to begin on 22 March. His lawyer will quote Article 3(a). But this may not matter. Few people remember that Doherty also won his extradition case, only to be deported as an illegal alien.
This time, the political landscape is different. Mr Clinton knows he will need the support of the US's 40 million Irish-Americans in 1996. Yet it is too soon to say whether he will stick by his election promises. The US government may yet find it expedient to repeat its Doherty strategy.
- 1 Howard Jacobson: Let's see the 'criticism' of Israel for what it really is
- 3 Belgium fan Axelle Despiegelaere lands L'Oreal campaign after World Cup viral photo
- 4 Britney Spears sings 'Alien' without Auto-Tune in embarrassing leaked audio clip
- 5 PornHub begs users to stop uploading video clips of Brazil getting beaten 7-1
Instagram of US airport security chiefs: Lipstick knives and IED training kits among items seized
Game of Thrones author George RR Martin says 'f*** you' to fans who fear he will die before finishing Westeros saga
Mick Jagger denies being World Cup curse and reason for Brazil’s embarrassing defeat
Israel-Gaza crisis: ‘We just want it to end… We don’t deserve to live like this’
Israel-Gaza crisis: Eight killed in Gaza Strip cafe while watching World Cup semi-final
Sustained immigration has not harmed Britons' employment, say government advisers
Australia facing international condemnation after turning around Sri Lankans at sea
7/7 memorial defaced on anniversary of 2005 attacks with ‘Blair lied thousands died’ graffiti
Even when it brutalises one of its own teenage citizens, America is helpless against Israel
Socialist Worker called to apologise over ‘vile’ article saying Eton schoolboy Horatio Chapple's death is ‘reason to save the polar bears’
There’s a nasty smell in the political air – and it’s coming from the Tories
£40000 - £60000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited:...
£47000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Key skil...
£110 - £200 per day + pension and childcare: Randstad Education Maidstone: Geo...
£110 - £120 per annum + TBA: Randstad Education Reading: KS1 Teacher needed fo...