IRA extradition case will test Clinton's nerve

ONE OF the few clues that Maggie Lynch is not just a friendly woman who works in a bank is the little dog that cavorts around her apartment in San Francisco. Little else among the potted plants, sofas and ornamental rabbits suggests that her husband is wanted in Britain for IRA terrorist offences. But you can't miss the dog. It is called Bobby Sands.

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.

(Photograph omitted)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Scrum Master - Southampton, Hampshire - Excellent Package

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited:...

Senior Scrum Master - Hampshire - £47k

£47000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Key skil...

Geography Teacher

£110 - £200 per day + pension and childcare: Randstad Education Maidstone: Geo...

KS1 Teacher

£110 - £120 per annum + TBA: Randstad Education Reading: KS1 Teacher needed fo...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice