Northern Ireland news

Calls for IRA priest to be extradited

Former priest Patrick Ryan who confessed to sourcing weapons for the IRA.

THERE have been calls for a defrocked priest to be extradited to face charges linked to a number of bombings, after he made a public confession about his senior role in the IRA.

Former Pallottine priest from Tipperary, Patrick Ryan had been previously linked to IRA activity and was the subject of a lengthy legal battle in 1988 after being arrested by Belgian police with large quantities of cash and bomb-making equipment.

The UK requested to have him extradited, however, the Belgian authorities refused and later extradited him to the Republic in a military plane, avoiding British airspace.

The incident caused diplomatic strain at the time between the British and Irish governments.

State papers released last year revealed the Republic's refusal to extradite him to the UK caused tension between Margaret Thatcher and then taoiseach Charlie Haughey.

Speaking to a BBC Spotlight team, Ryan confessed to travelling the world sourcing weapons, explosives and financing for the IRA's campaign.

He also boasted about discovering a safe timer, that was used in numerous attacks, including the Brighton Bomb and the Hyde Park and Regency Park explosions.

When asked about Margaret Thatcher's description of him having a hand in a number of bombing missions, Ryan told the BBC: "I had a hand in most of them ... she was right, absolutely 100 per cent".

"I have big regrets, I regret I wasn't even more effective.

"But we didn't do too badly", he adds.

Now believed to live in the Republic there have been calls for the pensioner, aged in his 90s, to be extradited to face charges linked to his BBC confession.

Ulster Unionist councillor and former army officer Danny Kinahan said the 1982 Hyde Park bomb was "one of the worst days of my life".

"Four of my friends and colleagues from the Blues and Royals were cruelly murdered by ruthless IRA terrorists and our horses cut down in Hyde Park", he said.

"We should not forget that seven Royal Green Jackets were also blown up in Regent's Park that day too.

"It is extremely uncomfortable to see a former priest seemingly gloating in the part that he played in the murder of my friends, and words cannot really express my anger."

He added that any future extradition request would "be a test of the Varadkar government's commitment to righting the wrong of the Irish government's refusal to extradite Ryan to the United Kingdom in 1988."

Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson said: "The Irish Government has been quick to demand apologies in the past.

"That they failed to extradite this self-confessed terrorist for his part in multiple murders and attempt to assassinate a British prime minister merits an apology and immediate steps to extradite him to face justice.

"The Irish government should step up to the mark if they receive an extradition request from the UK authorities," said the DUP representative.

"Clearly this is an elderly man and the sooner he is brought before the courts, the better for the pursuit of justice."

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