Northern Ireland news

Roisin McAliskey case put British government under pressure

Roisin McAliskey (right) leaving court with her mother Bernadette and sister Deirdre in 2007. File picture by Jonathan Porter
Éamon Phoenix

THE British Government came under intense pressure in 1997 over the detention of Roisin McAliskey, the pregnant daughter of the former Civil Rights MP, Bernadette Devlin-McAliskey.

German police had requested that Ms McAliskey be extradited over an attack on Osnabruck British army barracks in June 1996.

Newly-released files show that several TDs including Mary O'Rourke and Éamon Ó Cuív of Fianna Fáil raised concerns with the British ambassador in Dublin, Veronica Sutherland, over the treatment of Ms McAliskey.

Ms O'Rourke said she had visited Holloway Prison in London where Ms McAliskey was being held on remand.

She said the prison governor said that he had done what he could to alleviate the conditions under which McAliskey was being held but "his hands were tied by her Category A status".

Ms O'Rourke found Ms McAliskey was in reasonable spirits but complained that "constant shadowing by two guards meant that no other prisoner would talk to her"; the electric light in her cell burned 24 hours a day, making rest difficult, and half-hourly welfare checks through a noisy grill interrupted her sleep.

Ms Sutherland reported that both Ms O'Rourke and Mr Ó Cuív had failed to get a "clear steer" on exactly why Ms McAliskey was being denied bail.

Ms O'Rourke stated that the German ambassador had categorically denied that the German government had not even been consulted.


In conversation with the British ambassador, Ms O'Rourke said she sympathised with wider British concerns about IRA violence and had been moved by media coverage of the family of Stephen Restorick, a young British soldier killed by the IRA in south Armagh. The TD said her motives were purely humanitarian.

In March 1998, the British Home Secretary, Jack Straw announced that, for health reasons, Ms McAliskey would not be extradited to Germany. In April, she was released and returned to her family home in Co Tyrone.

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