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Anger as Michaella McCollum celebrates return to Northern Ireland after three years in Peru jail with party at Dungannon home

Party time at convicted drug smuggler's family home... but peer voices anger at McCollum's high media profile and questions the morality of possible attempts to profit from her notoriety

Cate McCurry

Published 15/08/2016

Convicted drug smuggler Michaella McCollum pictured leaving her Dungannon Home in Co Tyrone on Sunday Morning. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
Convicted drug smuggler Michaella McCollum pictured leaving her Dungannon Home in Co Tyrone on Sunday Morning. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
Convicted drug smuggler Michaella McCollum pictured leaving her Dungannon Home in Co Tyrone on Sunday Morning. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
Convicted drug smuggler Michaella McCollum pictured leaving her Dungannon Home in Co Tyrone on Sunday Morning. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
Convicted drug smuggler Michaella McCollum pictured leaving her Dungannon Home in Co Tyrone on Sunday Morning. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
Michaella arriving back at Dublin airport on Saturday
Celebratory balloons visible through the windows of the McCollum family home in Dungannon
Celebratory balloons visible through the windows of the McCollum family home in Dungannon
Michaella and Melissa Reid shortly after their arrest in Peru

The return of high-profile convicted drugs mule Michaella McCollum from Peru to a party resembling a hero's homecoming in Northern Ireland has sparked anger.

The glamorous 23-year-old Co Tyrone woman flew into Dublin on Saturday night after travelling from Lima - where she had been on parole for attempting to smuggle £1.5m of cocaine.

It was the first time the notorious Dungannon woman had been in Ireland in over three years after she was arrested at Lima airport in August 2013.

She is believed to have spent her first night home partying and celebrating her release with family and friends in Co Tyrone.

More: Michaella McCollum homecoming: 'She could have ruined lives... she should still be locked up'

But her arrival has sparked fury from politicians.

DUP MLA Lord Morrow was critical of her homecoming, saying it resembled that of a "minor celebrity".

"This is the return of a convicted criminal yet a great deal of the publicity which appears to surround her currently resembles a minor celebrity," he said.

"The harm caused by the drugs she attempted to smuggle affects communities everywhere and that should not be forgotten.

"A question which remains is whether her return will be followed by attempts to remain in the public eye, or even to profit from the notoriety she achieved with her crimes.

Michaella McCollum Connolly in one of the Ibiza clubs where she worked as a dancer
Michaella McCollum Connolly in one of the Ibiza clubs where she worked as a dancer
Michaella McCollum Connolly in one of her club hostess outfits
Michaella McCollum Connolly with Brad Houston from England, pictured in Ibiza
Michaella McCollum Connolly
Michaella McCollum Connolly
First television interview of Michaella McCollum Connolly after being released on parole from a Peruvian prison
Michaella McCollum Connolly, handcuffed, arrives for a court hearing, in Lima, Peru (AP Photo/Karel Navarro)
Michaella McCollum Connolly, handcuffed, arrives for a court hearing in Lima, Peru, clutching the book 'Secrets About Life Every Woman Should Know: Ten principles for spiritual and emotional fulfillment' (AP Photo/Karel Navarro)
Michaella McCollum Connolly arrives to court for her sentencing in Callao, Peru (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)
Melissa Reid and Michaella McCollum, both handcuffed, arrive for a court hearing in Lima, Peru (AP Photo/Karel Navarro)
Michaella McCollum Connolly, handcuffed, arrives for a court hearing, in Lima, Peru (AP Photo/Karel Navarro)
Michaella McCollum, left, and Melissa Reid listen to a translator during their hearing at court in Callao, Peru (AP)
Police escort Melissa Reid, front, and Michaella McCollum to a hearing in Lima, Peru (AP)
Police escort Michaella McCollum Connolly and Melissa Reid from the National Police anti-drug headquarters in Peru (AP)
Michaella McCollum Connolly (left) and friend Melissa Reid in the airport after they were arrested
Michaella McCollum Connolly with rugby star Tommy Bowe while doing promotional work at an official Ulster Rugby event
Santa Monica female prison in Peru
SECRET STASH: The drugs found in food packs in the girls’ luggage
CAUGHT ON CAMERA: Michaella and Melissa caught on CCTV loading bags into a car in Peru
Michaella McCollum, centre, and Melissa Reid leave the court after being sentenced in Peru.
Lawyer Peter Madden, who represents Michaella McCollum, has claimed his client has suffered from a lack of food.
Belfast solicitor Peter Madden said Michaella McCollum and co-accused Melissa Reid have been well treated by the authorities
Michaella McCollum, right, and Melissa Reid, left, were jailed in Peru last year after they admitted trying to smuggle cocaine worth 1.5 million pounds from Peru to Spain (AP)
Michaella McCollum's mother Norah McCollum and sister Samantha McCollum vist the Peru prison
Michaella McCollum Connolly with reality TV star Mark Wright at a promotional night hosted by Belfast's M Club

"The focus should be on the victims of drug abuse in our society and not those who contributed to their harm."

McCollum was released from prison in Peru on March 31 after spending less than three years behind bars with Scot Melissa Reid.

She had been ordered to spend the next six years of her sentence on parole in the city.

More: Michaella McCollum homecoming: Her career prospects are miles better now... the message will be crime does indeed pay  

But after reports that McCollum made a secret deal with Peruvian authorities recently, she was given permission to fly back to Northern Ireland.

The MP for the area, Tom Elliott, said it would be "more appropriate" if she had remained in the South American country to finish her parole.

"She served her time in prison but people will be asking was that enough and does it fit the crime?" he asked.

"I would have thought that if it was part of her conditions that she had to remain in Peru, then it would be more appropriate to remain there at this stage and it would have been seen as better justice.

"There will be a mixed reaction with her arriving home.

"Friends and family may probably be pleased to see her coming back whereas others will say it's a pretty serious crime, she should have done the full sentence. A lot of people could have been seriously damaged and had their health seriously damaged if she would have pursued with that crime."

More: Michaella McCollum homecoming: Night out planned with fellow jail bird Kaouthar Essafi

McCollum arrived in Dublin at around 8.30pm on Saturday.

She walked through the arrivals area alone but did not talk to the waiting press as she dragged two suitcases behind her.

She remained outside for several minutes for family members.

When asked where she had planned to go by reporters, she replied: "Home."

However, hours before she landed in Dublin, the former dancer posted pictures on Instagram as she prepared for her long journey home.

Wearing a black vest top and black jeans, Michaella was greeted by two females before making her way back to Dungannon where she was met by other family members.

McCollum and Reid - nicknamed the Peru Two - were working in Ibiza for the summer when they travelled to South America three years ago. They were arrested as they attempted to smuggle the cocaine in their suitcases. However, they denied knowing the luggage contained drugs, claiming they had been kidnapped and forced to become drug runners.

They later admitted the offence and were jailed for six years and eight months.

In June, McCollum was criticised after being pictured living it up in the capital Lima with fellow cocaine smuggler Kaouthar Essafi, who she befriended in prison.

Following her release from prison, she was spotted partying in nightclubs and dining out at plush restaurants, despite agreeing to do charity work while living with a local priest.

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