Belfast Telegraph

PSNI investigating 'Provo priest' Patrick Ryan's admissions of IRA terror role

Unionists have called on the Irish Government to apologise for not extraditing Patrick Ryan in 1988 after the priest turned IRA man appeared on a new BBC programme talking about his role in the terrorist organisation (BBC/PA)
Unionists have called on the Irish Government to apologise for not extraditing Patrick Ryan in 1988 after the priest turned IRA man appeared on a new BBC programme talking about his role in the terrorist organisation (BBC/PA)

The PSNI has said it is investigating admissions made by former priest-turned-IRA-man Patrick Ryan in Tuesday night's BBC Spotlight documentary.

In the programme, Mr Ryan said he played a key role in the IRA's bombing campaign in the 1980s, as well as generating arms and money for the terror group.

Among the atrocities in which he admitted he was involved were the 1982 Hyde Park bombing and the attack on Grand Hotel in Brighton in 1984, where five people were killed as Margaret Thatcher's Conservative Party was holding its annual conference.

Asked if he had any regrets, Mr Ryan replied: "I regret that I wasn't even more effective, absolutely."

When asked if police were investigating the claims, a PSNI spokesperson said: "The Legacy Investigation Branch is responsible for conducting reviews and investigations into homicides in Northern Ireland linked to the period known as ‘The Troubles’.

"We are aware of the BBC interview and will assess its content to establish whether it contains credible evidence of the commission of criminal offences in Northern Ireland.

"It is too early to say at this stage what evidence might exist in any cases referenced in the interview, or whether there are credible opportunities to progress investigations into offences committed in Northern Ireland."

PSNI chief constable Simon Byrne, speaking at a cross-border crime conference on Wednesday, said his staff are "looking into" Mr Ryan's comments.

"As you would expect, we have a specific line of inquiry we've now got to examine," he said.

"I've got one of our assistant chiefs looking at that [case] today, to see if there are fresh lines of inquiry that we would then need to review our decisions in the past."

He added: "If we have to go to a point of seeking extradition, that's a conversation we need to have with [Garda Commissioner Drew Harris] and his colleagues."

BBC NI confirmed that the interview broadcast on Tuesday night took place outside Dublin and it is "their understanding" that Ryan lives openly in retirement in the Republic.

Former Conservative Minister Lord Tebbit, who was badly injured in the Brighton bomb along with his wife Margaret, voiced his anger at the Irish Government's refusal to extradite Ryan to the UK after he was arrested in Belgium in possession of bomb-making equipment in 1988.

He told Radio Ulster's Evening Extra: "It is an utter disgrace that the Irish Government refused to allow us to extradite him to face trial in this country."

Asked whether the Irish Government should apologise, he added: "An apology would be one thing, but the most important thing is to put the man on trial and get him put where he deserves to be."

Several politicians have also called on the Irish Government to apologise for their failure to extradite the former priest.

Ulster Unionist councillor Danny Kinahan, a former member of the Blues and Royals, lost colleagues in the Hyde Park bombing.

He said: "If Patrick Ryan happens to live in the Republic of Ireland, this will 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."

DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said: "I think the Irish Government needs to explain why they failed to co-operate with the UK authorities at that time and apologise for that failing."

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