Cork accused of 'Brit-bashing' after call to halt extraditions to UK
Unionists have accused Cork County Council of 'Brit-bashing' after it passed a resolution calling on the Dublin government to stop extraditing Irish citizens to the UK over Brexit legal concerns.
The council urged the dramatic step to be taken amid claims that Britain will not adhere to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) after leaving the EU.
Unionists insisted that these were 'baseless fears' and said adherence to the ECHR didn't relate to membership of the EU.
Councillors backed a motion from independent representative and former Sinn Fein member Kieran McCarthy. He claimed that prisoners in Maghaberry jail were subjected to cruel and degrading treatment.
Mr McCarthy said Britain had a long history of human rights abuses in Ireland and had previously been brought before the European Court over its conduct in Northern Ireland.
"As matters stand, Britain is again in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights because of the practice of beating prisoners while they are forced to endure full body strip searches. What no one can guarantee at this time is the UK government's commitments to the ECHR post-Brexit," he said in the Irish Times.
TUV leader Jim Allister claimed Cork County Council's misgivings were "baseless fears".
"Though cloaked in a diatribe of anti-British rhetoric, the ignorance at the heart of this proposal is equally shocking," he said.
"The UK is not leaving the Council of Europe, to which the European Convention on Human Rights belongs, but is leaving the EU. Thus, Brexit has no bearing on our obligations under the ECHR, but clearly Cork County Council had no interest in letting such a reality get in the way of a good British-bashing session.
"There is no reason why there shouldn't be a future extradition treaty with the Republic of Ireland post-Brexit. Sadly, in the past the Republic shamelessly dragged its feet on such matters to the evident advantage of those engaged in cross-border murders."
DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said: "Those who brought this motion forward are using Brexit as a convenient excuse for anti-British sentiment.
"There are 19 existing non-EU states which belong to the Council of Europe, the parent body of the ECHR. Adherence to the ECHR does not relate to membership of the European Union.
"I am surprised that Councillor McCarthy and his colleagues are ignorant of this fact.
"The Republic of Ireland has a shameful history when it comes to the extradition of suspects during the Troubles. From 1973 until 1997 the UK sought the extradition of 110 suspects from the Republic, but only eight were extradited."
Mr Donaldson added that it was important to uphold human life and it should be remembered that terrorists "regularly breach the most fundamental human right of all - the right to life".
UUP MLA Doug Beattie described Cork County Council's motion as "ill-conceived" and dismissed its concerns about the ECHR post-Brexit as "groundless". But he called on the Irish government to clarify the situation and "give guidance" to the judiciary.
"Just last week, a Dublin judge declined to extradite a company director wanted for fraud to London because by the time he finishes his prison sentence the UK would have left the EU. Clearly, the situation needs addressed," Mr Beattie said.
Extradition proceedings have in the past been a political and legal minefield. A low point in London-Dublin relations came with the non-extradition of IRA suspect Fr Patrick Ryan in 1988.
Another high-profile republican, Evelyn Glenholmes, was released by an Irish court when extradition warrants were deemed defective.
However, three Maze escapers were extradited in 1988.
In December last year, Dublin High Court ordered the extradition of Tyrone man Damien McLaughlin who is charged in connection with the 2012 murder of prison officer David Black.