The Journal of History     Winter 2004    TABLE OF CONTENTS

US extraditee Joe Doherty calls for amnesty for all

Author unknown
Originally published between December 29, 2000 and January 1, 2001

A north Belfast man who fought extradition from America for nine years has welcomed the decision to grant an amnesty to four IRA men who escaped from Crumlin Road jail in 1981.

Joe Doherty was among a group of eight IRA men who broke out of Crumlin Jail in 1981 while awaiting trial for the killing of SAS captain Herbert Westmascott during a shoot-out on the Antrim Road in 1980.

He was subsequently arrested in America and fought the longest extradition case in US legal history before he was sent back to the H-Blocks in 1992 where he spent almost seven years in jail before being released under the Good Friday Agreement at the end of 1998.

Speaking to the North Belfast News, Doherty welcomed the decision to grant an amnesty to fellow escapees Tony Sloan, Angelo Fusco, Dingus Magee, and Robert Campbell, but said that there are still hundreds of people waiting to hear if they too are to be given amnesties.

"There are hundreds of people living all over Ireland waiting to hear if they can come home. I personally believe that the British are just being vindictive in their refusal to allow everyone to come home. "This should have happened months ago but the Brits have deliberately dragged their heels just to slow things down.

Having spent a total of 23 years in jail, nine of which were in America fighting extradition, Joe Doherty says that he known better than most just how vindictive the British Government can be.

"There is no doubt that Margaret Thatcher made a point of victimising us because of our case.

"Even when I was sent back to the H Blocks the years I spent in jail in America were not taken into account.

"If it hadn't been for the Agreement I would still have been in jail now.

"But in some ways I was lucky at least when I got out I was a free man and could go where I wanted.

"Most of these guys and many more like them have all been jailed in the South and done their time but the Brits refused to take any of this into account.

"They couldn't come home when a relative was in hospital or had died.

"They were free men south of the border but couldn't set foot in the North because the Brits refused to give an inch."

And Joe Doherty said that the British government's policy of drip-feeding previously-agreed confidence-building measures to the nationalist community threatened to put support for the Good Friday Agreement in jeopardy. "I personally believe that the Brits are endangering everything that has been achieved by this mealy-mouthed attitude.

"They signed up to a deal to end the conflict in 1998 but have dragged their heels ever since.

"While this week's amnesty is to be welcomed a lot more needs to be done a lot quicker if the Good Friday Agreement is to keep its support in the nationalist community."

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The Journal of History - Winter 2004 Copyright © 2004 by News Source, Inc.