Anglo-Irish relations, delicate at the best of times, have been severely strained because of a legal wrangle that has resulted in a monumental security fiasco. The Irish courts have freed Evelyn Glenholmes, the Irish woman who is at the top of Scotland Yard's most wanted list. She is wanted for a number of major terrorist bombings, including the Irish Republican Army's attempt to assassinate British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in Brighton in October 1984.
In a scene out of the Keystone Cops, prime terrorist suspect Evelyn Glenholmes was brought to court Saturday, freed on a technicality, chased wildly through the streets of Dublin with shots fired into the air, with policemen knocking off a car hood, before being seized, returned to court, and then freed once more on another technicality. Ms. Glenholmes was then spirited out of court by her supporters and has gone into hiding.
The bungling of what would have been a major security coup for the Irish and the British governments has left egg on the face of the Irish government and delivered a stunning propoganda victory to the outlawed IRA.
Irish Justice Minister Alan Dukes is furious at the incompetence of Britain's Office of Public Prosecutions in producing a defective warrant for extradition that could be thrown out of court on a technical hitch. Britain, in turn, is angry that the Irish courts have chosen to take such a pedantic view of the law and have allowed Glenholmes to slip through the security net.
Although she denies being a member of the IRA, Glenholmes is viewed by New Scotland Yard as a leading terrorist. In addition to the Brighton bombing, she is also said to be wanted for several other mainland attacks including the murder of Sir Steuart Pringle, former Royal Marines commander, and the bombing of the home of Sir Michael Havers, the British Attorney General.
The current fiasco comes at an awkward moment for the two governments which recently signed the Anglo-Irish Agreement. Improved security was one of the major aims of that accord.
As an expression of good faith and to show support for the treaty, the Irish recently signed the European Convention for the Suppression of Terrorism. The gesture was said to be a minimum one for removing Northern Ireland fears that the Republic was halfhearted about extraditing terrorists. This time, however, the Irish courts concluded that the extradition warrant was defective, thus voiding the Irish Government's intentions of handing over Glenholmes.
In her first court appearance the warrant for her arrest was held defective because it had not been adequately prepared. The police then rearrested her after a chase pending the arrival of new warrants from London. But on her second appearance the judge said he could not accept telephone evidence that a new warrant was coming. The judge further said that the Irish police had no right to hold her on a defective British warrant.
The courtroom debacle comes at a time when opposition to the accord is building within Northern Ireland, and where there is considerable skepticism that the new accord could deliver on improving border security.