Row brews between Britain and Ireland over extradition treaty

The Dublin parliament has passed a controversial extradition law allowing terrorist suspects to be sent to Northern Ireland for trial. But disagreements between Dublin and London on the issue have ruffled Anglo-Irish relations and left British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher far from satisfied with the outcome. Differences center on new safeguards for Irish suspects. These safeguards were pushed through parliament last week by Irish Prime Minister Charles Haughey.

Mrs. Thatcher angrily commented on the move that these made Britain the ``least favored nation'' in regard to extradition from Ireland and were ``a step backward.''

Mr. Haughey's new safeguards give the Irish attorney general a role in ensuring that anyone sought for extradition has a real case to answer. Senior government ministers in Dublin say these safeguards will strengthen extradition arrangements between the two countries.

Thatcher limited herself to an expression of ``concern'' at the new safeguards when both leaders met Friday at the European Community (EC) summit in Copenhagen.

The row already had added to tense relations between the two dating back to Haughey's rejection of sanctions against Argentina during the 1982 Falklands war.

The historic 1985 Anglo-Irish accord, giving Dublin a voice for the first time in the affairs of Northern Ireland, is not directly affected by the row.

But Dublin officials seem concerned that Thatcher's enthusiasm for the accord could wane if the new extradition arrangements do not help to defeat Ulster terrorism.

Before the Nov. 8 Irish Republican Army (IRA) bomb blast at Enniskillen, it looked certain Dublin would postpone implementing extradition since London was stalling on reforming the non-jury Diplock Courts in Ulster.

The extradition measure, long sought by Britain, involved ratification by the Irish Republic of the 1977 European Convention on Terrorism.

This convention, ratified Dec. 1, greatly restricts the political grounds under which suspects gained immunity from extradition in the past.

The Enniskillen bombing dramatically changed the political mood in the republic.

Fears among senior politicians of handing over terrorist suspects to a judicial system many did not trust changed overnight into a mood of wanting to cooperate with the northern authorities in bringing those guilty to justice. Opinion polls showed a similar swing in public opinion.

Despite this, however, Haughey faced a strong back-bench revolt against extradition within his own Fianna Fail party, traditionally more nationalist and inclined to be suspicious of Britain.

To party approval for ratifying the 1977 European Convention, the Prime Minister introduced the new safeguards that have angered Thatcher.

Meanwhile, the Enniskillen bombing has led to unprecedented cooperation between security forces in the Republic and in Northern Ireland in the hunt for IRA members and their arms.

In late November, Irish police and Army units began the largest search ever undertaken in the history of the republic.

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