Noonan feared Britain would seek Donegal man’s extradition

The aftermath of the Hyde Park bombing on July 20, 1982.
The aftermath of the Hyde Park bombing on July 20, 1982.

Former Irish Justice Minister Michael Noonan was reportedly worried the British Government would seek the extradition of Donegal man, John Downey, in connection with his alleged involvement in the Hyde Park bombing, newly de-classified documents have revealed.

Mr Downey, who is from Creeslough and in his sixties, was arrested at Gatwick last year and is due to begin trial this month (January).

The Donegal man is accused of killing Roy Bright, Dennis Daly, Simon Tipper and Geoffrey Young, in a car bomb attack on the Household Cavalry on July 20, 1982.

He appeared at the Old Bailey in September but was bailed conditionally to appear again this month.

According to a secret record of a dinner, which was also attended by the Irish Foreign Minister Peter Barry and the Secretary of State Douglas Hurd, Mr Noonan feared there may not have been enough evidence to secure a conviction against Mr Downey.

The minute reveals: “He was...concerned that we might be asking for Downey on a warrant even though we might not have evidence to convict him.

“If people handed over to us by the Irish Courts were then not convicted in Northern Ireland and British Courts, then it was certain that Irish Courts would stop extraditing.”

The view of the Government at the time was to make more use of the Criminal Law (Jurisdiction) Act 1976 legislation, which allowed the Republic to try offences committed in the UK and vice-versa.

At the dinner, on October 25, 1984, in advance of the planned Anglo-Irish Summit later that year, the Ministers also discussed the extradition of Dominic McGlinchey.

McGlinchey was handed over to the RUC at the border on March 18, 1984, to face charges in relation to the murder of Hester McMullan, aged 63, near Toomebridge.

He was the first republican ever to have been extradited from the Republic of Ireland to Northern Ireland, but although he was convicted of the murder and sent to prison he was cleared in 1985.

According to the documents the Minsiters on both side were concerned McGlinchey would not be convicted of the McMullan murder and that there could be difficulties further down the road in relation to returning him to the Republic of Ireland to face further charges there.

“We discussed the McGlinchey case, which had also been covered in the official talks earlier in the evening. Mr Noonan was well aware not only that McGlinchey might be acquitted from lack of evidence but also that there might even be difficulty in getting him back to the Republic to face charges because of the views of the Chief Justice of Northern Ireland,” the record states.

McGlinchey was eventually returned to the Republic and jailed there.

At the same dinner the fractious relationship between the two top cops on the island was also discussed.

The RUC Chief Constable, Jack Hermon, who on his way to the top had served in Eglinton and Strabane, didn’t get on with the Garda Commissioner Lawrence Wren.

“It was perfectly true that the Chief Constable and Commissioner Wren were not on terms,” the minute relates.

According to the record Commissioner Wren believed the RUC had “connived at suppressing a witness wanted by the Garda” and that this was the source of the bad blood.