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President Higgins to make history as he visits FARC guerilla decommissioning site

The FARC had links to the IRA.

President Michael D. Higgins arrives to the government palace in Lima, Peru, last week.
President Michael D. Higgins arrives to the government palace in Lima, Peru, last week.
Image: Martin Mejia/PA

PRESIDENT MICHAEL D HIGGINS is to become the first foreign head of state to visit a fully-demobilised FARC camp.

President Higgins, as part of his tour of South America, will attend a camp where the FARC fighters, who had links to the IRA, disarmed.

Under the terms of the Colombia peace accord approved at the end of November 2016, all of the fighters must be fully demobilised and disarmed, before long term inquiries into the actions of the guerillas and Colombian governments can begin.

Over 90% of FARC fighters have now given up arms and are in ‘rural zones of concentration’, where the disarmament process will take place.

In April 2002, the US House of Representatives Committee on International Relations found that at least 15 IRA members had been travelling in and out of Colombia since 1998.

It added that the IRA had received at least $2 million in funding from FARC drug operations.

This followed the arrest of two IRA men and a Sinn Féin representative in Colombia in August 2001. The Colombia Three were charged with training FARC-EP members in bomb-making. They would eventually be found guilty of travelling on false passports, but not guilty of training FARC members.

That decision was reversed after an appeal by the Attorney General of Colombia and they were sentenced to 17-year terms. The men vanished while on bail and returned to Ireland.

Christian Aid Ireland urged the international community to continue supporting the Colombia peace process.

Thomas Mortensen, Christian Aid’s Colombia country manager, who will meet President Higgins tomorrow, said: “We urge that the international community and Ireland continue to support the peace process politically and financially into the future, when it is no longer the focus of global attention. Such international engagement will be critical for ending the 53-year conflict that has torn 8 million lives apart.

“We also call for an immediate end to the killing of human rights defenders in Colombia. The murders of brave people who stand up for justice, represents a major risk to the peace process.”

With reporting by Paul Hosford

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