Saturday, October 10, 1998 Published at 12:36 GMT 13:36 UK
IRA extradition U-turn 'a disgrace'
Artt, Brennan and Kirby escaped from the Maze in 1983
Ulster Unionists have branded a US court decision to overturn extradition orders on three convicted IRA criminals "a disgrace".
Their anger follows a US court of appeal's reversal of extradition proceedings against the trio, to give them a chance to clear their names.
The three men were among 38 inmates who broke out of the Maze Prison in September 1983.
But the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco reversed a federal judge's extradition order on Friday.
"It's a big victory. It's like a Celtic Amistad for us," said Artt's lawyer, Jim Brosnahan, who called for Britain to drop its case against the men completely in line with the spirit of the Good Friday agreement.
But Ian Paisley Jnr, justice spokesman for the Democratic Unionist Party, said comparing the men to black slaves was an outrage.
"This is absolutely horrendous," he said.
"The American authorities are in breech of the spirit of the Good Friday agreement themselves by not following through on extradition proceedings."
Ulster Unionists security spokesman Ken Maginnis said: "It is unhelpful when an American court calls into question the integrity of a justice system which has served the people of Northern Ireland well during 30 difficult years."
Brennan was convicted of possessing explosives, which police said were to be used to blow up a store in Belfast for the IRA.
After escaping from the Maze, the three fled to California, where they found work and raised families before being ordered back to Belfast in 1992.
They sought to block extradition on the grounds that they would be persecuted because of their religion and republican sympathies.
In April, US District Judge Charles Legge ordered that the trio should be extradited.