Former INLA man loses lengthy battle against extradition

Francis Lanigan (53) wanted in North over alleged murder in Co Tyrone 20 years ago

Francis Lanigan at the Four Courts  after a High Court action. Photograph: Collins Courts

Francis Lanigan at the Four Courts after a High Court action. Photograph: Collins Courts

 

A former republican paramilitary who is wanted for a murder in Co Tyrone is to be returned to Northern Ireland after losing a lengthy legal battle over his extradition.

Francis Lanigan (53), originally from Belfast but with an address in west Dublin, is wanted on charges of murder and possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life.

The offences relate to the alleged murder of John Knocker, who was shot dead in a hotel car park in Dungannon on May 31st, 1998.

Mr Lanigan, who contested extradition on grounds his life would be at risk from both loyalist and republican paramilitaries, had fought a long legal battle aimed at preventing his surrender.

An order for surrender was made by the High Court in 2015 and that was upheld on appeal. The case had come before at least nine High Court judges as well as the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court on multiple occasions and, on one occasion, before the European Court of Justice.

As well as the extradition proceedings, Mr Lanigan had challenged the constitutionality of the European Arrest Warrant Act which involved a referral of questions to the European Court of Justice.

There had also been two failed applications under Article 40 of the Constitution over the legality of his detention.

Last week, the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal aimed at having issues referred to the European Court of Justice following the Court of Appeal’s refusal to do so.

Mr Lanigan had been on bail and a stay was placed on his surrender pending the outcome of any appeal to the Supreme Court.

Stay on surrender

Following the Supreme Court decision not to hear such an appeal, that stay was liftetd on Monday evening by the High Court’s Ms Justice Deirdre Murphy.

Robert Barron SC, for the State, sought the lifting of the stay.

Kieran Kelly BL, for Mr Lanigan, said his client’s action had come to an end and his side was not contesting the application to lift the stay on his surrender.

After the ruling, Mr Lanigan embraced supporters in court and shook hands with his own lawyers and those for the State.

Mr Lanigan was arrested by gardaí in early January 2013 on foot of a European Arrest Warrant. He was arrested at a Dublin gym where he was working as a self-employed barber.

Upon his arrest, he gave a false name and later said he had been working under the name “Ciaran McCrory” for his own protection for the previous 15 years. Gardaí ­ were aware Mr Lanigan was living under that name before his arrest because a detective had covertly gone to the gym and secured a DNA test on a coffee cup which ascertained the man living as “Ciaran McCrory” was really Mr Lanigan.

The Northern Ireland authorities, in seeking his extradition, said they had not gathered sufficient evidence for a charge in relation to the murder until 2011.

In an affidavit, Mr Lanigan said he joined the Provisional IRA aged 17 and, when aged 19, joined the INLA. He was jailed for INLA membership in the 1980s and over time rose through the ranks of the INLA.

He claimed, during the 1990s, his life was at risk from loyalist paramilitaries and when a feud erupted within the INLA, said he was attacked outside the Glengannon Hotel in Dungannon in May 1998. John Knocker died as a result of injuries sustained during that incident.

Mr Lanigan disputed the Northern Ireland authorities claims about the circumstances of Mr Knocker’s death.

After that incident, he claimed he fled to the Republic for his own safety.