Larry the Chef, the IRA, and the Setup

Posted by Niall O'Dowd at 7/5/2009 10:41 PM EDT

Kafka would not get a look in with the ordeal that American Larry Zaitschek has undergone these past seven years.

The case against Larry collapsed dramatically in Belfast this weekend allowing the American to finally stay in his home land and not be extradited to Ireland on trumped up charges.

On St. Patrick's Day 2002, three men entered one of Northern Ireland's top secret bases at Castlereagh Police Station and stole vital information which allegedly included the names of secret informers and their handlers. It seemed like an IRA inside job and the search for scapegoats was on as a huge hue and cry ensued. Millions was spent rehousing officers and informers.

Enter Larry, a hapless American who had somehow got a job as a chef on the base and was minding his own business on the day in question. By all accounts he cooked a mean pastry.
Soon he was being fingered as the chief insider in the job and allegedly had links to the IRA,especially via a top Sinn Fein operative named Denis Donaldson, by all accounts a very casual acquaintance.

The cops turned up the heat on Larry, yet somehow allowed him to return to America. No sooner was he back than they wanted him extradited creating an international furor and lots of angry British headlines about the Yanks sheltering a major terrorist .

They forced his wife into a witness protection program and the extradition request meant he could not return to see see his only son, Pearse, who grew up without him being around.
Larry told the Belfast Telegraph that the two days after the break-in he was interviewed twice by police in Belfast.

"I was told: 'We're done with you in our inquiries. Good luck in America. Thanks for all your great food,'" he said.

"I left and came back to America. So everyone knew I was leaving. They were done with me. I left, and then this whole story was concocted."

Concocted it was. Master IRA man Denis Donaldson later turned out to a top British spy who was killed probably by IRA dissidents soon after. The connection between him and Larry turned out to be utterly bogus.

The statement from the Public Prosecution Office this week would have made Kafka proud. It reads in part: "After the original decision for prosecution (of Larry the chef) had been taken, new information came to the attention of the PPS through the chief constable.

"The PPS concluded that a duty of disclosure to the defence arose in respect of this information. It took all possible steps in conjunction with police to make it available.

"However, the chief constable has now confirmed that he is not in a position to make this information available for the purposes of disclosure.

"In those circumstances, the PPS has concluded that the test for prosecution is no longer met as the disclosure obligations placed upon the prosecution cannot be discharged and a fair trial could not thereby be achieved."

Translation: we have no case, we never had any case and we've finally decided to let this poor useful idiot have his freedom after destroying his life and his relationship with his kid.

What was the point of of the break in? It seems clear as day. Security elements opposed to the peace process staged it to bring about a major crisis which it did and almost toppled the fragile peace. They threw in a token and unlucky American called Larry the chef to muddy the waters further and concocted a bogus IRA connection. Now it has all come apart.

For Larry the vindication comes too late to rebuild the missing years with his son. But at least it gives him peace at last and no more fear of the knock on the door at dead of night to ship him back to trumped up charges in Belfast. For that at least he can be thankful.

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