An Irish construction worker and resident of New York is suing the Irish State for being extradited from the United States for crimes he did not commit.
Joseph Byrne (42) from Dundalk, County Louth, was extradited from New York to face charges for a robbery and burglary that took place 11 year earlier.
He has since had the charges dismissed, but now plans to take a civil action again the State for pursuing the extradition with little evidence to back it up.
Though Byrne has had all charges dropped, he remains in Ireland awaiting the finalization of paperwork and the release of his passport.
“I do feel a huge amount of relief. It's been an extremely stressful time for my family,” said Byrne.
“I'm going to miss my daughter's first holy communion next week. It's been difficult to have her on the phone crying to me about all of this.
“I am angry with the gardaí [police] for what we've gone through over the past few years. But I am just so relieved it has finally come to an end. As soon as I get my passport, I'm going back to my life in New York."
Byrne was accused of being involved in the robbery of the Readypenny Inn in County Louth in March 1997. He was also accusing of burglary in November 1996.
There were no witnesses who could confirm Byrne’s presence at either crime, but the police arrested him and proceeded with extradition procedures.
The saga started when Byrne came into contact with members of the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA), an Irish republican paramilitary group, in the 1990s.
In 1996 Byrne was working in construction in Dundalk when one of his coworkers produced a gun. Byrne, who feared the man and saw him as a threat, reported the gun to the police.
Later that year, another man told Byrne that he intended on carrying out the burglary of an elderly woman’s home using the weapon.
Again in March 1997 the two men, both members of the INLA, robbed the Readypenny Inn. The two raiders stole $11,800 and tied up the pub owner’s daughter.
Two months later Byrne was arrested with relation to the burglary and the robbery. At the station he gave a statement to the police and also supplied them with the names of the two INLA members.
The two men, who Byrne believes carried out the burglary and robbery, denied any involvement and have never been charged with relation to the crimes. One of these men is currently serving a jail sentence for rape.
Once Byrne had been released from police custody, he left town fearing for his life and what the repercussions from the INLA might be. Soon after, he moved to the United States.
In New York he met and married Eileen Grady and had a daughter named Mairead. He set up and operated a company called Fane Construction and lived happily in the United States for eight years until he applied for his Green Card.
To finalize application for the Green Card he needed a “certificate of character” from the police in County Louth. He applied for this document and 18 months later was extradited to Ireland for the crimes he had already been cleared of.
During extradition proceedings, the Irish police the Department of Public Prosecutions said in sworn statements that there were witnesses to these crimes, and that Byrne was wanted with relation to the possession of the weapon used in the crimes.
However, in the District Court in Louth last week, there was no evidence brought forward to support either of these claims.
Byrne’s father, who is a retired police sergeant, said that the family is now seriously considering legal action against the police for providing United States authorities with “false affidavits.”
The Irish Police Ombudsman Commission is also investigating their complaints.