Ten years after the 'Colombia 3'

We've had the 30th anniversary of the hunger strikes. Later this year, on August 9th, there's the 40th anniversary of internment.

Rather lower down on the scale of seismic events, two days later, on August 11th, is the tenth anniversary of the arrest of three republicans for travelling on false passports in Colombia.

In 2004 the "Colombia 3" were eventually sentenced to 17 years in jail for training FARC rebels.

Why am I recalling this now? This morning I bumped into the former Northern Ireland minister Sir Richard Needham in the Stormont Great Hall. Sir Richard was escorting the Colombian ambassador Mauricio Rodriguez on a visit.

The Colombians embarked on a peace process with FARC in the late nineties, ceding a piece of territory the size of Switzerland. But the process collapsed in 2002 amidst bloodshed and recriminations.

However Ambassador Rodriguez told me that after significant military successes by the government in their battle against FARC, hopes are high that a peace process might now be revived. He was keen to pick up any tips which might help that process whilst meeting representatives of the Stormont parties.

A source said the "Colombia 3" featured, almost like a subtle running joke during a lunchtime briefing with MLAs.

But the ambassador told me, in an interview for Stormont Today, that he is concentrating on seeking to export the lessons of peace, rather than what he views as a sad episode a decade ago.

P.S. On a separate topic, some readers of this blog have enquired over the months whether the legal advice sought by Peter Robinson in relation to the Spotlight programme of 2010 will ever be published.

Jim Allister asked that question too, along with how much it cost. So the TUV leader was somewhat surprised to get the answer that the First Minister had sought no advice about the programme.

Puzzled? The answer seems to be that the advice was sought by the Departmental Solicitors Office which comes under Sammy Wilson's Finance department.

I imagine Mr Allister is resubmitting his question already, and that when it comes in it will be scrutinised for any technical loopholes. It's a case of our lawyer will see your lawyer and raise you.