Four TDs and a terrorist
TRIP: TDs in Vilnius on 'humanitarian mission'
FOUR TDs sit side-by-side with a Real IRA gun runner in a Lithuanian courtroom.
In the dock is convicted arms smuggler Michael Campbell who has been caught on video plotting to plant a devastating bomb in London.
And just metres away are elected representatives Clare Daly, Eamon O Cuiv, Martin Ferris and Maureen O'Sullivan.
The four have travelled to Vilnius to examine the condition that the terrorist is being held in.
Campbell (40), from Faughart in Dundalk, Co Louth, is currently appealing his conviction, claiming the case against him was "built on illegal activity by the MI5".
In 2007, he was secretly recorded inspecting a range of guns and bombs in a Lithuanian field.
Pointing at one type of explosive device, he said: "You imagine us getting over to England if you'd 10 of them and 10 clocks in a holdall. You imagine, with a six-hour timer, we could be over to London and back.
"Just tick, tick, tick . . . gone. Leave it anywhere."
Lithuanian prosecutors have also cited witnesses as saying Campbell inquired about the amount of explosives needed to blow up a government car.
He was sentenced to 12 years in prison for supporting a terrorist group, unlawful arms possession, and attempted smuggling.
The four TDs said last night that they had travelled to Lithuania, currently the holder of the EU presidency, for "humanitarian reasons".
Sinn Fein's Martin Ferris told the Herald that all four had paid for their own flights and accommodation and would not be claiming any taxpayer-funded expenses.
He said that the group met with Campbell and his legal team, who outlined the conditions of the prison in Kaunas he is being held in.
"It is third world compared to Ireland. There are 22 men in a room and they have to share bedding. They have no hot water and wash their clothes in a bucket," he explained.
"They get one shower a week and in the summer the temperature rises to 30 degrees, and in the winter when the temperature can drop to minus 30 degrees the prisoners have to melt snow for water."
Independent TD Maureen O'Sullivan said that she had paid around €400 for flights and €200 for hotels.
"It was grim and disturbing listening to Michael, and the information he gave us was corroborated by his legal team," said Deputy O'Sullivan.
The TDs, who also include Fianna Fail's Eamon O Cuiv and independent Clare Daly, are to seek a meeting with Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore on the issue when they return to Dublin today.
Campbell told the Lithuanian Court of Appeals yesterday that he is not linked with the Real IRA, but was prosecuted due to his brother Liam being titled as one of the leaders of Real IRA.
"I have never been a member of Real IRA or helped them any way," Campbell said.
The Lithuanian Court of Appeals is to hand down its ruling on the matter on October 2.