New South Wales premier described Irish judicial system as a ‘joke’

State Papers 1985: Neville Wran spoke of ‘Irish joke’ after failed extradition process

The premier of New South Wales, Neville Wran, apologised to the Irish ambassador to Australia after calling the judicial system here an "Irish joke", State papers show.

His remarks came after the Irish courts refused to extradite Australian drug baron and murder accused Robert Trimbole in 1985.

In a note in the embassy file, the ambassador remarks that it "would have been disastrous" if the Supreme Court had not upheld the High Court ruling not to extradite, "given the likelihood that Trimbole had already left the country".

Trimbole was accused in Australia of running a drug-dealing operation and of arranging the murder of an anti-drugs activist. He fled Australia in 1981, travelling to France and the US before arriving in Ireland.

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He was living in Westport, Co Mayo, under a false name until gardaí arrested him in October 1984 under section 30 of the Offences Against the State Act.

In February 1985, the High Court ruled that the arrest was illegal and found it had tainted the extradition proceedings. Trimbole, represented by well-known barrister Paddy MacEntee, was released. The Supreme Court upheld the decision in March.

A telex message dated February 8th from Irish ambassador Joseph Small to Neville Wran, then premier of New South Wales, said he was distressed by Mr Wran's remarks on television "in which you likened the legal developments in Dublin in the Trimbole case to an Irish joke".

He pointed out that Australian attorneys general had expressed public appreciation for the co-operation of the Irish authorities and that Ireland was hampered by the absence of a bilateral extradition arrangement, the Australians having failed to finalise.

In response, Mr Wran said nothing he said was intended to reflect on the calibre of the Irish judiciary. The “obvious confusion and perhaps affront” came from the expression “an Irish joke”, he said, adding that he should have been more sensitive than to use such an expression.

Trimbole left Ireland in 1985 for Spain, where he died of cancer in May 1987, aged 56.

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