An Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, has insisted the Government did not do a deal to facilitate the return of the three Irishmen found guilty of training FARC rebels in Colombia.

Speaking in Kerry, Mr Ahern said suggestions that the Government had prior knowledge of the men's return was untrue and unhelpful.

He said any question of extraditing Martin McCauley, Niall Connolly and James Monaghan to Colombia would be dealt with by the courts here.

Mr Ahern added that the Government has not had such a request from the Colombian authorities.

RTÉ News revealed yesterday that Martin McCauley, Niall Connolly and Jim Monaghan had returned to Ireland in the past few days.

The three had been on the run since December, when a court in Colombia reversed their original acquittal and sentenced them to 17 years in prison.

Meanwhile, the Department of Justice has said it would consider any request for assistance from the Colombian authorities pursuing three men found guilty of training Marxist rebels there.

A spokesperson for the Department of Justice added: 'We will fulfil our international obligations subject to the scrutiny of the Irish courts.'

Sinn Féin deny prior knowledge

Sinn Féin said this afternoon that the party had no prior knowledge of the men's return and again insisted that no deals were done with the Irish or British governments.

The party's vice-president, Pat Doherty, also dismissed claims of a crisis in the Northern peace process as nonsense.