A GAELIC footballer is to face a British Army hearing under claims he went absent without leave 10 years ago.
Police took Brian McMahon off a plane in Newcastle as he was arriving for a friend's stag party on March 21. He was then told he was wanted for questioning by the British Army.
The news came as “a total shock” to the Kerry contractor, a close friend told The Irish Post, as he believed he had left everything in order when he quit the army after two years’ service.
He had also travelled between Ireland and Britain regularly in the intervening decade and even worked in London for a year, said his business partner John Joe Culloty.
“It was a bit extreme to be taking somebody off a plane and taking them for a hearing,” he added.
Since then Mr McMahon, who is a well-known footballer with Dr Crokes in his native Killarney, has been brought before one military hearing after being handed over to officers at Catterick Barracks in North Yorkshire.
He is currently staying with a relative in Liverpool ahead of his next hearing, which he hopes will be held early next week.
Explaining his surprise at the developments, Mr McMahon told the ‘Kerry’s Eye’ newspaper that the hearing would just be a “paper trial”.
“I have worked and paid taxes in London. How this is being flagged now is a mystery,” he explained.
“There's a hearing next week but we don't know how it's going to be handled, not until the day.
“There is a possibility you have to stay for three or four days in army custody for punishment, it's within their rights, but no one has suggested to me that anything like that is going to happen.”
The footballer was previously approached by police about his absence six years ago as he attempted to board a ferry at Pembroke in Wales.
But he returned home after army officers failed to turn up to meet him at the time they had agreed.
Mr McMahon, who got married in December, said he would be making the case that he has family and a business in Ireland, adding that he would have come forward voluntarily had he known that he was still wanted in Britain.
Mr Culloty said it was “overkill” to force his friend and business partner to go through two hearings about his absence from the army.
“Brian joined the army when he was 18, as guys do at that age, and when he left as far as he was concerned the paperwork was sorted out,” he explained.
“Sometime in the past a technicality turned up and we checked up on it. But there was no big deal made of it and as far as he was concerned everything was okay.”
Mr Culloty, who is also a local Fianna Fáil councillor, added: “Brian had been back and over there numerous times, he worked there, paid tax there, and had been over as recently as October.
“I think they are after making a little bit of a mistake in the sense it is a bit overkill for whatever technical issues they have to deal with.
“If Brian thought he had left without having sorted out the paperwork, he wouldn’t have been going backwards and forwards from the country where the issue has arisen.”
A Ministry of Defence spokesperson told The Irish Post that going away without leave is a "serious offence" adding that decisions on how to proceed with such cases are taken by the independent Service Prosecuting Authority.