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October 31, 2004

News 10/29/04 - Ciaran Ferry Update & Article

News about Ireland & the Irish

ID 10/29/04 Ciaran Ferry Update
CP 10/29/04 Ciaran Ferry: New Troubles


October 29, 2004

Ciaran Ferry Update

As supporters and media filled the courtroom yesterday, eagerly
awaiting a decision on Ciaran Ferry's habeas corpus petition, Judge
Nottingham determined that he would not make a public ruling that
day. Instead, he stated that he now plans to rule in a week or so.

Judge Nottingham would not permit Ciaran's legal team to present
any evidence or witnesses, and Ciaran was not able to speak on his
behalf. Ciaran's legal team had requested that they be permitted a
full evidentiary hearing, arguing that Ciaran's conviction in a
juryless Diplock court in Northern Ireland could not be recognized
under U.S. jurisprudence. Judge Nottingham indicated that he had
already drafted his opinion based on the written submissions and
had no need to hear witnesses or accept any further evidence.
Legal observers found this to be ominous and believe that Judge
Nottingham may rule that he has no jurisdiction to question the
Attorney General's decision in this case.

Ciaran's counsel wanted to know what was the government's position
on releasing Ciaran. The government representatives replied: "Mr.
Ferry holds the keys to his jail cell himself. If he wants to
return to the United Kingdom, he is free to do so where he isn't
under threat of bodily harm".

After the hearing, Ciaran's supporters stated that they were
confused and disappointed at the very brief 10 minute proceeding
which the Judge allowed on oral argument to discuss this case.
Ciaran has been waiting for a decision for over a year and a half
since the preliminary hearing on this matter.

Ciaran Ferry stated that he is in good spirits and wanted to extend
his appreciation to all of the supporters who sent letters of
support to him and his family and to those who attended the

The courtroom was overrcome with emotional when the U.S. Marshall's
permitted Ciaran to briefly hold his 3 year old daughter, Fiona for
the first time in two years and to embrace his wife, Heaven.
Ciaran has been on no-contact restrictions since his incarceration
over two years ago.

Heaven believes that her family's situation is now very precarious
"If Judge Nottingham does not challenge the government's illegal
actions in denying my husband his due process rights he will force
us to return with our 3 year old daugther to Belfast where my
husband is on a loyalist hit list".

Deanna Turner
Irish Deportees of America Committee


New Troubles

What the future holds: Awaiting final word on whether he can remain
in the U.S., Malachy McAllister also mourns his wife. Photo By:
Mike Mergen

A Philadelphia-based appeals court will define what "engaged in
terrorist activities" means.

by Mike Newall

On a cold Saturday afternoon in October, Malachy McAllister stands
outside the James A. Byrne U.S. Courthouse at Sixth and Market

It is the first time the 47-year-old Wallington, N.J., resident is
laying eyes on the building where his family's future will soon be
decided by the Third Circuit Superior Court of Appeals.

"This is where it will end," he says, appraising the plain, brick

For nearly nine years, McAllister, a thick-shouldered man, with
salt-and-pepper stubble and piercing blue eyes, has been fighting
to secure a life in America for he and his family. More than two
decades ago, McAllister took action against a British government he
deemed "oppressors." For that, the United States Justice Department
wants to deport the McAllisters back to Northern Ireland, a
homeland they fled 16 years ago, fearing for their lives.

In the eyes of the United States government, McAllister, a mason
and father of four, is a terrorist, a "threat to the security" of
the country.

Last month, the Third Circuit Court began reviewing the case of
McAllister v. Ashcroft. A decision will be handed down sometime
early next year. It will be a final determination of the
McAllisters' fate. The decision will also offer legal precedent
into what exactly it means to be a "terrorist."

"Whose purpose does it serve to see my family torn apart?" he asks,
buttoning up his suit jacket as the wind picks up. "What threat do
I pose to anyone?"

McAllister was raised Catholic in the Lower Ormeau Road section of
Belfast in the strife-torn Northern Ireland of the 1970s. He came
of age at the height of "the troubles"—the sectarian violence
between the Catholic minority opposed to British rule and the
Protestant majority loyal to the crown.

As Catholics, the McAllisters were second-class citizens. They had
few civil rights and endured daily humiliations at the hands of the
British occupationary forces.

As a child, Malachy witnessed his father being beaten at a civil
rights protest. Other times, he watched as family members and
neighbors were hauled off to government prison camps—often without

McAllister's neighborhood was known as the "Murder Mile" because of
how frequently the loyalist paramilitary squads visited.

He was 16 the first time he watched a friend die in the street. It
was Jim Templeton, his best friend, shot dead in a loyalist drive-
by outside The Rose and Crown, Ormeau Road's local Catholic pub.
McAllister was standing just a few feet away.

"Catholics were being murdered left, right and center,'" he says.
"We were in a full-scale civil war."

On one occasion, a gun was put to McAllister's head as he was
ordered off a work site in a Protestant neighborhood.

McAllister was 22 when he cast his lot with the Irish National
Liberation Army and helped plot two strikes against the Royal
Ulster Constabulary (RUC), Belfast's predominantly Protestant
police force, which often aided the loyalist paramilitaries in
their attacks against Catholic civilians. On a hot summer day in
1981, McAllister took part in an ambush on a RUC convoy traveling
down Ormeau Road. He served as a lookout for a shooter. One RUC
officer was wounded with a gunshot to the leg.

"I regret what I did," says McAllister. "But it was a time when you
were called upon to stand up and fight back."

A paid informant soon betrayed McAllister. Under interrogation,
British authorities told McAllister that his wife, Bernadette—a
strong-willed, blonde beauty he met along Ormeau Road—and their
growing family would be in danger if he didn't sign a confession.
Malachy spent nearly four years in the H-Blocks, the political wing
of Northern Ireland's notorious Long Kesh prison.

After his 1985 release, Malachy tried to put the resistance behind
him and took construction work to support his family. But the RUC
was not willing to forgive McAllister's past. In one particularly
brutal incident, members of the RUC forced Bernadette to watch as
they savagely beat her husband with the butts of their rifles.

On the night of Oct. 2, 1988, two loyalist gunmen disguised in
Halloween masks showed up at the McAllisters' home. An RUC contact
had provided them with the address. Malachy and Bernadette weren't
home that night, but three of their four children were inside with
their grandmother. The gunmen calmly pointed their AK-47s at the
front room and fired off 26 rounds. One of the gunmen spotted the
children through a bedroom window and turned his weapon on them.
Amazingly, the McAllister family escaped unhurt.

Three months later, the McAllisters fled Belfast—moving first to
Toronto, and then, in 1996, to New Jersey.

The family entered the country legally, immediately applied for
political asylum and went about creating a life in America. Malachy
began a masonry business, enrolled the kids in school and joined
the local parish. Gary and Jaime, the two oldest McAllister
children, married Jersey girls. Nicola, the third oldest, is now
applying to colleges. Sean, the youngest, is a standout receiver on
the high school football team.

In October 2000, after a lengthy trial, a federal immigration judge
ordered Malachy deported due to his past conviction in Belfast but
granted asylum to Bernadette and the children. The judge ruled that
the McAllister family had suffered "extreme persecution" and
endured a "constant campaign of harassment."

McAllister filed an appeal against his deportation, and the
government appealed the asylum granted to his family.

A bad omen came in July 2003, when John McNicholl, another former
member of the Irish National Liberation Army who had lived
peacefully with his family in Upper Darby for almost 20 years, was
seized and deported. At 5:30 a.m. July 17, McNicholl stepped out
his front door to head off to work when federal immigration agents
swarmed. He was put in handcuffs and thrown into the back of a van.
His son cried out in protest, but nothing could be done. Within
hours, McNicholl was hustled aboard a plane back to Ireland, in all
likelihood never to see Upper Darby again.

Last November, amongst friends and family, Malachy and Bernadette
celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary at a local pub in
Wallington. There was music and dancing, and the party stretched
into the wee hours. "We were so happy to have endured as a couple,
as a family, after all we've been through," remembers Malachy.

Days later, Malachy received a call he had been dreading. The Board
of Immigration Appeals (BIA), under the jurisdiction of the Justice
Department, had completely reversed the initial ruling.

Bernadette and the kids had 30 days to leave the country. Malachy
was considered a fugitive.

Twenty federal agents clad in jumpsuits descended on the McAllister
home on the morning of Nov. 21, 2001. Malachy wasn't there. Agents
camped outside for a week and, according to Malachy, repeatedly
taunted his wife and threatened the family with arrest.

The McAllisters' congressman, Democrat Steve Rothman, quickly fired
off a letter—co-signed by ten other members of Congress—to Homeland
Security Director Tom Ridge on the family's behalf.

"This whole case is a great injustice," wrote Rothman. "The
McAllisters fled violent, political persecution and found refuge
here in America. They should not be forced to return to Northern
Ireland, under any circumstances, where they might well face
further attempts on their lives."

When denying McAllister's plea for asylum, the BIA ruled that
conditions have improved in Northern Ireland enough that the
McAllisters would not be in danger if they were forced to return.
McAllister expressed disbelief. His enemies are waiting, he says,
and that his case has garnered a lot of publicity back home only
makes him more of a target.

"Belfast may have changed some," he says. "But the same people who
attacked my home in 1988 are still in power today."

McAllister also received broad support from Irish-Americans still
simmering from the McNicholl case. (On Monday, McNicholl's
attorneys plans to file a petition with U.S. Supreme Court
requesting judicial review.)

"Irish-Americans who have for so long been law-abiding citizens
have now become outlaws," says Ned McGinley, president of the
Ancient Order of Hibernians and former president of the
Pennsylvania chapter. "It is a misuse of Homeland Security
personnel and finance. It may help them bump up their statistics,
but it is not fighting terrorism."

Indeed, there has been, in the wake of 9/11, a widespread crackdown
on Irish immigrants with nationalist pasts, who for years have
enjoyed lax immigration standards, especially under the Clinton
administration, which was heavily involved in brokering the 1998
Good Friday Peace Accord in Northern Ireland.

"They have lumped us up with other groups," says McGinley.

When reached for comment on the McAllister case, Kerry Gill, a
spokesperson for the Newark office of Immigrations and Customs
Enforcement of the Department of the Homeland Security, declined to
answer any questions.

With Rothman's support, the McAllister family was granted a
temporary reprieve by the Homeland Security Department. This
January, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to review his
case, finding that it raised several constitutional issues.

The BIA found that McAllister had "engaged in terrorist
activities." McAllister's lawyer, Eamonn Dornan, is asking the
Third Circuit Court to clarify the exact definition of that phrase,
a legal exacting that could offer wide-ranging precedent in these
post-9/11 times.

"Our argument is that there is no clear, precise definition of what
"engaging in terrorist activities' actually means," explains
Dornan. "Because it is so overly broad, it becomes

Dornan argues that McAllister's actions should not be viewed as
terrorism since they took place during a political uprising, in
which the United States was neutral, and targeted combatants rather
than civilians. Even if the court finds McAllister did indeed
engage in terrorist activities, argues Dornan, that does not
automatically mean there exists, as the BIA ruled, "reasonable
grounds for regarding that person as a danger to the security of
the United States."

There is legal precedent supporting Dornan's argument that a one-
size-fits-all approach cannot be applied to terrorism.

"One country's terrorist," reads a 2003 federal appeals court
ruling, "can be another country's freedom fighter."

For his part, McAllister bristles at the label "terrorist."

"What have I done over the last 16 years," he asks, "besides raise
my kids, pay my taxes, be a good citizen and prove that I am no
threat to the United States?"

In April of this year, Bernadette McAllister was diagnosed with
ovarian cancer. She died six weeks later, on her 46th birthday.
Malachy was holding her hand.

More than 400 mourners showed up for her funeral Mass. A number of
politicians attended. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, of New York,
sent a Mass Card. Malachy read a eulogy.

"You are free at last," he said. "I love you and I will always miss

Because of the uncertainity of the McAllisters' future,
Bernadette's remains were cremated after the Mass. Where her ashes
will rest permanently depends on the court decision.

"Every day without my wife is a struggle," he says now, outside the
courthouse, choking up. "She had to endure so much over the years,
just to try and raise her family in peace."

He pulls a memorial card from his suit jacket. It contains a
smiling photo of Bernadette, looking beautiful in a white gown.

"I'm still in shock," he says.

Sometimes, he says, he feels like giving up. He'd return to Ireland
in a moment if he could have her back, but he will fight on for his

"For Bernie and I, our struggle has always been to remain in
America so our kids could have a better life than we had. She'd
want me to keep fighting. And I will," he says, taking one last
glance at the courthouse. "I don't know what the future holds. But
there's still some hope."

--- News

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