Category Archives: political prisoners

IAUC statement regarding the deportation proceedings against Malachy, Sean and Nicola McAllister

October 1, 2007—The IAUC has dedicated itself to the idea that peace can only occur in an atmosphere that promotes frank and open dialogue amongst all parties to the conflict in the North of Ireland.  This includes the United States of America, which acting as an “honest broker,” facilitated a political atmosphere that allowed for the birth of the current peace process.  The end product of a lasting peace based on enduring democratic principles is now at hand.  Recognizing this, the IAUC has welded itself to the role of identifying and speaking out against anyone and anything which has the potential to thwart the development of the peace and democracy in which so many people and groups have invested so much commitment and energy.

In this spirit, the IAUC must state forthrightly that the United States Government, by actively pursuing the deportation of former Irish Republican activists, is markedly out of step with all other parties involved in this political endeavor.  The US policy is anachronistic and undermines the concept of a “peace dividend.”  By extension this policy will undermine the peace itself.

We urge our government, through our elected representatives and appointed officials, to stand for peace in Ireland.  With all the conviction we can muster, we request that the McAllister family be granted permanent resident status.  To deny this family legal status would be an affront to our country’s longstanding principles of justice and asylum.

Stop the deportation of the McAllister family.

John Fogarty
President
Irish American Unity Conference

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Filed under deportation, human rights, ireland, Irish peace process, loyalist paramilitaries, new jersey, political prisoners

Stop the deportation of the McAllister family

Malachy with Police Ombudsman Nuala O’LoanMatt Morrison, a former Irish republican political prisoner and current Political Action Chair of the Irish American Unity Conference, issued this statement in response to the announcement that Malachy McAllister and his sons may be deported in 2 weeks time:

A Chairde, As a former Irish Republican POW and deportee, I abhor the planned deportation of Malachy Mc Alliister and his family members by the United States Government. It was not many years ago that I and my family along with a number of my comrades and their families, were in a similar predicament.

For many years, the “peace dividend” was held out as an incentive to engage in the process which ultimately resulted in the current peace in Ireland. The United States Government, in pursuing Malachy Mc Allister’s deportation, is undermining the concept of the peace dividend, and is sending out a message that is driven by a desire for retribution that is dangerously irrational and anachronistic. The United States Government has placed itself at odds with the people of Ireland who are working hard to achieve a lasting peace based on the twin foundations of democracy and equality. The United States Government is undermining the new powersharing assembly and is thwarting the efforts of the Irish and British Governments and the numerous political parties who have engaged in peace building efforts.

You cannot say that you are for peace in Ireland and yet remain silent or inactive in the face of the imminent McAllister deportation.

Here is some background on the McAllister case for those of you who are not familiar:

The McAllisters are a Catholic family from Northern Ireland who have been seeking political asylum in the United States since 1996. On October 2, 1988, two masked loyalist gunmen smashed the front window of the McAllister home and fired 26 shots into the house narrowly missing three of the McAllister children and their grandmother, who was minding them. Malachy and his wife, Bernadette (who has since died of cancer in 2004), were not home at the time. They were later notified by the Royal Ulster Constabulary that Malachy’s security information was found in a loyalist ‘safe house’ along with the guns used in the shooting. This information confirmed that the McAllisters were being deliberately targeted and that the loyalist attack had been planned in collusion with the security forces. Other members of the McAllister’s family had also been targeted. Theresa Clinton, a relative, was murdered when loyalists fired shots into her living room. Bernadette’s family members had been warned by the RUC to take security precautions because, like Malachy, their personal details were in the hands of paramilitary organizations. The threats have followed the McAllisters even here to the United States. In 2005, a loyalist terror group called the Red Hand Defenders emailed a threat against the McAllisters to the Irish Echo newspaper stating that, “We won’t miss next time.”

It is not clear why the government has chosen to proceed in the McAllister case, while suspending action on many of the other Irish ‘deportee’ cases. The McAllisters have had the constant support of a number of our congressmen and senators, whose intervention resulted in a ‘suspension of order of removal’. Unfortunately, that stay expires in early September. Congressman Steven Rothman introduced a private bill in the House and now the McAllisters only hope may be if Senator Menendez will introduce legislation in the Senate to delay or suspend the McAllister’s deportation.

Act now to prevent this injustice by contacting Menendez and urging him to introduce legislation to protect the McAllister family and prevent their deportation. Cut and paste the letter below and send and/or fax it (202.228.2197) to Senator Menendez’s office today. You can also call his office directly at 202.224.4744.

Dear Senator Menendez,
As a member of (insert name of org. if applicable) I am well aware of the invaluable support you have given to many important Irish issues and express my gratitude for your constancy and courage. I am particularly grateful for the leadership role you assumed in defending Malachy McAllister and his family when they were first threatened with deportation some years ago. Sadly, that threat still looms over the McAllister family.
Malachy and his two youngest children are facing deportation when the suspension of their order of removal expires in early September. They have been advised by Congressman Steven Rothman that a private bill in the Senate, similar to one attempted by Mr. Rothman in the House, would be their only hope to remain in New Jersey with the older McAllister children and their families. This legislation is crucial to secure the safety of Malachy and his children.

The blatant threats of violence that have been made against the McAllister family still stand. Despite the many welcome improvements brought about by the Peace Process, the reality is that loyalist paramilitaries have refused to decommission and are still armed and threatening. Many believe that if forced to return to Northern Ireland the McAllisters will once again be the targets of violence.

I respectfully request that you give this matter your immediate attention and introduce legislation in the Senate as soon as possible. Again, I thank you for the courage and leadership you have shown over the years in addressing many vital Irish issues.

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Filed under belfast, deportation, ireland, loyalist, loyalist paramilitaries, new jersey, political prisoners

Does this happen to you too?

I’m only recently back from a 3 week trip to Belfast, and as is often the case when one returns from a vacation (of sorts), I’ve been asked by friends, family, acquaintances, and workmates what I did while I was away.  So I discuss–or attempt to discuss, as the case may be–exactly what I did.  And about 9.999 times out of 10, the person I am talking to stares off into the distance, their eyes glaze over, and they blink repeatedly.  And say nothing.  No questions, no polite, “oh wow that’s really interesting”–usually no reaction at all.  It’s usually something circumstantial that breaks us out of that temporary standstill, like if I’m at work one of us has to leave suddenly to do something, or if I’m at a restaurant the server comes over and fills up the water and then suddenly there’s the exit we’ve both been waiting for.  “Is it supposed to rain today?”

I know it’s not me.  I’m certainly not a confrontational person, nor am I inclined to boast about much of anything.  This sort of thing has happened before though.  When I first got to graduate school, I can’t tell you how many parties, events, or classroom settings in which I found myself discussing what I had been doing before I came to school.  I’m in an environmental program, so most if not all of my fellow students had worked in the field or a related one prior to coming to UM.  I did what I’ve pretty much always done; I had a job that would pay my bills and then I used my “free time” to do important political work.

Before grad school I was a volunteer caseworker at Centurion Ministries in Princeton, New Jersey. CM is an independent investigative agency that works to get innocent men and women wrongfully convicted of rape and murder out of prison.  It remains the most meaningful, powerful, and inspiring work I’ve ever done.  The most incredible stories of the most amazing, strong, determined, thankful people you’ll ever meet.   I could go on…

So this was the story I would tell when it was my turn to share where I had been before Michigan.  The response?  The same far-off stares, the same glazed over eyes and the same flutter of the eyelids.  (Are there wheels turning in there…or does the brain work overtime so that you do not process my words?!)  I remember only one person in my program who ever engaged me in a conversation about this.

And so I came to the conclusion that the idea of people being wrongfully convicted of heinous crimes and left to rot in prison was something that was just so far out of the frame of (white, middle class) reference of these people that they literally had no idea how to respond.  Or that their minds were working so hard to NOT process what I had said (please don’t mess with my rosy pink worldview), to not have to think about how folks live outside the bubble that their gears just momentarily stopped shifting (hence the glazed over, fluttering eyes) until the subject changed and they were safe.

Come on, people–do you really need to know someone personally who is in jail to acknowledge that this is a serious issue?  Perhaps even a bit more pressing than paper vs. plastic?  So much for your understanding of NIMBY-ism (that’s Not In My Back Yard–and guess what people, it applies to more than dumping).  But I digress.

So when I get back from a place like Belfast and you ask me what I did and I begin to tell you and I see your eyes begin to glaze over, I’ll probably assume you just want to hear about all the Guinness I drank, or about how fucked up I got, or if I went to any shows or sweet parties.  Since I don’t expect you to be fully informed (or even well-informed–or informed!) about the conflict or the peace process (and your eyes tell me you’re not interested in politics), I’ll probably just tell you about the time I went to Dundalk for the night with a bunch of really great ladies to go to the dog races (of all things!), how we started drinking on the bus on the way down, went to the disco (my boobs popped out of my dress, several times, and Linda ended up on the floor trying to recreate a scene during that song from Dirty Dancing).

But boy will you be missing out, because I won’t tell you about the experiences I had that really touched me.  I won’t tell you about the afternoon in the park, eating ice cream cones with my friend, who is struggling for justice for his murdered son, a victim of collusion; about how he reminisced about his childhood, talked about his kids and grandchildren, how we literally stopped to smell the roses.  About how his story is unfortunately one of many.  This is a place where people are carrying so much pain, but at the same time it’s also a place that bubbles over with humor, hospitality, and humanity.   It’s too near, too close to me, and  I’m tired of sharing with people who choose to numb their minds to reality (and it is a choice).  So I won’t tell you about the community organizations that I worked with, and will continue to work with.  I won’t tell you about the amazing, inspiring people I met, how the potential I see fills me with hope.  You won’t even come close to understanding why I might be so drawn to this community, with its painful past so close to the surface as it struggles to make the small portion of the earth that it occupies a better, safer, inclusive and sustainable place.

A word of advice: don’t ask if you really don’t want to know.  Or at least be polite and say something if I tell you and you decide you don’t really want to know.  But from where I stand, you’re missing out.

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Filed under belfast, Centurion Ministries, collusion, environmental justice, ireland, Irish peace process, political prisoners, relatives for justice, UVF, war

Free Alan Johnston petition

johnston_203.jpgThe BBC is currently reporting that missing reporter Alan Johnston may in fact still be alive. Apparently PA President Mahmoud Abbas has made a statement to this effect in Sweden today, stating that his intelligence services have confirmed this. Though he is aware of the group responsible for kidnapping Johnston, Abbas has not given any more details and there is not yet any definitive proof Johnston is still living.

Here are a couple of links to petitions you can sign to show your support for Johnston and to demand that he be released. To be honest, I’ve never had much faith in the power of the petition, but I’ve received so many lately that I figure it can’t hurt to spread the word. Sign the BBC’s online petition here. This is another petition that I heard about from the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

April 17th was Palestinian Prisoners Day. To mark the occasion, the Gaza-based organization Mothers and Families of Palestinians and Arabs in Israeli Jails issued the following statement in response to the claim by Alan’s alleged kidnappers that he was taken to help Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails:

On Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, the Mothers of Prisoners Call for Their Release and Condemn Kidnappings in the Name of Stopping Their Continuous Suffering.

On the occasion of Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, 17 April 2007, we, the mothers and families of Palestinian and Arab prisoners detained in Israeli jails, continue to miss our loved ones and hope that they will be immediately released.

It is we who each day miss our loved ones, who have been cut off from their sons, daughters and relatives by Israeli Occupation Forces. It is we who witness their detention in jails that lack the minimum international acceptable detention standards.

As we reject the illegal detention and inhuman treatment of prisoners, we reject the claim by any group that they may commit criminal and un-national acts in the name of the Palestinian and Arab prisoners. The kidnapping of anybody, including BBC journalist Alan Johnston, is against the rights of the prisoners, it is against the love and the suffering of their mothers, it is against the whole of the Palestinian people.

As we call upon relevant local, regional and international parties to ensure the immediate release of our prisoners, we call on those who have kidnapped Alan to immediately release him. We call on them not to stoop to the level of the occupation by conducting these pernicious acts. We call on them not to violate the goodwill of the people of the world towards the well-known suffering of the Palestinian people, who have been under occupation for nearly 40 years.

Based on our heritage, morals and principles and the Palestinian proverb that says: “No one feels the pain, except those who are injured,” we, the mothers and families of prisoners understand the pain afflicted to the family of Alan Johnston, and as we call for the immediate release of our prisoners, we hope the same for our peoples’ friend Alan Johnston.

As the suffering of prisoners in Israeli jails continues, and conflicting statements appears in the media concerning an exchange of prisoners, we call on the Palestinian side to prioritize this issue and learn from the mistakes of the past in negotiations on the issue of prisoners.

We also call upon the international community to pressure the Israeli government to comply with the human justice requirements and international humanitarian law, and release our prisoners.

We further stress to the Israeli government that the continued detention and inhuman treatment of more than 10,000 prisoners does not serve the peace process. Rather it deepens doubts concerning the possibility of achieving peace. These doubts will continue as long as prisoners are still detained in Israeli jails and they and their families continue to suffer.

Peace should bring liberation of people and land rather than enhance occupation and increase the suffering of people.

Freedom for the prisoners of liberation.

Signed,
The Mothers and Families of Palestinian and Arab Prisoners in Israeli Jails

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Filed under middle east, palestine, political prisoners, war

Support Basque Youth Movement SEGI

segi-log_gif.jpgThe Irish republican youth organization Ógra Shinn Féin has drafted an online petition calling on the Spanish government to end its designation of Basque youth movement SEGI as a “terrorist” organization:

To: Spanish Government

We demand that you reverse your decision to declare SEGI to be a “terrorist” organisation and further demand that you reverse your decision to declare SEGI to be an illegal organisation.

SEGI is a political youth movement, which is representative of a large number of young people in the Basque country. You have decided to brand a completely legitimate political group as terrorists in an attempt to subvert the ever present Basque national liberation struggle. We condemn this purely political act and demand that you reverse this decision.

Further more we demand the immediate release of the entire National Executive of SEGI, who were arrested while exercising their right to protest. They are currently serving a 6 year sentence in prison.

Sign the petition here.

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Filed under Ógra Shinn Féin, Basque country, Irish peace process, political prisoners, youth

Hunger strikers force-fed at Guantanamo

The BBC is reporting that 13 hunger strikers at the US-run concentration camp at Guantanamo are now being force-fed. (Many of you might miss the headline, as the father of Anna Nicole Smith’s child apparently gets top bidding.) In any case, it is no surprise that the official statement on behalf of the US Navy is that the force-feeding is “required to ensure the good health and nutrition of the detainees.”

Gerry Kelly, an Irish republican ex-prisoner and Sinn Féin MLA for North Belfast (soon to take a junior post in the new Office of First and Deputy First Minister in May), was force-fed 170 times over a 205-day hunger strike in an English jail in an effort to be transferred to a prison in the north of Ireland. He described the horrors of being force-fed to the North Belfast News in 2004:

They press their knuckles into your jaws and press in hard. The way they finally did force feed me was getting forceps and running them up and down my gums. I opened my mouth, but I was able to resist after that. Then they tried ­ there’s a part of your nose, like a membrane and it’s very tender ­ and they started on that. It’s hard to describe the pain. It’s like someone pushing a knitting needle into the side of your eye. As soon as I opened my mouth they put in this wooden bit with a hole in the middle for the tube. They rammed it between my teeth and then tied it with cord around my head. Then they got paraffin and forced it down the tube. The danger is that every time it happens you think you’re going to die. The only things that move are your eyes. They get a funnel and put the stuff down.

Still, the US government maintains that force-feeding is a very safe, common medical procedure.

Last year around this time, I wrote an article to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Irish hunger strikes in which I highlighted the horrors of Guantanamo. From that article:

Morrison and many others believe that the lack of popular British support enabled Thatcher’s intransigence and allowed ten men to die as a result of the Irish hunger strikes in 1981. There is an eerie similarity to the United States government’s arrogance regarding Guantánamo, as the Bush administration continues to deny the internees their basic human rights under federal and international law and maintains its position that the “enemy combatants” currently being held are a threat to national security despite rapidly surmounting evidence to the contrary.

This classification as a non-person, in both the legal and social realms, allows the government to manipulate people’s fear of terrorism into a calculated dismissal of the conditions of the prisoners at Guantánamo.

Has anything changed?

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Filed under force-feeding, Guantanamo, hunger strikes, political prisoners, Sinn Féin, Uncategorized, war