ECHOES OF THE HAPPENINGS AROUND OUR TOWN AND BEYOND

Diane V. Byrnes, Producer and Host

ECHOES OF ERIN on WEDO 810AM

AUGUST 31, 2003

INTERVIEW with CIARAN and HEAVEN FERRY

Ciaran with daughter Fiona.

 

DVB: Ladies and Gentlemen, this is a recap of Ciaran's situation. British authorities charged Ferry with 'Possession of Weapons and Conspiracy to Murder Persons Unknown' He was convicted in a British Diplock court, designed to obtain maximum convictions for the state. There are biased judges, no juries, and the defendants are accorded little or no defense. Ciaran served 7 1/2 years of a 22 year sentence for being a passenger in a car that contained automatic weapons in the trunk. He was released from Long Kesh as a result of the Good Friday Agreement in July 2000. He had met and married an American woman, Heaven Sheehan and they lived in Andersonstown. The RUC had informed Ciaran twice that he was on the Loyalist hit list.

They came back to Denver for a family vacation over the holidays. Heaven learned she was pregnant so they decided to raise their child in America. Ciaran was on a 90 day visa waiver. Although this time framed lapsed, Ciaran did file all the necessary paperwork and Immigration authorities did approve his I-130 application and work permit. He was in the process of seeking permanent residency.

Ciaran & Heaven moved to New Jersey. In January 2003 they were requested to be in Denver for a routine hearing for his permanent residency. The Ferry's had requested the hearing be heard in New Jersey, but that was denied.

On January 30, 2003, after a short meeting with immigration officials, Ciaran & Heaven were separated for individual hearings. At that time, Heaven was informed that Ciaran was being taken into custody. Two hours later he was shackled and in handcuffs. The FBI approached Ciaran and requested he be a spy for the dissident republican groups in New York, if Ciaran accepted, he could go free. Ciaran declined. He was placed in a High Security Prison in solitary confinement. Ciaran was eventually transferred to Denver County Jail, still in 23-hour lockup. Each time Heaven & Fiona see him, behind a glass window, he is stripped searched. Homeland Security has charged Ciaran Ferry with overstaying his visa waiver. Immigration officials call Ciaran Ferry "a public safety threat' and a "flight risk".

On August 22, Ciaran had an Asylum Hearing with 6 1/2 hours of testimony on his behalf, and 1 1/2 hours of testimony by the prosecution. The judge will make his decision by November 1st. He may be deported to Northern Ireland, which means Heaven & Fiona, both American citizens, will have to leave America as well.

CF - Ciaran Ferry, HF - Heaven Ferry, DVB - Diane Byrnes, Producer and Host

DVB: Ciaran and Heaven, welcome to Echoes of Erin on WEDO in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

CF & HF: Thank you Diane.

DVB: You're welcome. Ciaran you are in a terrible situation, can you tell us a little bit about where you are right now as we are speaking?

CF: Well, I am actually sitting pretty close to the cell door, the phone is passed into me so I can converse and I am sitting in a cell, probably 12 by 6, maybe.

DVB: Ciaran, do they know you are on the radio here in Pittsburgh?

CF: I don't believe so.

DVB: Would you get in trouble if they knew that?

CF: I don't think so, I think it may be a freedom of speech issue.

DVB: Ciaran tell us what sort of conditions you are subjected to there at Denver County Jail and are you still in solitary confinement?

CF: Yes, that is correct. I haven't seen sunlight for quite a long time, since the 25th of February. I'm quite pale, I've lost a bit of weight I suppose, which I don't need to lose, not many people can say that. I have to have my visits or no contact visits with Heaven and the baby, so I have to speak to them through a plate glass window. Sometimes I am subjected to strip searching when I leave the jail, maybe to go to court or whatever. The conditions are extreme, you know.

DVB: Gee Ciaran, it sounds like you a really a bad criminal.

CF: Obviously someone doesn't like me.

DVB: When you filed your green card application in early 2002, you were in legal status, right?

CF: That is correct.

DVB: What happened between then and January 30, 2003 when you were arrested and put in shackles and chains?

CF: Well I had a work permit, I was working and earning a living providing for my family, doing what every American was doing. We didn't expect these sort of problems, obviously. We didn't expect such an extreme response. It is very shocking for both of us to be subjected to this.

DVB: Ciaran, I know the FBI had approached you, can you expand on that a bit and tell us how they approached you and what happened?

CF: It was the day after I was arrested by INS, I was in the EFI the federal correctional institute in Englewood. They came and offered me liberty if I would work for them and provide them with information on dissident groups and people like that. They insinuated I should infiltrate these groups. Obviously, I said I would never do that. I said to them, 'not only are you subjecting me to this treatment, but you are trying to put me into further danger and put my family in further danger." I thought the whole idea was disgraceful and ludicrous.

DVB: I agree with you. Heaven, has the FBI approached you to put pressure on Ciaran to do what they wanted him to do?

HF: Absolutely. They actually called me before Ciaran called me to let me know they had been in to see him. They asked me to visit him and talk to him, and they also came to my house the following week to try and talk to me some more. I didn't let them in the door. They definitely tried to put pressure on me.

CF: Diane, when they came to speak to me, that is a loose term, obviously they tried to put pressure on me, they thought I was in a corner. They thought they would put pressure on me. It is a disgraceful way to do business. After they came I put a phone call to Heaven to let her know I was OK and that this was the case. These people were trying to keep this quiet and we were trying to publicize it.

DVB: Heaven, what sort of pressures have you come under with the authorities on the publicity that Ciaran's situation has achieved?

HF: I don't think they have given me a whole lot of pressure besides the FBI. The other pressures we have had are just every day things like financial and raising a child by myself and all of the emotional stress and trauma of it all.

DVB: How are you handling it?

HF: Day by day.

DVB: You and Fiona cannot go to the jail and see Ciaran because he is subjected to the strip searches.

HF: Right, we see him behind the glass.

DVB: Ciaran, why would they strip search you with your wife and two year old daughter coming in?

CF: It seems to be their policy to strip search.

DVB: Are other prisoners stripped searched?

CF: Yes, as far as I know.

DVB: I am absolutely shocked to hear this.

CF: I don't think a lot of people in society realize this. I am in a certain position where I can almost have an outsiders view of the system. I see certain things go on, it shocks me some of the stuff.

HF: Just like lunch every day, who knows that at your local jail you eat the same thing every day for lunch. Who knows that kind of thing?

DVB: This is like something you read about in the 70's and 80's happening in Northern Ireland in Long Kesh with the Republican prisoners. August 22nd Ciaran, you had your asylum hearing, tell us a little bit about what went on?

CF: I spoke first for about four hours. Then my Father, whom we flew over from Ireland, gave testimony on what he went through and what type of a kid I was growing up. Heaven spoke last, she spoke from a Mother and a Wife's perspective. I thought we all had done very well.

I know these decisions are more politically motivated than legal. I think if the judge would take the whole case in the round, and rule on it on from a judicial point of view. I think we would win. Obviously you and I know that is not necessarily the case. We still have some hope, but the trend and the claim is against us. But that's not to say we are going to lose either.

DVB: Ciaran, what can my listeners do to help you?

CF: We are in desperate need of financial help to pay for our legal costs. Our legal costs are disgraceful for such a short period.

DVB: Being in jail 213 days I don't know that that is so short!!

HF: I was thinking the same thing.

CF: I have to think relatively here. I don't know what the outstanding bill is, but we have probably upwards of $20,000 still to pay. We have probably paid about $16,000. That is one of the major things and we also have to keep this issue alive. As you know there are other people like me, like John McNicholl who was in the middle of the night, sent out of the country.

I don't like to say this but I think I have to say it. There seems to be a concerted ANTI-IRISH effort against immigrants.

DVB: I would agree with you as well Ciaran. About three weeks ago I interviewed Malachy McAllister, although he is not in jail, his situation is tenuous as well.

CF: There is no doubt it, I think anyone who is an untenable situation needs to be afraid. You know this Extradition Treaty with Britain, has to give cause for concern as well.

DVB: I think there is a big movement affront here in America with the Irish American Unity Conference and the Ancient Order of Hibernians, they are really getting word out to people about the detriment of this Extradition Treaty. It is a terrible, terrible thing. I could be subjected to being extradited to the UK. Especially since we are talking on the phone here. I might end up in jail somewhere. That is what that treaty does.

CF: You're right, that's true. It's not just immigrants that need to be afraid, U.S. citizens need to be afraid of it, especially those of Irish extraction.

DVB: Hand in hand with the Extradition Treaty is the Patriot Act. The second addition of the Patriot Act tries to curtail activists. If that second part goes through it might be illegal for me to conduct this sort of an interview in the future.

CF: That's true, you are right Diane. I have seen British legislation before and emergency legislation, and if America goes down that road, I think it is going to be a very sad day for America.

DVB: You are absolutely right. I know many people are actively working to inform 'John Q. Public'.

CF: That is very important. Our issue at the minute is a very live and ongoing issue. If we can popularize it even more and warn people of the other legislation that may be dangerous to them. And also to ask people to make some small contribution to the defense fund if possible, and if the people would look at the website.

DVB: That website is www.freeciaranferry.com . The address is Ciaran Ferry Legal Defense Fund, P.O. Box 740071, Arvada , CO. 80006

I'll stay in touch with you by email and I do access the website, and I am in touch with the IAUC to keep abreast of your situation. And for sure I will keep my listeners in the Pittsburgh and surrounding area aware of what is happening with you. Depending what happens Ciaran, can we do this again after the decision is made?

CF: Certainly. Diane I would just like to thank everyone who has already supported, helped us and reached out to us. Without them we wouldn't be here. Thank you to all of the Irish Americans and some not Irish who have help us.

DVB: Ciaran, just know, we all wish the best for you. We know this is so unjust. Many of us are praying for you. But you certainly need more than prayers.

CF & HF: Prayers help too. We really appreciate what people are doing for us.

DVB: How is Fiona handling all of this? I realize she wouldn't really be aware except her Daddy is not there.

HF: That's sad, you think she is so young, but even now, it has been over seven months since Ciaran has been taken away, and she has trouble sleeping at night. She actually sleeps with me and sleeps on top of me so she knows I don't leave. It has had such a deeper impression than I would have guessed.

DVB: You had moved to New Jersey, but you have had to since relocate back to Denver?

HF: Right

DVB: What about work Heaven, are you able to work with all you have to do with Ciaran's case.

HF: Yes, it gets hard sometimes, it gets very busy, but I don't have a choice.

DVB: I'll put your address and website out there again. I want to thank you very much Ciaran for taking the risk and calling us in Pittsburgh. Maybe we can do another interview after the decision comes down for your asylum case.

CF: Certainly Diane

DVB: Take care and God Bless.

CF & HF: Slan!