ECHOES OF THE HAPPENINGS AROUND OUR TOWN AND BEYOND
Diane V. Byrnes, Producer and Host
ECHOES OF ERIN on WEDO 810AM
OCTOBER 31, 2004
INTERVIEW WITH MALACHY MCALLISTER
DVB: On the line with me now is Malachy McAllister, one of the Irish Deportees now living in New Jersey. Hello Malachy, welcome once again to Echoes of Erin.
MM: You caught me shopping.
DVB: Good, I’m glad I caught you. I want to give the audience a bit of background so I am going to read a description.
On August 10, 2003, Malachy McAllister spoke with us here on Echoes of Erin about his fight to stay in America.
Malachy is originally from the Lower Ormeau Road of Belfast, Northern Ireland. As a young boy, being a Catholic, his family was subjected to second class citizenship, run down housing, no work and humiliations perpetrated by the British occupation forces. Many of his family members and neighbors were randomly arrested and placed in government internment camps. On two occasions, his young friends were shot and killed by loyalists; along with many other neighbors and friends. At age 22 he joined the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) and fought against the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), the police force who aided the loyalist paramilitaries in their attacks against Catholic civilians.
After being betrayed by a paid informant, Malachy was convicted by a non-jury ‘Diplock’ court and served four years in Long Kesh. Upon his release in 1985, Malachy put resistance behind him and began construction work to support his family. However, the RUC continued to harass and beat him, sometimes with the butts of their rifles.
In October 1988, two loyalist gunmen, who acquired his address from the RUC, smashed the windows and fired 25 rounds from AK-47’s into his home, and up at the window where three of his four children were. Shortly thereafter, Malachy moved his family to Canada and in 1996 to New Jersey.
In October 2000 a federal immigration judge ordered Malachy deported due to his past conviction in Belfast, but granted asylum to his wife Bernadette and children. Eventually that was overturned. Malachy filed an appeal against his deportation and currently has a temporary reprieve.
In the meantime, his wife Bernadette passed away on May 10, 2004 from ovarian cancer; and today, Malachy is still fighting to keep himself and two of the four children in America.
DVB: Malachy, what is the situation like for you today?
MM: Certainly in terms of legal status, it hasn’t changed. We are presently waiting on word from the courts; the Third Circuit Court in Pennsylvania to rule. It certainly has changed, I’m really at a loss and it is hard to find words to really explain what it is like for us now.
I’m on me own, I’ve got the two kids. The other two are married and go their own way. It is a major void without my wife beside me; fighting like we have done for the past 16 years it makes it a lot harder.
DVB: Malachy, I’m sure. However you have lots of support out here within the Irish American community. You have the National Ancient Order of Hibernians working for you. You have the Irish American Unity Conference working for you and plus I just read where your Congressman Steven Rothman in New Jersey has put a bill out, ‘The McAllister Family Bill’. Can you tell us about that?
MM: Basically the Congressman did this on his own. It is great to receive all this support, and he felt it was time to put forward a bill. Although historically these bills never really go anywhere. There has been quite a widespread bipartisan support for the case. It seems that no matter what we have done over the years it just doesn’t reach the people that need to make decisions. They sit behind their desks, with there rules and don’t really care or understand what it is like for the families who have to endure this daily; who don’t know where they are going to be from one day to the next.
Certainly Congressman Rothman and another Congressman, Elliot Engel from New York have stepped up in the face of what has been going on post 911, and they took a stance. Really, they feel, as Irish Americans feel, that this Patriot Act and what they are trying to push through here should not be used for people like ourselves, and that’s the situation.
DVB: How has all of this affected your ability to generate an income and do business where you live?
MM: To be perfectly honest Diane, I am simply going through the motions. At the time of my wife’s death, my mind was just in one direction. I just wanted to be with her. But, I still have the kids to care for and we have her memory; we are just going to fight on here till the end.
I hope that some credible people out there will acknowledge what is going on here. Certainly we are not the only family that’s suffering here. There is the young lad in Colorado who has been incarcerated for 15 months. He has a young child and a wife, an American citizen. Although there are just one or two families, I don’t think there is any need for what has been happening to us.
We have fought very hard over the course of 16 years, now into our 17th year, trying to bring about a life for my kids that I, unfortunately, wasn’t able to live nor my wife back home in Belfast. I think it is ridiculous even today.
Certainly the media does not get the message out or tell what really is going on in Belfast even in these present times today. It seems that everything is OK back there, but it really isn’t. Unless you are on the ground and know what is actually going on in Belfast, then it is very hard to reach out to people to get them to acknowledge that it just isn’t a place for kids who have lived outside of the place that they were born.
The reality is that both of my youngest kids were born in Belfast. Being born there is one thing, but to have lived most of their lives outside it, is another thing. The government is contemplating sending my children back into an environment that they were lucky to escape with their lives. Certainly. sending them back to an authority who, talking about sponsored terrorism; were the ones who provided the information to the loyalist’s paramilitaries that brought about the attack on our home. And they are the ones still in power today. It is a very uneasy peace back there and it still doesn’t make a good place for children to grow up in.
DVB: Obviously it sounds like you stay in touch with people in Belfast so that you know what’s happening on the ground?
MM: Of course. We get phone calls daily about families being burnt and families being attacked; it is run of the mill. And here the situation is our family has already received a threat, which is something we can’t forget about. The threat was sent to the Irish Echo several months ago. I didn’t know who sent this threat, but obviously a loyalist group. It is very concerning.
The reality is, how can we be sent back into that environment again? I am here to protect my kids. I support the Good Friday Agreement (GFA). I support the right for this government to do what they are doing in terms in protecting against terrorists in the world I would be the first one to stand up and fight back against that terrorism. But the reality is they have to look upon the North of Ireland as a unique situation. Historically it has been around for hundreds of years and this is an opportunity, not only for this government, but for any government that comes in, to try to solidify the peace in the North of Ireland; to try and bring about a realistic peace for everyone, and to change what has been going on there for the past 35 years. A significant thing about it is, that families in our situation have pushed this message about trying to finalize and bring about an end to all shootings and killings in the North; and to really see the GFA come about.
DVB: As I am sure you are very well aware, our election is on Tuesday. Maybe if there is a change in administration things will change for the deportees from many nations. If the Bush administration remains in power; I guess I wouldn’t be real hopeful myself.
What do you think would be accomplished by sending you back? Is the Bush administration trying to appease the Blair administration in some way?
MM: I think it probably looks good worldwide. If they see a number of people from European countries, that will equalize what’s been going on in terms of Islam and everything else.
What purpose does it really serve to see families such as my family, torn apart. Does it do anything? Irish America wants to see the GFA come about. The reality is that America brought about the GFA, they were part and parcel of it. It has been acknowledged through the government in the North of Ireland and the government in the South of Ireland; and it has been acknowledged by the British government.
It is this government who perceive people like myself as being a threat to the security of this country, which is ludicrous and ridiculous. Why do they waste taxpayer’s money coming after people like myself? Why do they send 20 federal agents to my house in the middle of the morning and have them rushing in to terrorize my family? This is what is happening here in America. This is what happened to my family, and yet we are still under threat today of deportation. For what reason and what just cause does it serve? What purpose does it serve anyone?
Irish America should certainly consider who they are voting for in terms and in light of what has been going on. I really want to see President Bush step up to the plate and key in on the issues of the North of Ireland; to support the GFA. It doesn’t matter to me at this point who gets in. But someone has to take a stand and really stand up and bring about peace. That is what it is all about.
DVB: Well Malachy, I guess we will see on Tuesday. What can we do as American citizens to help your cause? Can we send letters?
MM: Yes, certainly that can be done. They should make their local Congressmen aware of my circumstances. They should let them know what they want, and in terms of the GFA, to help bring about peace in Ireland. By doing that, they can directly affect my situation here and the other families that are still under this cloud. They can write to the President, to Tom Ridge of Homeland Security and Asa Hutchin. They should make these calls, and contact their Senators, their Congressmen and Congresswomen in any shape and form that they can,. Any local politician that knows anything should be able to make an effort for the people they represent.
We can’t forget that there are over forty million people of Irish descent here. They can’t totally ignore us. I think it is about time Irish America took a stand. They certainly want to see their homeland, they want to see Ireland at peace; and the only way to do it is to involve Irish Americans and get the politicians to stand up and meet that challenge.
DVB: We’ll work on that and hopefully my listeners will take your advice and write letters
MM: I want to thank all of your listeners who sent cards to help me deal with a very difficult time. I’m a long way from being over it and if we ever receive some kind of a solution here, it is still going to be very difficult for me without my better half. I want people to realize I’m not ignoring the fact that everyone has done their little bit to help our situation here and I really appreciate it. My family appreciates it as well, and that includes your show.
DVB: You are very welcome Malachy and I know none of us could ease your pain at all. But know you are in our prayers and we’ll stay in touch.
MM: Don’t forget my website for further information www.mcallsitercampaign.com
DVB: You take care and we’ll talk with you again.
MM: Slan ga Foil