Category: Archive

Family fights father’s extradition to Ireland

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

But even together, the Rockland County couple must daily face the reality that their future, and that of their five-year-old daughter Mairead, could be decided by entities that take little account of love and fidelity.
Byrne, a native of County Louth, is facing an extradition warrant filed with the U.S. State Department by the office of Ireland’s Director of Public Prosecutions.
He is wanted back in Ireland for alleged involvement in two robberies more than a decade ago.
Byrne has been fighting the extradition warrant in court but last fall lost a decision in a White Plains courtroom.
His extradition to Ireland was set to take place on or before January, 29 but in recent days the Byrnes were granted a reprieve, thought just a temporary one.
The Department of State agreed to extend put off extradition until at least February 29, this because he would have been allowed sixty days to appeal after November 29, the date the unfavorable court ruling was handed down.
Byrne was not, however, informed of that ruling until some weeks later.
The extension buys time for the family but brings with it no guarantee of relief from the warrant.
In the meantime, Eileen Byrne is organizing a petition by mail and is attempting to bring her husband’s case to the attention of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Byrne’s troubles with the Irish legal authorities are rooted in a house burglary and the robbery of a pub in Dundalk, County Louth during which the daughter of the owner was tied up.
Joe Byrne was working in the pub at the time as a part time barman. He was also employed by a local contractor, a man the Byrne family believes had ties to the Irish National Liberation Army.
Byrne was questioned by Gardai after the robberies and made statements he now says were coerced. Either way, he was released without charge. There the matter rested – for ten years.
Eileen attests that her husband was intimidated by the man with alleged INLA connections but is absolutely not guilty of wrongdoing in either incident.
“There was coercion but at the same time there are no witnesses and there is evidence against my husband,” she said this week from the family’s Pearl River home.
A few years after the robberies, Byrne moved to the U.S. He and Eileen were married and Byrne applied for a green card.
On the advice of an attorney, Byrne admitted to U.S. immigration authorities that he had been questioned by Irish police in connection with the burglary and pub robbery.
The immigration authorities did not see this as an impediment and Byrne was granted legal U.S. residence.
Byrne began his own contracting business and both he and his wife quickly settled into a life rearing their young daughter. Byrne was able to renew his Irish passport without difficulty.
Then the extradition warrant landed in the family’s life like a bolt from the blue.
“Joe would have gone back voluntarily if he had been asked to,” said Eileen.
One of those asking could well have been his father. Joe Byrne’s dad, as it happens, is a retired Garda Sergeant.
“They could have asked Joe’s father to get his son back but they came after him with the extradition warrant. They never pursued him for ten years so why now and why this way?” Eileen stated.
She said that the family and their growing number of supporters were of the view that the warrant was served on the basis of incorrect information supplied to the DPP’s office.
Joe Byrne is now eligible for U.S. citizenship, but the path to a full American life lately appears a winding one to say the least.
“Joe’s the breadwinner. I’m on disability since being hit by a truck a couple of years ago,” said Eileen.
The extradition warrant, a legal 18-wheeler, is hitting her afresh every day.
But Eileen is nothing if not determined. She has enlisted the support of family, friends, neighbors, the Ancient Order of Hibernians and Congressman Eliot Engel, a co-chair of the congressional Ad Hoc Committee for Irish affairs and a man who is no stranger to extradition and deportation cases involving Irish citizens.
“We want an opportunity to take our case to the State Department in Washington, D.C. We want Secretary Rice to be made aware of Joe’s case. We’re real people with real lives, not just names on paper,” said Eileen.
“My husband is a good man. He works hard and pays his taxes. He has his rights under the United States Constitution. He is not a fugitive. His daughter needs her father, here,” she said.

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