Category: Archive

McAllister hearing resumes in N.J.

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Ray O’Hanlon

Following a two month hiatus, the hearing into the asylum bid by the McAllister family from Belfast resumed in a New Jersey federal court this week.

The resumed trial is expected to last into next week, concluding on Wednesday, Aug. 23.

The McAllisters, Malachy, Bernadette and their four children, are claiming political asylum on the grounds that their lives will be endangered if they are forced to return to Northern Ireland.

Loyalist gunmen fired shots into the family home in the Lower Ormeau Road area of Belfast in October, 1988.

The second half of the trial mainly features a list of witnesses who will testify on the family’s behalf.

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The first witness to appear Tuesday was Paul O’Connor of the Pat Finucane Center in Northern Ireland. O’Connor gave evidence that focused in particular on the RUC.

Other witnesses expected to testify include Bernadette Devlin McAliskey and Padrigín Drinan, the attorney who now represents the clients of murdered lawyer Rosemary Nelson.

In an early ruling, federal immigration judge Henry Dogin decided that character witnesses for the McAllisters would have to confine their submissions to written statements, as opposed to appearing in court.

In a decision earlier this year, Judge Dogin ruled that Malachy McAllister, a onetime member of the Irish National Liberation Army, was actually a British national.

Back in June, Judge Dogin gave McAllister cause for increased hope when he stated that he would not deliver a decision in the case until October.

That decision means that McAllister, who served prison time in Northern Ireland, will be technically eligible for political asylum when the judge delivers his final verdict.

Under U.S. law, an asylum applicant is denied a chance of pleading for asylum within 15 years of being released from prison in another country. McAllister will be 15 years out of prison on Sept. 30.

Bernadette McAllister and the children have never been denied the right to plead for asylum. Judge Dogin’s June decision means that all the family will be technically eligible for asylum on Oct. 1 of this year.

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