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Newbriefs Did politics spark Jersey City fire?

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Ray O’Hanlon

Even as the embers of war were cooling in Northern Ireland this week, a fire in a Jersey City art gallery was raising suspicions that the sparks of hate might have traversed the Atlantic.

The Sunday morning fire caused extensive damage to the Cooper Gallery on Grove Street, where a photo exhibition, "Faces of War: Children of Belfast," was due to open later that day.

Photographer Michael Schwartz was to give a talk about his work at the opening but this had to be scrapped after the blaze caused damage to the walls of the gallery and the 23 photographs due to go on display.

Initials reports in several newspapers suggested the possibility of a political motivation behind the fire, which investigators quickly attributed to arson.

"The subject matter obviously antagonized a person or a group," Schwartz told the New York Times.

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However, by Tuesday, investigators were beginning to focus less on politics and more on straightforward burglary and arson. They pointed to the absence of any notes of phone calls indicating political hostility to the exhibit.

A recorded message at the gallery Tuesday told callers that the exhibition would now reopen on Wednesday, Sept. 16. The negatives of the fire damaged photos were kept at a separate location in a safety deposit box.

Details of the exhibition were carried in the events section of last week’s Echo. The plan was to run the display through Oct. 4. For details on any revised plans, call the gallery at (201) 451-1074.

Jury acquits Caulfield

A federal court jury has acquitted Monaghan native Charlie Caulfield on charges of failing to disclose his conviction on IRA offenses in Ireland in a green-card application.

The verdict came after three days of hearings in federal district court in Manhattan. The trial was presided over by Judge Kimba Wood.

Caulfield was charged by the U.S. Justice Department in 1995 of twice making false statements in his green-card application. He failed to reveal his IRA arms-related conviction when applying for a Morrison Visa.

Caulfield had served a 30-month term in Portlaoise prison after being sentenced by the Special Criminal Court in Dublin.

"The central question in this case was whether Charlie Caulfield gave an honest answer. The jury accepted that he did," Caulfield’s attorney, Mike Dowd, told the Echo.

Caulfield’s defense was based on the premise that he, in common with other convicted republicans in Ireland, believed his offense to be political, not criminal.

Dowd said that to his knowledge this was the first time that a jury in federal court had accepted the political nature of a conviction in Ireland over that of a criminal one.

There is no appeals process in Caulfield’s case. The jury decision is final. He does, however, still face the possibility of deportation proceedings.

Visa confusion

Visa hopefuls are getting their Schumers and Walshes mixed up, according to the Emerald Isle Immigration Center in Queens.

The Center has being receiving a number of calls from people asking about the application period for the "50,OOO" visas being targeted at disadvantaged areas in Northern Ireland and the border counties of the Republic.

However, these visas do not actually exist. Congress has yet to approve the proposal for 50,000 non-immigrant visas placed before it by Rep. James Walsh.

"Some source of confusion may come from the fact that the Schumer Visa Program, otherwise known as the Diversity Visa Lottery Program, is also allotted 50,000 visas," Emerald Isle said in a statement.

The application period for the latest round of Schumer visas is Oct. 1-31.

In an effort to end the confusion, Emerald Isle, in conjunction with Project Irish Outreach and the Irish Apostolate of Brooklyn and Queens, will be holding seminars on the diversity program from Sept. 22-28. For details, call (718) 478-5502.

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