By Ray O’Hanlon
The McAllister family from Belfast is due in a New Jersey courtroom next week in the latest phase of their battle for political asylum in the U.S.
The hearing is designed to determine a number of issues in the case, among them whether offenses committed by Malachy McAllister in Northern Ireland were political.
"This is an important step for the McAllisters. After the hearing we’ll have a better sense of how the INS intends on handling the case," said the family’s attorney, Diane George.
The McAllisters, Malachy and Bernadette, and their four children, Gary, Jaime, Nicola and Sean, are originally from the Lower Ormeau Road area of Belfast, the scene of recent clashes between residents and the RUC.
The family fled the North after what it says was a murder attempt aimed at them by loyalists.
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The hearing is set for Tuesday, Aug. 31, at 8:30 a.m. at the Newark Federal Building, 970 Broad St.
"The last time we were in court we had more than 20 people jamming the courtroom. The judge definitely noticed and even remarked on their numbers," said Bernadette McAllister.
In addition to courtroom support, the McAllister case has attracted the attention of several leading politicians. Reps. Robert Menendez and Peter King have written Doris Meissner, commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, urging that political asylum be granted.
Senator Robert Torricelli has also brought the case to the attention of Attorney General Janet Reno. "I would like to encourage your personal attention to their situation," Torricelli wrote Reno.
Hayden to Mitchell: Remember jobs
California State Senator Tom Hayden has written to U.S. peace negotiator George Mitchell urging that the U.S. government give increased attention to what Hayden terms "the growing inequality and unemployment gap in Northern Ireland."
In his letter to Mitchell, Hayden calls the gap "a non-military threat to the fulfillment of the Good Friday agreement" which is being ignored because of a preoccupation with decommissioning.
Hayden contends that U.S. firms in Northern Ireland are employing fewer Catholics than before the paramilitary cease-fires. He believes that unemployment inequality is growing overall despite the Good Friday agreement.
Various studies in recent years have shown that Catholics in Northern Ireland are more than twice as likely to be unemployed long-term than Protestants.
Investigate Adams assault
New York-based Human Rights Watch has written to the director of public prosecutions in Northern Ireland asking him to explain publicly the recent decision not to prosecute RUC police officers who stand accused of assaulting David Adams, a cousin of Sinn Féin
President Gerry Adams, in February 1994.
The letter, to Northern Ireland DPP Alisdair Fraser, refers to a 1998 judgment in a successful civil case taken by Adams against the officers that points to evidence supporting Adams’s claim that he was assaulted.
The court in the civil case had concluded that the RUC officers had been "untruthful" in their testimony, Human Rights Watch said in a statement.
"Despite the court’s finding that RUC officers inflicted severe injuries on David Adams, and lied about it under oath, these officers will now enjoy impunity for that amounts to torture," said Julia Hall of HRW.
The letter to Fraser urges him to make public the criminal investigation report submitted by the assistant chief constable of Strathclyde, James Orr, and the opinion of a senior barrister solicited by the DPP that reportedly supports the decision not to prosecute.