“We’ve extended an invitation to her, we’ve booked her plane tickets and made a hotel reservation,” said Local 100 representative Peter Foley.
But McAliskey said that while the invitation was “a fine and noble gesture,” she is not confident of being allowed back into the U.S. in time for March 14.
“In principle I am quite happy to accept,” she said, speaking from her home in Coalisland, Co. Tyrone. “But I am still waiting for a reply to the formal complaint I lodged with the American Embassy [in Dublin.] It’s early days yet.”
Said Foley: “We will be honoring Rep. Peter King on the evening, so we’re looking to him to help us put pressure on the State Department to let her back into the country. We’re hoping maybe King will lean on them.”
Foley also said that his organization had contacted New York Sens. Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton for assistance and also hoped to speak “with Bill Clinton’s office.”
“We hope she’s allowed in,” Foley said. “We’ll have her even if it takes longer than March 14 to be readmitted. She’s been coming here for years.”
McAliskey explained that her situation with regard to entering the U.S. was unclear. She signed a visa waiver form, which removed her right to any appeal if refused entry from the U.S. by the INS.
“But I did not sign away my human rights,” she said. “I did not sign away my rights to speak. I did not consent to being insulted and abused.”
McAliskey and her daughter said that at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport on Friday, Feb. 21, INS officials had threatened to handcuff, jail and even shoot her.
“Having a denial of entry to the U.S. stamp on one’s passport has serious implications for travel elsewhere in the world,” she said, and added that she would be unlikely to get further leave from work for a March 14 event in New York.
Foley is still confident that McAliskey will make to the Local 100 Hall on West End Avenue.
“The first year of our dinner we had Martin McGuinness,” he said. “Here’s a guy who actually said he was in the IRA, and he’s allowed in. Sinn Fein is all over the country and yet Bernadette, with no ties to any group, isn’t admitted? It’s ridiculous.”