Former IRA Prisoners in the US Call for Final Resolution of Legal Status; Irish American Groups United in Support
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
May 23, 2008— As the peace process in the north of Ireland continues to unfold, a group of former IRA prisoners now living in the United States is launching a campaign to bring a permanent resolution to their legal status in the U.S. Irish American Unity Conference (IAUC) president Kate McCabe, Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) president Jack Meehan, and Irish Northern Aid (INA) president Paul Doris today declared their enthusiastic support for the newly formed “Thar Saile.”
Paul Harkin, vice president of the IAUC and a former prisoner himself, announced the formation of Thar Saile, Irish for “Overseas.” Thar Saile is made up of former prisoners, many of whom have faced deportation, who have been peacefully and productively living, working, and raising families in the US for decades. Many are married to American wives and are the fathers of American born children.
In one of his last acts before leaving office in 2000, President Clinton announced that deportation proceedings against these men would be halted and they would move into “deferred action” status. This action was hailed both as a victory for the Irish American community and as a part of the peace dividend for those courageously working to end the ongoing conflict in the north of Ireland. It has become clear, however, that this remains unfinished business.
“The status of these men is unclear and ambiguous,” said Harkin. “We cannot travel back to Ireland to visit family; work permit renewals are an ongoing problem, frequently jeopardizing employment; and the deferred action umbrella did not cover all of the former prisoners in the U.S., some of whom are still living in the shadows.”
The IAUC has released a document entitled “Prisoners of Peace.” This document makes the case that reintegration of former prisoners is a first and critical step in any peace process. Ironically, in the north of Ireland, former prisoners are holding elected office and working together to build a new society. Only in the U.S. is their status still unresolved.
The objective of Thar Saile is to end the uncertainty for these men and their families by providing them with a permanent legal status and the right to live, work, and travel unencumbered. Thar Saile will launch a broad-based education and communication campaign around this issue and will work with their supporters around the US to bring this issue to the attention of all major political candidates.
Former Prisoners are available for interviews.