The Guardian March 5, 2003


Bernadette Devlin US Security risk
Bernadette Devlin McAliskey barred entry to the United States

by Laura Flanders

Irish activist and former Member of Parliament, Bernadette Devlin McAliskey 
was detained by immigration officials in Chicago on February 21, and denied 
entry into the United States allegedly on "national security" grounds.

According to her daughter, Deidre, two Immigration and Naturalisation 
Services (INS) officers threatened to arrest, jail, and even shoot the 
legendary civil rights campaigner when she arrived at Chicago's O'Hare 
airport.

Bernadette was then photographed, finger-printed and returned to Ireland 
against her will on the grounds that the State Department had declared that 
she posed "a serious threat to the security of the United States".

The two were travelling together from Ireland to the US to attend a 
christening.

According to Deirdre, the McAliskeys cleared US immigration in Ireland 
prior to boarding, and received routine permission to travel, but upon 
their arrival they were stopped at the baggage claim.

Detained by two INS officers, they were told that the order to bar 
Bernadette McAliskey had come from US officials in Dublin.

During the dispute that followed, Deirdre said one INS officer used "very 
thinly veiled threats" against her mother, including, "if you interrupt me 
one more time I'm going to slam the cuffs on you and haul your ass to 
jail."

One officer, said Deirdre, "pulled his chair right up to mommy and I heard 
him say 'Don't make my boss angry. I saw him fire a shot at a guy last week 
and he has the authority to shoot'." Bernadette was denied access to a 
lawyer and sent back to Ireland.

A tireless advocate for the Irish nationalist cause, at the age of 21, 
Bernadette was the youngest person ever to be elected to the British 
Parliament.

She witnessed the deaths of 13 civilians shot dead by British paratroopers 
during a civil rights march in Derry, Northern Ireland in 1972, and she 
narrowly avoided death a second time when she and her husband were shot in 
their home by a loyalist death-squad in 1981.

Bernadette has been frequent visitor to the US for the past 30 years, 
although this was her first visit in over 18 months. She has been awarded 
the symbolic "keys" to several US cities, including New York and San 
Francisco.

On her first trip, in 1971, the young Bernadette made civil rights history 
when she refused to be met by Chicago's Mayor Richard J Daly on account of 
his treatment of opponents of the Vietnam War.

The McAliskeys, who have a long history fighting government repression on 
both sides of the Atlantic, are concerned about the denial of all visitors' 
rights.

"However INS is required to deal with things, and whatever their protocol 
may be, it is not part of their legal procedures that you should be 
threatened with jail and threatened with being shot", said Deirdre. At this 
point, she is urging visitors to the US to think twice, "if the state this 
jumpy, I'd not advise anyone to come here unless absolutely necessary," she 
said.

Bernadette McAliskey is now in the process of filing a formal complaint 
with the US consulate in Dublin.

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