US deportation reprieve for ex-INLA man McAllister
A Northern Ireland man who had been threatened with deportation from the United States has won a last-minute reprieve.
Former republican paramilitary Malachy McAllister was due to be expelled from America today, but can now remain for at least another year.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was among those who supported the Belfast grandfather's bid to remain in his adoptive country. "I am elated and hopefully there is something substantial that will come down rather than a temporary fix for the next several months," the 57-year-old said.
Previously McAllister, a long-term New Jersey resident, was told by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement to report for deportation at an office in Newark, New Jersey, this morning.
It would have brought an abrupt end to two decades in the States after fleeing Northern Ireland with his family when their home was shot at by loyalist terrorists in 1988.
But, following sustained pressure from leading Irish American politicians, McAllister's attorney Eamonn Dornan told him he had been notified by the US Department of Homeland Security that he was no longer required to appear for deportation today.
The former INLA prisoner, who has been engaged in a sustained fight for full residency since moving to the United States 20 years ago, was ordered in March to "surrender for removal" after being granted annual deferrals since 2003. US immigration officials have yet to inform him of the term of his reprieve.
Last week immigration officials received a letter from 44 Democratic and Republican members of Congress, arguing that deporting McAllister would be contrary to the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement.
Congressman Joe Crowley, a New York Democrat, and other US politicians raised McAllister's case with US Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson. "The reprieve is not permanent at this point, but I am confident it is one that allows Malachy to work on a permanent solution to his problem," Mr Crowley said.
The former republican was jailed for seven years for two INLA attacks on RUC officers during the 1981 hunger strikes. He was released in 1985, abstained from paramilitary activity, and left Northern Ireland in 1988.
The 2012 report by Sir Desmond de Silva into collusion found that British security forces supplied a loyalist agent with a photograph of McAllister used by the Red Hand Commando, which fired 26 shots during the attack on his home.
McAllister's bid to stay in the US received strong support from the Ancient Order of Hibernians and the Irish American community. McAllister was photographed with Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams and its vice president Mary Lou McDonald at this year's St Patrick's Day parade in Manhattan last month.