West Belfast man held in US for year finally gets visit from Irish Consul General

A West Belfast man will tomorrow mark his three hundred and sixty-fifth day in a Colorado jail after being arrested by US Immigration officials on January 30 last year.

Former Lenadoon man, Ciaran Ferry, has undergone a nightmare of jail and judicial setbacks following his seizure twelve months ago.

The ex-republican prisoner – released under the Good Friday Agreement – had been living in Colorado with his American-born wife Heaven and their daughter Fiona.

The family chose to move from Belfast in December 2000 after Ciaran’s personal details were found in the possession of loyalist paramilitaries.
They settled in Heaven’s home city of Denver and Ciaran was ‘legally in status’ after he filed his application for ‘green card’ status in early 2002.

However at what he believed to be a routine ‘green card’ interview, Ciaran was arrested.

The official charge against Ciaran centres on the allegation that he over-stayed his visa, but his supporters have dismissed this as spurious.
In contravention of US Constitutional rights, Ciaran Ferry has not yet been permitted a bail bond hearing to determine whether he constitutes a risk of absconding.

Normally this hearing should take place within 90 days of a person’s arrest and detention.

In November the Andersonstown News revealed that Ciaran’s application for asylum was rejected.

Yesterday afternoon the Irish government’s Consul General – based in San Francisco – visited Ciaran for the first time in Jefferson County Jail.
In a break with precedent, prison authorities permitted the consultation to occur as an ‘open’ visit.

To date Ciaran’s visits – including those with his wife and daughter – are conducted through a Perspex screen.

Heaven Ferry said yesterday before the meeting that “officials from the US State Department met with Jefferson County jail officials to impress upon them the importance of the Consul General being accommodated in every way”.

“I have been invited along on the visit, but have not yet decided if I will go.
“Honestly I’d prefer to give Ciaran the floor – God knows he has waited long enough.

“If nothing else, at least now the US government must be well aware of the Irish government’s interest in the case,” said Heaven.

With Ciaran’s case – alongside that of other Irish deportees – currently a key focus amongst Irish-American groups, Heaven Ferry conducted a lobby trip to Washington last Autumn.

Just before Christmas a number of prominent Congressmen wrote directly to Tom Ridge – head of the Department of Homeland Security – asking him to drop proceedings against Ciaran.

Speaking exclusively to the Andersonstown News last night, Ciaran’s father, Gerry called for his son’s immediate release.

“Ciaran has been held for exactly a year under very difficult circumstances.
“This is a totally unacceptable abuse of his human rights. Ciaran was released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement as a political prisoner.

“At least one other person facing deportation has properly been granted the basic right to continue with his daily family life until such time as a final decision is made in the courts.

“The American government now needs to demonstrate some consistency and fairness, and extend that basic right to Ciaran as well.

“Now that the Irish government have finally visited Ciaran, we are calling on them to take action to secure his release.

“We are also urging Ciaran’s friends and acquaintances to write to him and ensure that he knows his case has a lot of support at home,” said Gerry.
A spokesperson for the American Consulate in Belfast said the office was not in a position to comment on Mr Ferry’s case.

Anyone wishing to send mail to Ciaran can do so at the following address:
Ciarán Ó Fearaigh
PO Box 16700
Golden, Co.
80403 – 6700
Further information about the case can be obtained from the following website:

Journalist:: Jarlath Kearney

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