Associated Press

LOS ANGELES - A judge ruled Friday that a man convicted of aiding in
the 1988 killings of two British soldiers in Northern Ireland
committed a "purely political" crime and should not be deported, a
U.S. government official said.

An immigration judge said the motive of Sean O'Cealleagh is not
grounds for his removal from the United States, said Virginia Kice,
spokeswoman for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

"We believe the judge's decision is in error," she said.

Kice said O'Cealleagh was being held Friday at a San Pedro processing
facility and the government has 30 days to appeal.

An attorney for O'Cealleagh did not immediately return a telephone
call seeking comment.

O'Cealleagh, 35, of Westminster, was arrested Feb. 25 at Los Angeles
International Airport after returning from a family visit to Northern
Ireland. O'Cealleagh (pronounced O'Kelly) spells his name in
traditional Gaelic, but is identified as Sean Kelly in British legal

O'Cealleagh was one of three men given life sentences in 1990 for
their roles in the murder of the two British corporals. His lawyers
argued the conviction was politically motivated.

The plainclothes soldiers were pulled from their vehicle after being
discovered during a funeral for a slain Irish Republican Army member.
Photographs and TV footage showed Kelly to be among the group that
shoved the two victims into an IRA cab.

The soldiers were later shot to death in killings claimed by the IRA.

O'Cealleagh, who was convicted for aiding and abetting in the
murders, spent 8 1/2 years in prison and was freed in 1998 under the
Good Friday peace accord. He emigrated to the United States in 1999
and was granted permanent residency in 2001.

He has an American wife and a 3-year-old son.




FBI spy to testify in historic civil case brought by relatives of dead

Ted Oliver
Saturday April 24, 2004
The Guardian

The families of the Omagh bomb victims made legal history yesterday as their civil action against the Real IRA opened in Belfast.

Seven of the families are suing the terror group that claimed responsibility for the bomb that killed 29 people and unborn twins in the Co Tyrone town in August 1998 because no one has been charged in direct connection with the atrocity.

The action names the Real IRA and five prominent members of the illegal group - four of whom are in prison in the Irish Republic.

Their barrister, Lord Brennan QC, told the high court in Belfast: "This is an historic case. It is the first time in British jurisdiction that a civil claim has been brought against a terrorist organisation and these individuals in respect of a terrorist outrage."

He said the families were seeking "exemplary damages not only for physical and psychological injuries but the loss of the life of a loved one - be that a wife, husband or children."

After the 65-minute hearing the judge set a date of January 17 next year to begin the full case.

Outside the court Michael Gallagher, whose son Aidan died, said the case was not about money but justice.

"At last, the tide is beginning to turn on terrorism in this country. Our civil action will go some way to washing it clean from our society which is tired and sickened with those that seek to murder and maim its children and loved ones.

"This is an important step in our civil legal action and a giant step down the road to justice.

"After a three-year battle we are now at court and on the way to trial. We promised our loved ones and supporters that we would not falter in pursuing this matter to the end. Now the end is clearly in our sights."

The court was told that the families were planning to call the controversial FBI spy who infiltrated the Real IRA and was the key witness in the trial of the group's leader, Michael McKevitt, who was sentenced to 20 years at Dublin's special criminal court last year for directing terrorism.

Lord Brennan applied to have David Rupert give his evidence via video link from the US where he is in hiding under a new identity.

At the Dublin trial where he appeared in person, Lord Brennan said there were "the most elaborate security measures which represented a great strain on security personnel and cost a great deal of money, but ... [were] required to protect the life of David Rupert". Mr Justice Higgins will rule later on the request.

Mr Gallagher said: "We would like to thank a brave man across the water in the USA who, despite grave risk to his own life, and armed only with the truth has unselfishly come forward and agreed to stand with us in our fight for justice."

The court heard that only McKevitt and his deputy at the time of the bombing, Liam Campbell, had entered defences denying any involvement. Referring to Campbell's defence, Lord Brennan said: "Surprisingly there is a specific added denial that the Omagh bombing involved the Real IRA."

The other defendants, Colm Murphy, Seamus McKenna and Seamus Daly, have entered no defences as yet.

Lord Brennan told the court: "The families are seeking not only aggravated but exemplary damages designed to reflect the gravity of the wrongdoing.

"That wrongdoing in this case was represented by the defendants being involved in extreme violence and showing utter disregard for human life in carrying out the bombing of Omagh."

Barristers for McKevitt and Campbell said their clients were not being permitted legal aid and the court heard that there could be a summary judgment without any defences being heard if legal aid was not forthcoming.

The Irish Criminal Assets Bureau last year seized ?750,000 (£500,000) in unpaid tax from Campbell and is now investigating McKevitt's financial affairs.

The judge said he would review the trial date in June to hear how their applications for aid were progressing.


Irish Independent
(feature section)


Saturday April 24th 2004

In an effort to keep the peace, political parties have taken a soft approach to Sinn Fein. But with the party level with Labour in the polls, the kid gloves are coming off. Brian Dowling reports:

As she posed against the backdrop of the rolling waves at picturesque Inchydoney beach in west Cork, Liz O'Donnell seemed the most unlikely defender of the Shinners. Her "it's time to stop bashing Sinn Fein" intervention was so out of line with the lifeblood of the PDs that many political observers had to do a double-take just to be sure they heard correctly.

One can only imagine the initial reaction among the Sinn Fein hierarchy to the news that former minister, Liz O'Donnell had taken such a strong line against the growing momentum in the mainstream parties to finally take Sinn Fein to task.

If, however, Adams & Co thought that O'Donnell's broadside was the harbinger of a kinder, gentler approach to Sinn Fein they were quickly disabused.

In recent months the Justice Minister, Michael McDowell, has been steadily turning up the heat on Sinn Fein with increasingly strident attacks on the existence and activities of their soul mates in the Provisional IRA.

McDowell has never made any secret of his loathing for the Provos. Indeed, it was that very issue that formed the essential platform for his election bid in 2002 when as Attorney General he made an opening campaign speech that excoriated Sinn Fein. Now as Justice Minister he is in possession of all the intelligence reports and files, providing him with ample scope to launch attack after attack on the criminal and other activities of the Provisional IRA, such as racketeering on the Dublin docks.

For a while, some wise heads wondered whether his headlong cavalry charge was a solo run or whether it had the blessing of the Taoiseach. When Bertie Ahern recently declared that the Minister for Justice was correct about paramilitaries the answer was clear.

It also marked a significant change in the political landscape; the days of the softly, softly, catchee monkey approach are over. Sinn Fein can no longer expect the mainstream parties to sit by and watch its steady political growth while it is still tied into a private army. The local and European elections are the next battleground and the move to counter the growth of Sinn Fein is gathering pace.

Polls for the past year or so have shown a consistent upward curve in the Sinn Fein graph. The most recent poll, just last weekend, gave Sinn Fein 12% in the local elections, making it level with Labour. It's the kind of wake-up call that none of the major parties is going to ignore. Fianna Fail feel particularly vulnerable. If Sinn Fein doesn't exactly threaten the core vote of, say, Fine Gael and the PDs, it does open up uncomfortable horizons on future coalition partners.

Sinn Fein may have swapped the Armalite for a baseball bat with nails but that change is seen for what it is - even if a ballot paper is held in the other hand.

The reality of Sinn Fein's past was brought into sharp focus within 48 hours of O'Donnell's remarks by the publication of the International Monitoring Commission (IMC). The IMC was established by the Irish and British Governments and given a remit to examine the extent of paramilitary activity on the ground in Northern Ireland. Its first report delivered this week set the tone for the growing hostility to Sinn Fein.

It found that senior members of Sinn Fein were still senior members of the IRA and, more crucially, they had a key role in influencing the presence or absence of violent activity or criminality. While it acknowledged that the leadership of Sinn Fein has made huge efforts to wean people away from violence, the message was clear - they haven't gone away, you know.

The IMC report was blunt and frank. The Provisional IRA was responsible for the abduction and savage beating of republican dissident Bobby Tohill in Belfast last February.

Once the report was published the major parties lost no time in seizing on its findings with the Taoiseach describing it as "disturbing". The pent-up frustration and anger at paramilitary activity found its escape valve.

The Sinn Fein leadership had anticipated that the report would do them no favours. The IMC, they argued, was nothing more than a puppet whose strings were pulled by Downing Street. This time, though, it was somewhat different. The stark statement about the Tohill incident laying the blame squarely at the door of the Provisional IRA closed off any wriggle room.

The public saw a very different Gerry Adams on RTE's Six One News hours after the report was published. This was a clearly agitated, finger wagging Adams finding it difficult to reconcile the gap between the talk of peace and the reality of paramilitary activity.

At one stage he found himself admitting that, yes the public did have a right to know whether senior members of Sinn Fein were also senior members of the IRA. Even though he claimed not to be aware of any such dual membership at present, his admission may prove useful for the IMC in the next phase of their work.

The Commission's report signalled an intention to tear off the balaclavas, so to speak, of paramilitary leaders, in a 'name-and-shame' regime.

If Adams found himself in unhappy territory that evening, even worse awaited one of his senior colleagues. Martin Ferris, the Kerry TD and former IRA gun-runner, tried the old 'we are victims' tactic on RTE's Morning Ireland the following day.

In a vivid series of exchanges the Minister for Arts, Sports and Tourism, John O'Donoghue, reduced him to ranting and incoherent gibberish.

O'Donoghue laid out a list of simple, clear questions about paramilitary activities and Ferris ran for cover. Ferris wanted to talk about anything other than his attitude to paramilitary activity.

The presenter Cathal Mac Coille tightened the screws and the real telling point came when Ferris found himself saying that if he lived in Belfast and he witnessed a group of masked men abducting another man from a pub he would not call the police.

The thought that any citizen would knowingly stand back and not make a phone call in the knowledge that another human being was facing a savage, if not fatal beating, was chilling.

That precisely was the message that O'Donoghue was hoping would be delivered to the electorate; for some in Sinn Fein the notion of an individual being beaten senseless by a group of masked men acting as judge, jury and executioners is acceptable.

For a long time the Government and opposition parties have given considerable leeway to Sinn Fein in the efforts to gradually bring them into the fold of mainstream democratic politics.

This was all premised on the notion that Sinn Fein wanted to make a complete transition and that the Provos were equally ready to completely forsake violence for good.

It is nearly 10 years since the first IRA ceasefire and patience is beginning to wear thin with the pace of progress. Virtually all the IRA prisoners have been released, Sinn Fein have held Ministerial posts in the short-lived power-sharing Executive and many other positive changes have been brought about, not least on policing.

There once was a time when Fianna Fail taunted John Bruton with the "John Unionist" tag because of his insistence that the IRA would have to go out of business.

Bertie Ahern has worked relentlessly since becoming Taoiseach in 1997 to nurture the peace process; he has delivered the Good Friday Agreement, the power-sharing Executive and even substantial IRA decommissioning.

Yet for all that, he too is now bedevilled by the same contradiction that Bruton tried to confront - unless the IRA goes out of business there will never be sustainable political progress.

In the interests of winning the peace Sinn Fein has been treated with kid gloves by successive governments and oppositions.

Those same parties are no longer willing to stand back and watch Sinn Fein continue to make major political inroads into their votes while at the same time, dodging the issue of on-going paramilitary activity.

Sinn Fein has struck a chord with a section of the electorate and look sets to make further, significant gains in the local elections. However, they can no longer expect the major parties to turn a blind eye or to heed Liz O'Donnell's advice.

© Irish Independent

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