Irish Echo Online - News

Black to get hearing

By Ray O'Hanlon

A Philadelphia court is set to pass sentence on Belfast man Joe Black this week. The hearing is set for Thursday, Aug. 12.

Black has been detained by federal authorities since arriving in the city last month. He was arrested at Philadelphia airport July 7 after arriving from London. He was traveling to a wedding in Pittsburgh.

Black's wife, Geraldine, and three of his five children were with him. They have since returned to Ireland.

Black could be sentenced for up to six months or be sentenced to time served at Thursday's hearing.

But even with time served, his detention could continue for some weeks or even months before he is deported from the U.S.

"That's our deepest fear. Joe could spend months in the custody of the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement," said Sean McClorey, Black's brother-in-law.

Deportation delays frequently result when there are no seats available on flights. The process also depends on the availability of a BICE escort on the flight.

Black, who is 47, has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of failing to disclose his imprisonment on IRA-related charges in the late 1970s.

McClorey said that he had spoken to Black by phone in recent days.

"He was despondent, though he was trying to disguise it," McClorey said. "Joe is the kind of guy who is always busy doing something, so to chain him down is really cruel and unusual punishment."

Black served three years in Long Kesh after being convicted of carrying out a kneecap punishment shooting for the IRA in 1977. After prison, he left the IRA and set up a home-improvement business in Belfast.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that federal prosecutors had accepted that Black had traveled to the U.S. solely for the wedding in Pittsburgh and not for any nefarious purpose.


Rep. Eliot Engel has asked House Speaker Dennis Hastert to immediately schedule a bill that would grant permanent residence in the U.S. to Belfast man Malachy McAllister and his family.

"If the McAllister family was forced to return to the north of Ireland, their lives would be in danger," the New York Democrat wrote in his letter to Hastert. "I urge you to schedule this bill and provide this great family the peace and stability they so greatly deserve," he added.

Engel's letter urges a fast track for a bill submitted by Rep. Steve Rothman, of New Jersey. The McAllisters live in Rothman's congressional district.

Both Rothman and Engel have argued that McAllister, a onetime INLA member, and his family are in danger from loyalists should they return to Belfast.

The family fled the city in 1986 after loyalist gunmen fired into their home.

Malachy McAllister is now the sole parent of four children. His wife, Bernadette, died from cancer in May.

This story appeared in the issue of August 11-17, 2004

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