February March 2004 Issue – Irish America https://irishamerica.com Irish America Magazine Sat, 20 Jul 2019 03:40:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.10 82361074 America’s Top Cop https://irishamerica.com/2004/02/americas-top-cop/ https://irishamerica.com/2004/02/americas-top-cop/#respond Sun, 01 Feb 2004 14:59:38 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=31129 Read more..]]> As Police Commissioner Ray Kelly rolls through the streets of Manhattan in the back seat of a black SUV he is fed a steady stream of information by his detail detective who rides shotgun. On this cold fall day there is the usual assortment of New York mayhem to report; a decomposed body has been found in a Queens park, a transit cop has twisted an ankle during a chase, a deranged man, wielding a knife and screaming about poor health care, has taken a nurse hostage at Jamaica Hospital, a traffic agent has collapsed, in Brooklyn a car dealership has received anti-Semitic hate mail laced with mysterious white powder. Kelly peppers the detective with questions, even cracks wise at some of the more absurd reports.

But one case clearly stands out. Earlier in the week an eight-year-old boy was shot dead, caught in a Brooklyn drug war crossfire while walking home from school with his father. Kelly receives constant updates as his detectives scour the back streets of East New York for the killers. The case bothers Kelly. First, it is an awful waste of young innocent life, but it is also an echo of an uglier time in New York, a time when Kelly was first appointed the head of the world’s largest police department.

By 1992 it seemed the city had become unhinged. Mayor David Dinkins, besieged by a crack-cocaine-fueled epidemic of violence, was desperate to stem the bloodshed. So many bullets were flying that women in the worst precincts had taken to putting their children to sleep in bathtubs to protect them from flying lead. Headlines screamed “Dave Do Something.” In late 1992 Dinkins considered a short list of candidates for Police Commissioner. He chose Ray Kelly. In the complex world of New York’s tribal politics, the choice was not met with universal acclaim. Many in the African-American community believed that since the post had been held by two consecutive black commissioners, (Ben Ward, a career NYPD product and the first African-American to hold the job, and Lee Brown, a smooth-talking but seemingly ineffectual Houstonian) for the sake of race relations, another black should be picked. Dinkins says, “Colonel Kelly was simply the best qualified man for the job. Period.”

The new Commissioner’s résumé clearly backed Dinkins up. Kelly grew up on the then mean streets of Columbus Avenue when Irish-American gangsters like Poochie Walsh ruled the neighborhood. He recalls watching “scenes right out of West Side Story” unfold outside his apartment window. But the thug life was not for him. He enrolled in Manhattan College and joined the first police cadet class, a program aimed at grooming college graduates for careers with the NYPD. Kelly finished college and entered the Police Academy. But after only five days he was called by the Marines, who sent him to Vietnam to lead men in combat. It was not until three years later, with his obligation to the Marines fulfilled, that he returned to the Police Academy, eventually graduating first in his class.

Kelly hit the streets a newly minted cop, smart, ambitious, and eager to do well. But Ray Kelly lacked one usual criterion for success in the NYPD. He was the only one in his family to ever become a cop. There was no kindly uncle to grease the skids, no father or older brother to open the right doors, make a call, no “Rabbi” as they say in the NYPD. Ray Kelly had to make it on his own. And that he did. He eventually served in 25 different commands, slowly making his way up the ranks, surviving the department’s back alley politics that make the intrigues of the Vatican seem like a local Rosary society. At the same time he and his wife Veronica raised two boys, and Kelly earned a law degree from St. John’s, and masters degrees from both Harvard and NYU. Kelly was clearly a comer.

But he tells the story of his wife, the young bride of a new marine stationed in California who was asked on a bus why someone like her husband who had a college degree would want to pursue a career in law enforcement. She replied, “Someone has to be the Commissioner.”

The minute Kelly was appointed Commissioner, he aggressively attacked crime, putting cops where the bad guys were, and the numbers tell the story. During Kelly’s one full year as top cop (1993) there were nearly 30,000 fewer felonies committed in New York City than the year before. Kelly had turned the tide, and the long decline in violent crime began. “We had to look at the problem a new way. We needed to deploy resources where they would be most effective.” He also did something no one asked him to. After long days of fighting crime he would ride out to Bedford Stuyvesant, to Brownsville, and up to Harlem unannounced and alone, to speak at black churches and assure the congregations that his only aim was to make the city safer for everyone. Crime was dropping, race relations were slowly improving, and then Ray Kelly’s boss was voted out of office.

  1. Scott Fitzgerald fatuously declared that there were no second acts in American life, and while that maxim was proved untrue by everyone from Richard Nixon to Muhammad Ali to Rush Limbaugh, one place it was an absolute was in the NYPD. When Rudy Giuliani took office in January 1994, Ray Kelly’s storied run in the NYPD was history. I ask Kelly if he ever thought he would be back. His response is simply, “No. When you were gone, you were gone.” There was no reason to believe otherwise. In the 150-year history of the department, no Commissioner had ever been asked back. The PC is appointed by the Mayor, and most Mayors hire new faces for important posts, faces that owe their elevation and their loyalty to the Mayor. That’s politics. So, despite the fact that a historic drop in crime had begun, Kelly was shown the door.

Ray Kelly moved on. His successors and their boss did everything they could to downplay Kelly’s efforts. It was far better PR to claim those successes as their own. Kelly, while he could not have been happy, kept quiet. What no one could have guessed was that the most qualified Commissioner in the department’s history was embarking on an eight-year run that would make him even more qualified for a city and a world changed utterly on September 11, 2001.

When Michael Bloomberg was elected Mayor in 2002, he wasted no time in appointing the best man available for the job. The choice was easy. Ray Kelly.

We sit in Kelly’s office at One Police Plaza and I ask how the job had changed while he was gone. “In a word? Counterterrorism.” No longer was the job simply catching murderers and thieves and rapists. The bad guys are now much more dangerous. As if to illustrate this, Kelly is hosting an Interpol Counter Terrorism Conference at police headquarters.

We ride the elevator down and enter the auditorium. It is packed with all manner of attendees, spooks and flatfoots from forty-four countries, including Thailand, Angola, Qatar, and Uzbekistan. While Kelly was on forced hiatus from what he calls “the best job in the world,” he put together a police force in Haiti, served as the Commissioner of U.S. Customs, then head of law enforcement at the Treasury Department. All this serves him well today. He learned his way around the swamps of Washington bureaucracies, and was appointed to the executive board of Interpol, where he made worldwide connections to persons fighting terrorism. The street cop from New York is now seen as the premier law enforcement official in the world.

At the back of the room, translators wearing headphones huddle in booths. It looks more like the UN than Police Headquarters. Kelly welcomes everyone and then tells a story from the previous weekend, how a young transit cop witnessed what turned out to be two Iranian diplomats taking a videotape of a subway station at two in the morning. The men were apprehended and a Farsi-speaking officer was quickly summoned. This is the new NYPD. Kelly says, “Our cops are simply front line soldiers in the war on terrorism.” He stresses the need for communications amongst police agencies, for a proactive approach to fighting those “who want to do us harm.”

Kelly makes a point of introducing two of his Deputy Commissioners, Michael Sheehan and David Cohen. Sheenan, ex special forces, was the Department of State Ambassador at Large for Counter Terrorism who then went on to be Assistant Secretary General in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations at the UN. Cohen came to the NYPD from the CIA. They both point to Kelly as the main reason they agreed to switch to local law enforcement. Cohen says, “To work for Ray Kelly and help keep the most important city in the world safe? In 22 months, I have not questioned my decision once.”

Kelly has increased the number of Counterterrorism Joint Task Force detectives from 17 to 120 and in an unprecedented move, has stationed a number of NYPD detectives in foreign posts including Tel Aviv, London, Singapore, and Interpol headquarters in Lyon, France. Kelly knows that we can’t always count on the federal government, and that being merely reactive in fighting terrorism now means burying scores of your dead first.

After getting the conference started, Kelly jumps back in the SUV, and learns that two more culprits in the eight-year-old boy’s murder are in custody, two more to go. We head crosstown to the Chelsea piers and duck into a pavilion where eighteen cops are about to graduate and become new members of the NYPD’s mounted unit. We’ve stepped out of the world of dirty bombs, and radiation, and bioterror into the nineteenth century and the smell of horses and fresh dirt. Stiff backed cops in ceremonial dress mount their rides and put them through paces to the strains of martial music. The final number is “New York, New York,” and in a routine that would make Busby Berkeley proud, not a single horse missteps.

One by one, the graduates approach the stage and throw the Commissioner crisp salutes. Kelly hands out the diplomas, and then lingers to mingle. He obviously loves this ceremonial part of the job. It is a break from more serious duties, but also an important link to the past, a continuum. He understands the importance of these rituals, of the pomp, the circumstance. He was a street cop and he always will be. Cops approach him easily, and he clearly enjoys being among these men and women. You sense he does not want to leave. But his job does not permit much dallying.

We move onto a staff conference at police headquarters. The conference table is buffeted by the thick torsos of Kelly’s high command. These men — Borough Commanders and Deputy Commissioners — have all fought their way up the NYPD food chain. It is a biweekly meeting where they get to sit with their boss and hash out problems, strategies, and policy. Four television monitors play silently on the conference room wall speaking clearly of the new realities these men face. One is turned to NY1, one to Fox News, another to CNN and finally one to Al Jazeera.

Kelly, at 60, is the oldest man in the room, but that is hard to believe. His energy is unflagging; he is still Marine Corps fit. His style is smart, supportive. Everyone at the table knows what their job is. Kelly does not browbeat or bellow, but he does expect excellence. The topics range from Operation Impact, a successful targeting of high crime areas, to the upcoming Republican National Convention, to more mundane matters like parking for cops. Ray Kelly with the help of those assembled has quietly managed to keep crime in the city dropping steadily. He has done this with 4,000 less cops than his predecessor during a horrible economic climate and with the added burdens of picking up the slack for fighting terrorism.

Their business done, Kelly sees the brass out and gets ready for a press conference announcing the smashing of a Washington Heights drug ring. He and his aides iron out numbers arrested, kilos and cash confiscated. The operation was a great success and everything went off according to plan. In the volatile world of crime fighting, that is not always the case.

In early 2003 a narcotics squad executing a so-called no-knock warrant crashed through the door of a Harlem apartment. They were acting on a tip that armed drug dealers were behind the door. The tip was bad. What was behind the door was a 57-year-old grandmother named Alberta Spruill who toppled over and dropped dead. She was literally scared to death. Unlike the previous administration, the reaction was open and swift.

“Everybody makes mistakes.” Kelly says. “But, while in business a mistake might cost someone money, in what we do, it can cost lives.” Officers were quickly reassigned and there was a public airing of practices and policy. “We felt it was important to get the information out there and to somehow ease the pain of the family.”

The day is winding down and Kelly sits at his expanse of a hardwood desk. The desk was once occupied by Theodore Roosevelt, whom Kelly greatly admires. “He was a take-charge guy who lived life to the fullest.” Behind Kelly, his window overlooks the Brooklyn Bridge, alight and glorious in the falling dark. Beyond, the city stretches to the horizon as its citizens head home to family and warm dinners. In a world gone mad, Ray Kelly is responsible for watching over all of it, and all its varied inhabitants. The great Teddy Roosevelt, tough guy that he was, could not imagine the dangers that his successor, the milkman’s kid from Columbus Avenue, faces every day. Kelly is undaunted. “It’s still the best job in the world.” ♦

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First Word: Happy and Peaceful New Year https://irishamerica.com/2004/02/first-word-happy-and-peaceful-new-year/ https://irishamerica.com/2004/02/first-word-happy-and-peaceful-new-year/#respond Sun, 01 Feb 2004 14:58:17 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=31132 Read more..]]> As the year winds down I cannot but reflect not just on the past year but on the past 19 years. It’s hard to believe, but the coming year marks Irish America’s 19th year in existence. It’s been a fascinating journey into the landscape of Irish America, which often proved to be unexplored territory.

Looking back at our first issue, I see the foundations of what the future was to hold. Our top story was on the MacBride Principles, the most important Irish American initiative of the time. The Principles, named for Irish statesman Sean MacBride, sought to link American investment in the North of Ireland to non-discrimination in the workplace, and were often compared to the Sullivan Principles which operated for U.S. firms doing business in South Africa.

As our story in this issue on the election results shows, “peace comes dropping slow” in Northern Ireland. The fact that Ian Paisley’s anti-Good Friday Agreement party won the majority unionist vote brings with it fears for the future of the Agreement and the Northern Ireland Assembly. But there is comfort in looking over our past issues and reading the many stories on Northern Ireland. It’s proof that though progress has at times been slow, significant gains have been made and seemingly insurmountable problems have been overcome.

While the DUP’s refusal to deal with Sinn Féin may cause tremors, the elections themselves are proof that democracy is at work. There was a time in Northern Ireland’s not too distant past when voting rights were tied to property ownership, thus discriminating against the majority of Catholics.

The election results also mark the evolution of Sinn Féin into a major political power that has gained the majority nationalist vote in Northern Ireland. The party also made significant gains in the Republic of Ireland’s elections last year, making it the only all-Ireland party.

While coverage of Northern Ireland has always been of paramount importance to Irish America, so too have our interviews with leading Irish-Americans. Our conversation with Ray Kelly, America’s top cop, follows on a long list of significant interviews, including some greats who have now passed on such as Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill and Supreme Court Justice William Brennan, both powerhouses of their day, and our interview with screen legend Gregory Peck, who we lost in 2003.

In our very first issue we included a profile of then U.S. Ambassador to Ireland, Margaret Shaughnessy Heckler, and in this issue we feature our new ambassador, James Kenny, an Irish-American from Chicago (pg. 28).

Our first issue also included an interview with Dan Tully, then head of Merrill Lynch, the largest brokerage firm in the world, who recalled his Donegal-born father telling him to “make something of yourself.” Over the years our coverage of Irish-Americans who have found success in the corporate world has expanded to include an annual Business 100 issue. And we are pleased to report that many of our honorees have become involved in Ireland, whether by serving on the board of the American Ireland Fund, or the Taoiseach’s Advisory Board, or in the case of Chuck Feeney and Bill Flynn, playing an important role in the peace process in Northern Ireland.

Our Business 100 lunches have also evolved. At our 2003 New York and San Francisco lunches Irish America publisher Niall O’Dowd was praised for his own role in the peace process, and the magazine was credited with creating a unique forum which provides our honorees with the opportunity to forge bonds of friendship and establish business relations. In some cases these relationships help the community. CBS Vice President Dennis Swanson, our Keynote speaker in San Francisco, who serves on the board of The Fallen Heroes Fund, mentioned that with little persuasion he had recruited a major player from our Business 100 for the Fund, which helps families of military personnel who have given their lives in the current operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We couldn’t have had a better Christmas present than to feel part of something so great. (To find out more about the Fallen Heroes Fund call 800-340-HERO).

And so we end the year with the promise of many great issues to come, a prayer for the safe return of our troops, and the hope that Northern Ireland may prove to be an example for conflict resolution around the world. ♦

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Justice Time for Dublin/Monaghan Families https://irishamerica.com/2004/02/justice-time-for-dublinmonaghan-families/ https://irishamerica.com/2004/02/justice-time-for-dublinmonaghan-families/#respond Sun, 01 Feb 2004 14:57:29 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=31135 Read more..]]> The bombs went off during the Dublin rush-hour, at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, May 17, 1974. Three car bombs exploded on Parnell Street, Talbot Street and South Leinster Street in the center of Dublin. An hour and a half later another bomb exploded on North Road, in the border town of Monaghan.

There had been no warnings. In all, 33 people, including a pregnant woman, were killed and hundreds were injured.

It was the greatest loss of life in any one day of The Troubles and the worst atrocity ever committed in the Republic. Yet no one was arrested, charged, or prosecuted.

Justice for the Forgotten, the group representing those who died in, and survived, the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, may pursue litigation on the back of the findings of the long-awaited Barron Report. The report, which was published December 10, stated that Ireland’s then Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave showed “little interest” in pursuing the perpetrators of the bombing.

Prior to the publication of the report, the group had considered suing the British government. However, upon publication of the report, the scope for blame has widened. Barron blames the Irish government and Garda (police) for not pursuing a full and complete investigation. The investigation was wound down without explanation in early 1975 and Barron said it, “failed to make full use of the information it obtained.” He did not find that there was evidence of collusion between Northern Ireland security authorities and loyalist paramilitaries. But he added that the loyalists responsible for the bombing may have been aided by individual members of the RUC, UDR or the British Army.

Margaret Urwin, spokesperson for Justice for the Forgotten, said just before the report was released, “What the bereaved families and survivors are hoping for is that they will get some sense of the truth. They don’t think it will be the full truth because Judge Barron had no powers to compel witnesses and because he didn’t get the full cooperation of the British government by any means.”

The group is very critical of the failure of the British government to honor its promise to cooperate with the inquiry. “To the best of our knowledge that help was not forthcoming and delayed the process for at least a year,” she said.

Barron, in his findings, agreed that the British government thwarted his inquiry. Following a trawl of 68,000 files, the then Northern Ireland Secretary of State John Reid provided a 16-page document to the inquiry in February 2002, nearly 18 months after information was sought. Barron said that a file of photographs of bombing suspects “has been missing since 1993 at least.”

Justice for the Forgotten is still hoping that the Barron Report will lead to a full-scale public inquiry. But they will also consider taking legal action in the national courts and at the European Court of Human Rights.

A copy of the report will also be given to the Dublin City Coroner Dr. Brian Farrell, who has formally reopened the inquests into the deaths of the 26 people who died in the Dublin bombings. Six of the victims died in the Monaghan bombing and one died some time after the Monaghan bombing.

Farrell reopened the Dublin inquests in June 2003, and the Monaghan inquests last month, but adjourned both until all evidence had been gathered. He has asked the Garda commissioner for files on the attacks.

Inquests were held in relation to the deaths at the time, but at the request of the Garda, the Dublin inquests were immediately adjourned after the hearing began in 1974.

The political response from the Fine Gael-led government at the time was to crack down on Republican paramilitaries. The Garda investigation was halted within three months of the bombings. No explanations were given to the families who felt abandoned by the authorities here.

The victims received derisory compensation; a widow with dependent children, for example, received £5,000. For years some of the families of the victims sought answers through their public representatives, but got nowhere. ♦

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Irish Troops Land in Liberia https://irishamerica.com/2004/02/irish-troops-land-in-liberia/ https://irishamerica.com/2004/02/irish-troops-land-in-liberia/#respond Sun, 01 Feb 2004 14:56:21 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=31138 Read more..]]> A rapid reaction force of 450 Irish soldiers landed in Liberia as part of the U.N.’s 15,000-strong military intervention in the war-torn West African country. The troops will take part in a peace enforcement mission that is expected to last between three and four years. It is the Irish Army’s first U.N. engagement since the peacekeeping mission in Lebanon came to a close last year.

“The risk in this mission should not be underestimated. The situation on the ground is highly volatile,” warned Minister for Defence Michael Smith, assuring that the safety of troops will be enhanced by the deployment of armored personnel careers (APCs) and a range of protective equipment.

Prior to the troops’ departure from Dublin, the overseas posting had already cost the life of an Irish soldier. Sergeant Derek Mooney, 33, was killed in a road accident outside the Liberian capital, Monrovia, and his body was brought home to a funeral service with full military honors. Sgt. Mooney was part of the advance party sent out to set up the operations base for the Irish troops. He was part of the elite Ranger wing based at the Curragh camp in Co. Kildare. ♦

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Gilligan Case Adjourns https://irishamerica.com/2004/02/gilligan-case-adjourns/ https://irishamerica.com/2004/02/gilligan-case-adjourns/#respond Sun, 01 Feb 2004 14:55:42 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=31142 Read more..]]> The Court of Criminal Appeal in Dublin adjourned an application by convicted drug dealer John Gilligan. Three years ago the Special Criminal Court acquitted Gilligan of the charge of murdering journalist Veronica Guerin but sentenced him to 28 years imprisonment for drug dealing. It is the longest sentence ever handed down by an Irish court for a drug-related offense.

Counsel for the 52-year-old Dubliner unsuccessfully appealed the severity of his sentence. On this occasion, Gilligan is appealing on the grounds that points of law of exceptional public importance are at issue. The case was due to be heard at the beginning of December, but at the request of Gilligan’s lawyer, Clan Ferriter, the three-judge Court of Criminal Appeal adjourned the matter to January 27.

Elsewhere, a crime gang with links to the INLA (Irish National Liberation Army) is suspected of intimidating another crime reporter. A suspicious device was attached to the car belonging to Paul Williams, crime editor for the Sunday Worm newspaper. Gardai (Irish police) and army bomb disposal experts were called in. Williams and his neighbors in the Dublin suburb of Walkinstown were evacuated, but the device was found to be an elaborate hoax.

The journalist and his family were placed under 24-hour garda protection, but cover is expected to be temporary because of departmental cutbacks. Criminals suspected of the hoax are part of an organized gang with paramilitary connections. “They are not going to intimidate or threaten me,” vowed the reporter. “They have killed two of my colleagues, and it is not going to happen any more,” he added, in reference to the murder of Veronica Guerin in 1996 and the loyalist murder of Sunday World reporter Martin O’Hagan in Lurgan, County Armagh, two years ago. ♦

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Irish Family in the U.S. Faces Deportation https://irishamerica.com/2004/02/irish-family-in-the-u-s-faces-deportation/ https://irishamerica.com/2004/02/irish-family-in-the-u-s-faces-deportation/#respond Sun, 01 Feb 2004 14:54:35 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=31144 Read more..]]> The holiday season was a tense one, to say the least, for the McAllister family. Days before Thanksgiving, federal agents raided their New Jersey home in the dead of night. Before Christmas, it became a distinct possibility that all six Belfast natives would be deported.

Now, the McAllisters are awaiting a crucial decision from an appeals court in Philadelphia. When that decision comes down in the coming weeks, the family will know their ultimate fate — whether they will be allowed to stay in the U.S. or deported back to Belfast.

This is a case that has out-raged many Irish-American leaders, already angry at how the Bush administration has treated other Irish nationalists in the U.S.

As Malachy McAllister put it: “We have a lot of work to do until this government recognizes that my family, and other Irish nationals in similar situations, present no danger to the safety and security of the United States. We must keep moving toward that goal.”

Malachy and Bernadette McAllister fled Belfast with their four children in the late 1980s. Malachy was an active Republican who has spent time in prison, but who had also worked to expose wrongdoing by British authorities in the North.

Then one night, over two dozen bullets were fired at the McAllisters’ Belfast home. The family decided they could no longer stay in their native land.

They left for Canada, then arrived as illegal immigrants in the U.S. in the mid-1990s. Ever since, they have been fighting for political asylum, based on the persecution — even death threats — the family might face if deported back to Belfast.

Many members of Congress as well as influential Irish-Americans have sided with Malachy and his family, who have since become respected members of their Wallington, New Jersey community.

In late November, however, the U.S. Board of Immigration Appeals denied the family’s asylum status. All of the McAllisters faced deportation within 30 days of the decision. Authorities sought to detain Malachy immediately. Because of prior convictions in Northern Ireland, Malachy was considered a priority case by federal authorities.

In the early morning of November 19, 2003, agents under the supervision of the Department of Homeland Security burst into the McAllisters’ home. They demanded to see Malachy, but he was out of town.

“They missed me by fifteen minutes,” McAllister said. “If I was home I’d be back in Belfast now.”

McAllister, instead, was in Washington, D.C. with supporters such as national Ancient Order of the Hibernians officers and New Jersey Congressman Donald Payne. In the days that followed, he was more or less out of the public eye. Federal agents, according to Bernadette McAllister, were parked in front of the McAllister home all that time.

In absentia, Malachy McAllister was ordered to appear at a federal immigration office in Newark on December 1. It was unclear even to his lawyer or wife if McAllister would in fact show up.

In the end, it was smart that he did.

McAllister’s appearance set in motion a chain of events and phone calls which would ultimately win him a much-needed reprieve. New Jersey Congressman Steve Rothman placed a phone call to top immigration official Asa Hutchinson. Hutchinson, a former Congressman, took Rothman’s word that neither Malachy nor his son (also wanted for immediate detention because of run-ins with the law in the U.S.) were a direct threat to U.S. national security. Thus, Malachy and his son would not be detained in the U.S., and could stay with their family in New Jersey, pending the upcoming appeals court decision.

“The Department of Homeland Security finally permitted common sense and decency to prevail and allowed Malachy McAllister to return to his family,” the McAllisters’ lawyer Eamonn Dornan said.

McAllister said he was grateful for the support he received.

“Without the support of Irish America, our representatives and senators, and without the media shining a light on this case, I have no doubt but that I would have been arrested, shackled and shipped out to face my persecutors [in Belfast],” said McAllister,

Of course, the entire McAllister family was not yet out of the woods. Bernadette and the three younger McAllisters still faced a 30-day deportation order. But as Irish America went to press, sources said they were confident a deal could be struck allowing the entire family to remain in the U.S., until the appeals court issues its asylum opinion in the coming weeks.

As one person close to the McAllisters put it: “It’s hard for me to believe that [federal authorities], after they let Malachy — who served three and a half years in prison — stay in the U.S., and not grant a stay to Bernadette and the three [younger McAllister] kids who have done nothing wrong.”

Even if all the McAllisters are allowed to temporarily stay in the U.S., the appeals court decision looms. Expected early in 2004, the decision could send the McAllisters back to Belfast. Malachy and others close to him have no doubt the family would face death threats from some in Loyalist circles. As a result, McAllisters supporters are already looking into what options the McAllisters have if the courts come down against them.

The McAllisters’ is just the latest controversial case involving a former Northern Ireland prisoner seeking asylum in the U.S.

Over the summer, Belfast native John Eddie McNicholl was deported from his Philadelphia-area home following an early-morning raid. ♦

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In America Premieres in New York https://irishamerica.com/2004/02/in-america-premieres-in-new-york/ https://irishamerica.com/2004/02/in-america-premieres-in-new-york/#respond Sun, 01 Feb 2004 14:53:42 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=31148 Read more..]]> The A-list was in full force for the New York City premiere of Jim Sheridan’s latest film In America. Many fans and friends of Sheridan were out to support the semi-autobio-graphical film for its holiday opening. In the movie, a family immigrates to America from Ireland and grapples with life in a new country. The couple are poor and have to steal an air conditioner when summer descends. Samantha Morton plays Sarah, the wife who believes her struggling actor husband Johnny, played by Paddy Considine, can provide the family with a bright future, if only they could deal with their tragic past. Young Irish newcomers Emma and Sarah Bolger, sisters in real life, play their daughters who at times feel alienated from the American way of life. The family’s mysterious neighbor Mateo, played by Djimon Hounsou, helps the family realize how to repair a broken heart and opens their eyes to the magic of New York.

Aside from the cast, who were hobnobbing at full tilt, rock stars like Bono, supermodels including Helena Christensen and literary moguls such as Salman Rushdie attended the premiere and the glamorous after-party at St. Bart’s restaurant in Manhattan. But it wouldn’t have been a decent Irish celebration without some singing, and brave Sarah Bolger was directed to the stage by Sheridan to sing “Desperado,” the Eagles song that she covers in the film. After a touching rendition, there was a party to be had. And fitting with the 1980s era of the film, plenty of disco and Motown music was blaring through the speakers. Sheridan started up a conga line with the cast that boogied its way through the restaurant. By the end of the evening it was clear that if the Irish were ever to take over Hollywood, there would be a lot more fun and quite a bit less pretentious posing. ♦

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Young Stars on Screen https://irishamerica.com/2004/02/young-stars-on-screen/ https://irishamerica.com/2004/02/young-stars-on-screen/#respond Sun, 01 Feb 2004 14:51:57 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=31159 Read more..]]> Two young actors, Dakota Fanning and Spencer Breslin, have burst onto the Hollywood scene with the blockbuster Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat. Fanning plays the bossy, organized Sally, sister to Breslin’s mischief-making Conrad. The youngsters are preparing for a party when The Cat in the Hat (Mike Myers) arrives on their doorstep to stir up trouble.

Fanning may already be a familiar face to movie audiences. She played Sean Penn’s daughter in I Am Sam, for which she became the youngest person to be nominated for a Screen Actors Guild Award at the age of eight. She also co-starred with Brittany Murphy in Uptown Girls earlier this year.

Her The Cat in the Hat co-star Spencer Breslin was spotted by a talent scout in a playground in New York and began making commercials. He has also appeared in The Kid as the younger Bruce Willis and in the Santa Clause movies. Both Fanning and Breslin are now in high demand despite lackluster reviews of the film. ♦

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New Host for This Old House https://irishamerica.com/2004/02/new-host-for-this-old-house/ https://irishamerica.com/2004/02/new-host-for-this-old-house/#respond Sun, 01 Feb 2004 14:48:21 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=31162 Read more..]]> Making his debut this season as host of the Emmy Award-winning series This Old House and Ask This Old House, Kevin O’Connor is the newest member of America’s favorite home improvement team.

Prior to joining the show, O’Connor worked for Fleet Bank as a vice president in the sports finance group, not exactly a prerequisite for a job on TV. He and his wife Kathleen recently purchased their first home, a beautiful 1894 Queen Anne Victorian.

“The house needed everything,” O’Connor recalls, “a new kitchen, new bathrooms, and new bedrooms.” Though he wasn’t a complete amateur when it comes to renovations, the task of overhauling his new home was daunting, to say the least.

With a long to-do list, O’Connor turned to the television experts to help with the renovation projects. To his surprise and delight, This Old House general contractor Tom Silva and painting contractor Jim Clark came calling, resulting in a segment of Ask This Old House. O’Connor asked questions throughout the filming, and his questions continued to roll even when the cameras weren’t.

“Since we were doing all the work ourselves (except for the plumbing and electric), naturally I had a lot of questions. So I hounded Tom on every break we had. He didn’t even get a chance to eat his lunch because I was busy being a curious homeowner.” No one, at that point, realized that this was O’Connor’s first screen test.

“I grew up watching This Old House but when the producers called me at the bank, I thought they were calling me for a loan,” he said. What started as a house call turned into a casting call. Many disguised calls and veiled visits later he met with the executive producer of the show Russell Morash.

“When Russ Morash officially offered me the job, he sat me down and laid it on the line. `Listen,’ he said, `I don’t need any more experts. I have the best damn contractor in the country, and I have one of the world’s best carpenters. I have the best plumber, and I have the best landscape guy. What I need is someone who will ask lots of questions. So whatever you do, stay curious.'”

O’Connor’s tenacity and inquisitive nature could be part of his Irish heritage. O’Connor’s great-grandfather and great-grandmother on his father’s side were born in Sligo and he has visited Ireland twice.

This Old House and Ask This Old House air on PBS stations on Thursday evenings, check your local listings. ♦

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Building a Beautiful Future in Kabul https://irishamerica.com/2004/02/building-a-beautiful-future-in-kabul/ https://irishamerica.com/2004/02/building-a-beautiful-future-in-kabul/#respond Sun, 01 Feb 2004 14:43:42 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=31169 Read more..]]> With her red hair and freckles, Patricia O’Connor certainly stands out from the crowd on the streets of Kabul. But she moves through the streets both in Afghanistan and through her home in the city of New York with a purpose — empowering women with the opportunities that the beauty industry offers them. Her work with Beauty Without Borders (www.beautywithoutborders.com) brought her to Kabul where the dream of a beauty school for Afghan women has become a reality.

O’Connor, who was born in the UK to Irish parents, found that one of the initial challenges was actually finding an appropriate site for the Kabul Beauty School following its inception in 2001. “Since so much of the city has been destroyed, it became apparent we had to build a building, which took us a year from beginning to end.” The first classes started in August 2003. Of course, funding was needed and O’Connor used her contacts as a marketing and development consultant to the beauty industry to secure companies including Clairol, MAC cosmetics and Vogue magazine to support the School.

The School recently had its first graduation ceremony, where the only female Afghan general in the Army came and gave an inspiring speech about the future for women in the changed country. The graduates are looking toward a time when they can not only provide many beauty services to other women, but when they can own and operate their own businesses to reap the profits of their education.

Said O’Connor, “The School is on par with any school in the world. Women learn color formulation and pigmentation. You’re really teaching science when you’re teaching chemistry and color.” Another challenge was combating the lack of education many of the students had. She adds, “Half of the students were illiterate, but we have interactive live demos and videos in addition to textbooks. One of our students said she was so focused on learning that she worked at it until it clicked, even though she couldn’t read.”

O’Connor found parallels between the students and women in her own life. She laughs, “The Afghan women are as tough as the Irish women! Their family comes first and they’re tough and they’re strong. What they can achieve is limitless, there’s no stopping them. They are an inspiration to all of us.” ♦

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