US Attorney-At-law Martin Galvin with a letter in today's Irish News.
The denial of Gerry McGeough’s appeal on IRA related charges, will affect far more than the Tyrone Republican.
Mr. McGeough finished his two year ‘whack’ at Maghaberry, although he will remain barred from seeking election, or teaching. However the Supreme Court ruling threatens any political asylum applicants that their applications may now be handed over and used to imprison them.
The principle of granting asylum to those fleeing political persecution is centuries old. The asylum seeker must submit a detailed written statement of all affiliations and reasons for a well-founded fear of persecution. Such applications were always protected and confidential. The reasons are obvious.
For example, Irish political asylum cases became a major legal battleground in American courts. Some Republicans came to the United States fleeing collusion murder threats or sham Diplock prosecutions at the hands of the British. They married, got employment and settled.
In the 1980s and 90s, a score of Republicans were rounded up and put under deportation proceedings. It was done at Britain’s behest, as part of the British policy of criminalization.
The British smugly assumed that American courts would brand these former IRA members as criminals and deport them, despite marriages to American citizens, political asylum claims or other grounds that would otherwise entitle them to remain in America.
This criminalization strategy backfired. Witnesses such as Pat Finucane, Bernadette Devlin McAliskey, Fr Des Wilson, Gerry Conlon and Oliver Kearney came to testify for the ‘Irish Deportees’. They were joined by Congressmen and judges. They put British rule on trial in American courtrooms, packed by Irish-Americans.
Headlines announced that American Federal Judges ruled that IRA Volunteers were part of a legitimate struggle, not terrorists, and refusing deportation. The Secretary of State intervened to settle these cases.
These ‘Irish Deportee’ cases each began with an application for asylum detailing their Republican connections and why they feared returning to British hands. Meanwhile Mr. McGeough filed his asylum application in Sweden. His confidential statement was passed on to the British and used against him. The Supreme Court ruling means no one can apply for asylum, without danger that their required statement could one day be used to imprison them, as happened to Gerry McGeough.
The London Supreme Court only considered this narrow issue. It did not consider whether his 2007 arrest at the polls, after years living openly in Tyrone, was retaliation for his election campaign as an Independent Republican. Nor did it take up selective prosecution and why he received no OTR immunity certificate. Within this narrow area, the Court has set a precedent for which many others may suffer more than Gerry McGeough.