The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Interview with
Bernadette Devlin McAliskey

On February 21, Bernadette McAliskey was barred from entering the United States. Here she speaks with Breandán Morley about what happened

Breandán Morley

McAliskey: I was going to New York on holidays. I went through Dublin airport as usual. I filled in my visa waiver form, which I am entitled to do, I presented it and was processed through Immigration without any difficulty. I arrived in Chicago and Immigration informed me there that on foot of a fax received while I was in the air from Dublin, to the effect that a passenger, Bernadette McAliskey, was on the flight, was ineligible for entry, should be apprehended and returned.

They were very very jumpy. They were clearly under the impression that I had evaded Immigration in some way, that I had fraudulently filled out a form in some way and that I was a threat to the security of the United States of America.

I attempted to explain to them that I was in fact eligible for entry, had not fraudulently filled out any forms and was not a threat to anybody's security.

I was informed that I had no rights, that in fact nobody who is not a United States citizen any longer has any rights in America since Al-Qaeda, that what I had was a number of choices. My choice was to sit there quietly until they arranged a flight and put me back on it and to say nothing and to speak to nobody.

I said "No, I have rights here. I would like to contact somebody from the embassy. I would like to contact a lawyer. I have no intention of going back just because you tell me I have to go back."

They at that point said that if I insisted that I had rights where I had none, they would show me what rights I had. I would be handcuffed and imprisoned until such time as they arranged a flight back to Ireland.

In the midst of that one of the guys then said to me, who was the subordinate, he took me aside and he said "Do not anger my boss. Please do not make him angry, do not speak about rights, you don't have any. Don't contradict him. Last week he fired a shot over the head of a Russian gentleman."

I don't know whether he did or not, but that's what the guy told me "Don't anger him. You have no rights, he has power. He also has a revolver. Last week he fired it. Please, don't make this situation worse."

Then I was told that I would be photographed, questioned and fingerprinted and I said "No. I won't."

Again the guy said to me "Mam, when are you going to understand this? You do not have any rights,you have choices. Your choice is to voluntarily be fingerprinted and photographed, to be fingerprinted and photographed under duress or to be forcibly fingerprinted and photographed. Those are your choices. Then you will be going back to Ireland."

All through this I am trying to say to them "Look, let me see this fax. What is the authority of this fax?"

I got no information on that.

At the very end of two very disturbing hours, because this was happening to Mrs Citizen, not to Mrs Political Activist, this was happening to a person and these are the jumpiest people I have ever seen, these people are so scared. All the time I knew and had that feeling that had I been young and male in this situation I would have been very vulnerable to physical violence. These people could and would have given me a good kicking.

Morley: It was purely a personal visit, wasn't it? You weren't planning on addressing any political meetings at all while you were over there?

McAliskey: No, no. Nor was that even an issue, because they didn't know I was me. It's very important that that point is understood. This wasn't about me, this wasn't about me being against the war in Iraq, this wasn't about me and my history in Northern Ireland. They didn't know who I was. Only at the very end, when I am sitting ten minutes off the flight, the
guy came back to me and he said "I have got your whole profile. I can see why you are angry. There is nothing in your profile that says you are ineligible for the United States. You are quite clearly not a threat to the United States."

At that point I said to him "OK, then why am I going back to Ireland. Can you not now recognise that and let me get on with my journey?"

He said "No. We have a fax from Immigration in Ireland that says that you are a person that basically is a threat to the United States."

So on the basis of, I don't know where the fax came from, I don't know what possessed somebody at the Immigration in Dublin to send the fax, but simply on the basis of a two- or three-line fax any person leaving Ireland and going to America at this time can be subjected to that kind of treatment.

Morley: Is this the first time that you have been denied entry to the USA?

McAliskey: Yes. And it had nothing to do with me being me, nothing to do with my actions, my history. It had to do with how jumpy and scared and unnerved and irrational the Americans are at this time.

Morley: Where do you intend to take it from here? Are you going to appeal the decision?

McAliskey: Well, there's not much point, it's not about my appealing that decision, because that's not the issue. The issue really is about basic human rights, about freedom of movement and freedom of expression and freedom of personal security. The real issue is that as a citizen of Ireland, information coming from Ireland removed those rights from me and I am not sure if the American citizen who took that action is amenable to the law in Ireland.
That would be the bit that to me is important, is whether that bit of Dublin that American Immigration controls, if a person behaves wrongly, which that person did, if a person, just because they take a notion of doing it, can actually restrict my rights, I must have some right under the Irish Constitution to know who did that, why they did it and what remedy I have. So I will be writing to Department of Foreign Affairs, but my suspicion is that we have leased that portion to America and that we have no protection of our rights against American Immigration at Dublin Airport.

Morley: I rang the American Embassy this morning and there was just a blanket refusal to discuss the case at all.

McAliskey: Well we will see if they refuse to discuss it in the High Court.



Index: Current Articles + Latest News and Views + Book Reviews + Letters + Archives

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



Follow the path of the unsafe, independent thinker. Expose your ideas to the dangers of controversy. Speak your mind and fear less the label of 'crackpot' than the stigma of conformity. And on issues that seem important to you, stand up and be counted at any cost.
- Thomas J. Watson

Index: Current Articles

6 March 2003


Other Articles From This Issue:


Disobedient Republicanism
Anthony McIntyre


Interview With Bernadette McAliskey
Breandán Morley


Why We Should Legalise Hard Drugs
Henry McDonald


Day X & Beyond

Davy Carlin



Brian Mór


27 February 2003


Blair in Belfast
Sean Smyth


Bernadette Devlin McAliskey Deported from USA
Tommy McKearney


Sinn Fein's Helpful Hints for Upholding Harmony
Eamon Lynch


Jomo Kenyata in the Mau Mau - Never

John Nixon


What Practical Alternatives To Provo Republicanism exist?

Seaghán Ó Dubhslaine


Caoimhe Butterly
Anthony McIntyre


'The Left Isn't Listening' - Really Mr Cohen?

Paul de Rooij


Israel's Proxy War?

M. Shahid Alam


Jack Holland And The Obsolescence Of Republican Socialism
Liam O Ruairc




The Blanket




Latest News & Views
Index: Current Articles
Book Reviews
The Blanket Magazine Winter 2002
Republican Voices