Former IRA prisoner Pol Brennan

A former IRA prisoner who escaped from the Maze prison in Northern Ireland in 1983 looks set to lose his fight against deportation.

Pol Brennan, who is currently being held in a detention center in Texas, said that he had been informed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement that his appeal against deportation had failed, and that he is to be deported as soon as possible.

A supporter of Brennan’s, Katherine McCabe, said in an e-mail message on Friday that there was only a week to act to prevent the deportation.

Brennan's Web site urges people to write to the Director of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, and ask her to not apply a part of the Immigration and Nationality that deals with terrorist-related grounds, which are being used to deport Brennan.

Brennan was arrested in Northern Ireland in 1976, and sentenced to 16 years in prison, for IRA membership and possession of explosives.

While in the Maze Prison, he joined the so-called “Dirty Protest”, and refused to wear prison clothes. At one stage, he shared a prison cell with Bobby Sands, who later died on hunger strike.

Brennan was one of the 38 IRA prisoners who escaped from the Maze in September 1983. He entered the U.S. months later, and was eventually caught by the U.S authorities in Berkeley, California in 1993. That decade saw him be released on bail twice, and fight a legal battle with the authorities against his extradition, which was being sought by the British authorities.

In 2000, the British government said that it was dropping the extradition request, as part of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

From 2000-2006, Brennan was granted a succession of work permits, and lived in San Francisco where he worked as a carpenter.

In January 2008, while driving with his American wife Joanna Volz to visit friends in Texas, Brennan was detained at an immigration checkpoint because his work permit had expired.

Although he'd applied to renew his permit, authorities hadn't yet sent it to him by the time he was stopped. He has been in U.S. custody ever since.

Brennan told a Texas court last November that he was hoping for political asylum and a green card on the basis of his marriage to Joanna Volz. 

He told the court he feared he would be attacked if he were to be sent back to Ireland. 

The court heard that Brennan's entered the U.S. in 1984 using a false name, later purchasing a targeting pistol using that alias, as proof of his alleged criminal tendencies. 

The court also noted a 2005 misdemeanor assault conviction, which Brennan received after an altercation with San Francisco contractor who'd refused to pay him $1,000 in wages owed. 

Although Brennan has always insisted that the contractor assaulted him first, on advice from his lawyer he eventually pleaded guilty and subsequently paid a $1,500 fine and performed 500 hours of community service. 

Brennan’s fight against deportation has attracted considerable attention. In July 2008, three congressmen - New York Republicans Peter King and Jim Walsh, and Massachusetts Democrat Richard Neal - called for Brennan to be granted bail pending the outcome of deportation proceedings against him. 

They insisted that Brennan was not a flight risk, and cited the fact that he had twice been bailed from U.S. jails without incident when Britain was seeking his extradition in the 1990s. 

Sinn Fein Assembly member Raymond McCartney has also urged the Director of Homeland Security not to deport Brennan. 

“Pól Brennan has made a new life for himself in the USA. He is married to an American citizen for over 20 years and that is where Pól’s life now is,” McCartney said. 

“The decision of a federal appeal court to deport Pól back to Ireland is hugely disappointing and in reality means Pol’s last chance of staying in the USA lies with the Director of Homeland Security.” 

Mike Cleveland, a spokesman for Brennan, told IrishCentral that the letter-writing campaign to the Director of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, was “very much a last throw of the dice.” 

“However, I can say at this point that we are getting a pretty remarkable response. There’s still some hope.”