Former Irish political prisoner and Maze escapee Pol Brennan was shackled as he was deported on Friday to the Republic of Ireland, where he says he intends to remain “for quite a while” before deciding whether to return to Northern Ireland.
"I was shackled, hands and feet, the whole way," Brennan told the Belfast Telegraph. "And the plane was as cold as a refrigerator once we got out over the Atlantic. “You could have hung meat in that sucker. I couldn’t feel my legs for about six hours. I couldn’t sleep. How could you sleep in a refrigerator?”
A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) official explained that “the restraints were for officer safety and are standard procedure when deporting aliens with criminal convictions. Mr. Brennan had significant criminal convictions.”
Brennan, who had been in America since entering under an alias a year after breaking out of the Maze prison alongside 37 IRA prisoners, said the operation began at 8am Texas time on Thursday.
He said that he was first taken to a processing room at the Port Isabel detention center in Los Fresnos, Texas. Brennan was then taken outside and put into a van and driven in a three-vehicle convoy about 28 miles to an airport at Harlingen, Texas.
The 56-year-old, who has lived in the U.S. for over 25 years, was flown to Norfolk, Virginia on a U.S. Customs and Border Protection aircraft before continuing on to Limerick, Ireland.
Following a series of criminal convictions in Britain and the U.S., the Immigration Judge and the Board of Immigration Appeals ordered that Brennan be deported from the States.
Brennan was detained during the entirety of his removal proceedings, and was housed at the Port Isabel Detention Center in Texas from January 2008 to August 20, 2009.
On the 20th, the deportation process began. The Irishman said that five guards stood watching as he stripped out of his inmates’ clothes and changed into his civilian clothes.
Brennan said: “They then did this very extensive search of me. They searched me for 15 or 20 minutes, all my clothes.”
Brennan's problems in the U.S. go back to 1993 when the FBI found him living under a false name in California. He had escaped from the Maze in 1983 with 37 other IRA prisoners.
In 2000, Britain dropped its extradition efforts and American authorities allowed him to stay in San Francisco while they decided what to do with him.
Unfortunately for Brennan, that arrangement came to an abrupt end when he was stopped at a routine checkpoint in Texas in 2008.
Immigration officers detained him when they discovered that his U.S. work permit had expired.
A pending renewal had not been granted at the time of his detention.
A Texas judge then ruled in November that he should be deported. Brennan's lawyers lost an appeal in April and they failed to get Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano to intervene.