The secret life of an IRA man in America has come back to haunt him as his son and daughter have both been involved in separate – and unrelated - deaths.
Sean O’Neill, 49, from Coalisland, County Tyrone has been living a quiet life as a builder and bar owner in Philadelphia for the past 25 years.
However, he is now facing jail time and deportation back to Ireland after pleading guilty to a number of charges including possessions of weapons, immigration and tax fraud charges in a Pennsylvania court on April 16.
The charges came about after a police investigation into the death of Scott Sheridan, who was shot and killed by O’Neill’s son Sean Jr, now 19, in a drunken gun game during Labor Day weekend 2006.
Sean Jr, now 19, shot Sheridan while playing with his father’s gun and the subsequent investigation revealed that O’Neill had been involved with Fianna Na h'Eireann, a now-defunct radical youth group associated with the IRA.
Sean, who was found guilty of juvenile manslaughter, is due to be released this month from his second stint in a juvenile facility.
Meanwhile, his father is out on $1.2 million bail and faces a maximum penalty of 38 years in prison and immediate deportation after the prison term.
O'Neill came to the United States in January 1983 on a six-month visa. In April, he bought a .38-caliber Colt revolver. O'Neill told the gun dealer that he was born in Irving, Texas, and gave a false date of birth, a story he used to purchase at least three more guns in subsequent years, according to the federal affidavit.
Prosecutors say O'Neill lied about his involvement with an IRA-linked youth group when he came to the U.S. in 1983. They say he married under false pretences just so he could stay here and then married his current wife Eileen without ever getting a divorce from his first wife.
Prosecutors are also charging O’Neill with lying on several gun-purchase applications, paying some employees off the books at Maggie O'Neill's Irish Pub in Drexel Hill from 1997 to 2006, and failing to file personal tax returns from 2005 through 2007.
In addition, O’Neill’s daughter, Roisin, 22, is due to stand trial on Monday, April 20, for a death that took place last September.
Roisin, the eldest of O’Neill’s children, is charged with killing a Massachusetts grandmother after she drove up the wrong way on a high way while intoxicated.
Police say that Roisin had a 0.197 blood-alcohol level when she left a bar and drove the wrong way on Interstate 476 early last September.
She apparently traveled three miles before striking the car driven by Patricia Waggoner, 63, of Brimfield, Massachusetts. Waggoner was in the area to visit her grandchildren.
O'Neill Sr. told reporters after the crash that his own legal troubles and potential deportation after a quarter century in the U.S. were "the least of my worries."
"To face every day is just too hard right now," he said as his daughter, arrived for an October court hearing in a wheelchair.
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