After 17 months behind bars in Texas, a former IRA prisoner who has lived in the U.S. for over 25 years is due to be deported to Ireland at the end of this week -- and is facing more jail time in Ireland if a Northern Ireland politician has anything to do with it.
Pol Brennan, 56, had his deportation cancelled in late June because Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano had agreed to review his case in depth.
Brennan’s lawyers fought that he should have been granted a deportation waiver on the grounds that being deported would cause hardship to his American wife, whom he has been married to for 20 years.
However, Brennan himself received word early this week that he would be sent back to Ireland by the end of the week.
Brennan’s attorney, Beth Feinberg, told the Irish Voice/IrishCentral that although she has not yet received official word of her client’s deportation, Brennan himself was informed.
“We are not done fighting until the last minute. We are still working on some stuff this week,” said Feinberg. “It’s been a devastating turn for him.”
She added that it’s still not too late “to keep efforts up.”
“We have been trying to get in touch with legislators, with the Department of Homeland Security, with Secretary Napolitano, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to urge them to do the right thing and in keeping with the Good Friday Agreement to allow him to remain in the country in the spirit and intent of the peace accord.”
Jeffrey Donaldson, Democratic Unionist Party Member of Parliament and member of the Northern Ireland Assembly, has called on the Northern Secretary Shaun Woodward to begin a course of action that would lead to Brennan being extradited to Northern Ireland and subsequently jailed.
Donaldson said on Tuesday if Brennan is returned to the Republic he will urge the Department of Justice to take action and will write to Justice Minister Dermot Ahern “ seeking his views on the matter and urging him to take action.”
Donaldson cited Brennan’s terrorist conviction in the seventies and his arrest for possessing a firearm in the U.S. in 1993 for his reasoning behind wanting Brennan jailed upon returning to Ireland.
“This would suggest that he may represent a public risk were he to return to Northern Ireland or even the Republic of Ireland,” said Donaldson.
“I am now publicly calling on the secretary of state to set procedures in place for Brennan to be returned to jail. He has a remaining sentence to be served for terrorist crimes, and he committed another criminal offense whilst escaping from the Maze.”
Brennan, who hails from Belfast, has been detained in Port Isabel Detention Center in Los Fresnos, Texas since he was arrested in January 2008.
Brennan was traveling with his wife Joanna Volz on the way to visit a mutual friend in Texas when he was detained at an immigration checkpoint because his work permit had expired. Brennan, who has a 2005 misdemeanor assault conviction, had applied to have it renewed and was awaiting word from authorities.
In 1976, Brennan, armed with a handgun, was arrested while moving explosives through Belfast. A year later he was sentenced to 16 years in jail.
In 1983, Brennan was one of the 38 IRA prisoners who escaped the Maze Prison. Months after the escape, Brennan moved to the U.S. to start a new a life.
In 1993, Brennan was arrested in Berkeley, California after applying for a U.S. passport using a false name. Brennan was released on bail.
During the 90’s England requested his extradition but in the upshot of the Good Friday agreement, Britain dropped its extraction case against him in 2000.
Brennan moved on with his life and worked as a carpenter in San Francisco from 2000 to 2006.
Brennan has received support from the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) as well as Congressmen Peter King and Jim Walsh from New York and Massachusetts Congressman Richard Neal, chairman of he the Friends of Ireland in Congress.
Last November, Brennan told a court in Texas that he feared his life would be in danger if he were deported back to Ireland. He said he hoped for political asylum.
It was revealed in court in Texas that Brennan arrived in the U.S. in 1984 under a false name and later purchased a pistol using same alias.
Brennan’s wife told a newspaper in San Antonio, Texas that she would not be joining her husband in Ireland. She has an elderly mother that she takes care of in the U.S.
“As I told the judge, I’ve got commitments in Texas, grandchildren in Seattle,” she said Sunday. “And now I’ve got a husband in Ireland.”
It is unlikely that Volz would see her husband before his deportation.
Volz, who said that her husband had an Irish passport, attacked the U.S. authorities for “going against the spirit of the agreement” in deporting him over an immigration offense.