A County Tyrone man may be saved from deportation after a High Court in Belfast last month overturned the convictions of two men charged with membership to a radical youth group associated with the IRA in Ireland in the late 1970s.
In May, the High Court in Belfast overturned the convictions of Joseph Fitzpatrick, 48 and Terence Shiels, 47 -- both from Northern Ireland -- who were sentenced as juveniles in separate instances for being members of Fianna na h’Eireann.
Both teenagers at the time signed confessions admitting to being involved with the organization without the presence of a solicitor or an appropriate adult.
Sean O’Neill, 49, was also convicted of being a member of the Fianna na h’Eireann, the IRA’s youth wing, dating back to 1977 when he was 17.
O’Neill, who hails from Coalisland, Co. Tyrone, came to the U.S. 26 years ago and runs a successful construction company. Now the Department of Homeland Security wants to deport him back to Northern Ireland on the premise that when applying for his citizenship, he never said he was charged with membership of Fianna na h’Eireann.
O’Neill’s lawyers, Madden and Finucane in Belfast, have lodged an application to have O’Neill’s membership charge also overturned. If it is successful it would prevent O’Neill from being deported back to Ireland.
O’Neill’s life became exposed when two of his children were both accused of causing the deaths of two separate people in the past few years. Police discovered a silencer at the O’Neill home after his son, Sean Junior, 19, shot a close friend, Scott Sheridan, during a drunken underage gun game in 2004 while playing with his father’s gun.
O’Neill pleaded guilty to possession of weapons, immigration and tax fraud charges on April 16 in a Pennsylvania court.
His son was found guilty of juvenile manslaughter. He has now completed his sentence.
Roisin, the eldest of O’Neill’s children, is charged with killing a 63-year old 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.
O'Neill, who is free on $1.2 million bail secured by real estate, came to the U.S. in January 1983 on a six-month visa. That 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 are also charging O’Neill with lying on several gun-purchase applications, paying some employees off the books at his bar, Maggie O'Neill's Irish Pub, in Drexel Hill from 1997 to 2006, and failing to file personal tax returns from 2005 through 2007.
During their investigation into O’Neill’s business, authorities discovered that O’Neill married his wife Eileen while still officially married to an American woman whom he married to gain residency in the U.S.