ECHOES of The Happenings Around Our Town and Beyond
Diane V. Byrnes, Producer and Host
Echoes of Erin, WEDO 810AM
March 20, 2005
Interview with CIARAN FERRY, Belfast
For those of you who might remember, we had had a conversation with Ciaran Ferry August 2003 when he was still in a Colorado jail, and his wife, Heaven made a three-way connection for us. I want to give you a little bit of background on Ciaran.
Ciarán Ferry was imprisoned by British authorities in March of 1993 after two weapons were found in a car in which he was a passenger. He was held for two years before being tried without a jury under the infamous Diplock court system, and sentenced to 22 years in Long Kesh. He spent seven and a half years in the H-Blocks, being released in the summer of 2000 under the Good Friday Agreement
Ciarán and Heaven Ferry were married in Belfast August 2000. In September of that year, police found Ciarán's personal details and home address on pro-British hit lists. The couple was given a government grant to secure their flat against gun and bomb attack. A few months later, during a Christmas visit to Heaven's family in Colorado , the couple decided to stay in the United States to provide a safer life for the baby they had learned they were expecting.
Ciarán, an Irish citizen, was arrested without a warrant by the Bureau of Customs and Immigration Enforcement (formerly INS) on January 30th, 2003. He was attending a formal interview with his wife, Heaven Ferry , in relation to Ciarán's pending permanent residency application that had been filed a year earlier. Ciarán had been supporting his family for over a year as a landscaper in Denver , Colorado . At the time of the arrest, Mrs. Ferry, was not allowed contact with her husband, and was told that her husband was "being questioned about his past activities in Ireland ." Mr. Ferry, however, was told that subsequent documents verify that the official charge against Ciarán was overstaying his visa.
DVB: Hello Ciaran Ferry again, how are you doing?
CF: Not too bad Diane.
DVB: It's good to talk to you today outside of jail and you being at home.
DVB: Ciaran, why was Homeland Security so intent on keeping you in jail here in the states?
CF: They were more so intent in deporting me. I think a lot of it was to do with the Bush Administration and their approach to immigration after September 11 th . And I think because the Bush Administration had locked up a lot of Muslims, Immigrants and American Muslims; and I think they were thrashing around looking for something to even up the balance; to say ‘ look we are not attacking the Muslims community here '. Then they started targeting the Irish community.
Some of your listeners may know John McNichol was bundled and shackled by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, put on a plane to Ireland and shipped out of the country. John was going to work that morning, and had been living in Philadelphia going on 20 years. There was obviously a consistent pattern, from whether it was the Department of State or Homeland Security or whoever, to target elements of the Irish community in America .
DVB: You were released and sent home just before Christmas this year; but then you were stopped over at JFK and again put in jail, why?
CF: Well, we left Denver International Airport for a connecting flight in Newark ; there were no problems with the flight; I wasn't handcuffed on the flight from Denver to Newark . When we reached Newark and connected onto our Continental flight to Dublin , Ireland ; the plane was taxiing and the pilot came on the intercom and said, ‘ we will have a slight problem here and have to return to the gate and we'll have this thing sorted out in a few moments '. I didn't believe it had anything to do with me because I was with three Immigration agents who were escorting me back to Dublin , basically making sure I left the country.
When six Port Authority Police entered the plane and marched towards my seat, I still didn't think it was anything to do with me until they stopped at my seat and said ‘ Mr. Ferry you have to leave the plane '. I get up and the INS agents accompanying me get up, we had to leave the plane. As soon as I left the plane all hell broke loose. There were several different federal agencies there arguing amongst each other. Basically what they said was that I was on a ‘no fly list', even though I flew from Denver to Newark that day.
They were trying to get another flight. You have to remember this was the 23 rd of December, the day before Christmas Eve. There were a lot of people leaving America to go back to Ireland for Christmas. They couldn't get me on another flight out of Newark so I was put in the Hudson County Jail.
Now the Hudson County Jail, some of your listeners may be aware of, was in the news last year because they were abusing immigrant detainees and they lost their contract with the Department of Homeland Security to house immigrants. Obviously, knowing I was going to the Hudson County Jail put the spooks in me a bit. I have been in a few jails here in Ireland , the Crumlin Road Jail being one of the most infamous ones; but the Hudson County Jail was worse than the Crumlin Road Jail. And Crumlin Road Jail goes back to the Victorian era so you can guess the conditions.
DVB: Oh my. Now Heaven is still here in the US , tell us what she is going to be doing on your behalf Ciaran?
CF: Well we still have two court cases pending, both in the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals; the appeal against the Board of Immigration decision to deny me asylum and an appeal against the Habeas Corpus, which was denied me in Denver District Court. Heaven is basically marshalling that plan. I'm doing whatever I can from this end; obviously trying to get the word out through the good offices of yourself and other people; and trying to provide a little bit of money for Heaven and Fiona back in Denver .
DVB: In light of what has been happening in Northern Ireland today with the allegation of the Provisional IRA and the bank heist; with the rogue members of the Provisional IRA and the murder of Robert McCartney; and the money laundering throughout the island of Ireland and allegations of Provisional involvement; how do you feel your chances of being granted a legal stay in the US will fare; although you are no longer a part of that?
CF: That is correct. Personally I don't think that should have any influence on it; but I don't think people would say ‘hold on a wee second'. Obviously political developments are going to influence what happens; well it already has. I think it is a very bad time for the Irish in America at the minute; anyone who is an Irish Republican, or anyone who is a supporter of Sinn Fein and the peace process. Things are at low ebb, there is no doubt about it; but there has been no evidence whatsoever to suggest that the IRA was involved in the Northern bank robbery, not one shred of evidence.
DVB: It is just because at one time in your life you were a member there and even though people are supposed to be non-judgmental, we know that doesn't always take place.
CF: Yes, I'm not trying to shy away from that. What I am saying is, people will use certain instances against you; it like tarring everyone with the one brush. You have bad apples in every walk of life and of course those incidents are going to reflect back badly on my plate. I'm not too unaware of that. You have to be very careful with the media, with elements within the British Government and other parties in Ireland . They will use it with a big stick to beat everyone who ever was, who ever claims to be, or who ever wanted to be an Irish Republican.
DVB: Oh yes, the Republicans are really getting slaughtered in the media for sure. Now Ciaran do you know if you are you still on any of the loyalist's hit lists?
CF: Oh I'm sure I'm still on the lists. I was found on two lists in fact. I'm sure that information is passed around within the elements of the British murder gangs.
DVB: I expect once you get on a list, you never get taken off, do you?
CF: No, you always have to keep looking over your shoulder and be aware of your whereabouts.
DVB: If things should work out that the US is not positive in your case and you have to remain in Belfast or Ireland ; I expect Heaven and Fiona will eventually move there with you?
CF: That is correct.
DVB: How do you think that would work? Well I guess it is too soon to speculate.
CF: The decision is going to be made for us buy the American court system.
DVB: When is that going to happen?
CF: Diane, it's anybody's guess. It could be six months to a year or it could be longer than that. Because I am no longer in detention, they don't really need to expedite the case as quickly as when I was in detention. But I will make every effort to put Fiona in the safest environment as possible. That meant America for me, what I believed. I don't think I could let Fiona live in Belfast . It's OK for me growing up in Belfast and understanding the dangers and violence in the society we lived in. I'm not going to put my child's health at risk.
DVB: Yes I understand. Well Ciaran I'm going to say so long for now as I have other things to cover in the program. How about if we do this again, maybe once there has been some activity on your case.
CF: Anytime Diane and I appreciate your help. I just want to thank everyone for all the contributions they have made to my family. And to thank the IAUC for all of their work that they have done also.
DVB: Yes they really have. I know you have a website, www.freeciaranferry.com . I expect the website will have continued updates on your situation.
CF: That's correct.
DVB: Well Ciaran we'll do this again. We might have to wait a few months, but we will do it again.
CF: OK Diane, thank you very much.
DVB: You take care Ciaran.OUTRO: Ladies and Gentlemen, I hope you enjoyed that information from Ciaran. I think I would agree with him; I don't think too many Irishmen are safe right now.