This remains true even when the alleged connections go back more than 30 years.
Several recent cases in the United States and Canada, where a handful of former members have fought deportation threats, indicate that the authorities have long memories when it comes to anything to do with the organization. In contrast, proceedings against former members of the IRA have been suspended, and several have been granted status in the U.S.
Since the 1990s, there have been five significant cases involving people who were at one time allegedly connected to the INLA and/or IRSP. They are John Eddy McNichol, Jackie Goodman, Patrick Ward, Malachy McAllister and Sean Mackin. So far, only one — that of Mackin — has resulted in any granting of status. This is despite the fact that the offenses to which they have been linked date back to the 1970s or were relatively minor. The age or seriousness of the accusations has not curtailed the persistence with which the federal authorities have pursued the cases.
McNichol fled to the U.S. in the early 1980s after a history of INLA involvement that lasted from 1974, when the organization was created out of a splinter of the left-wing-leaning Official IRA, to 1976, when he was part of a successful breakout from Long Kesh prison camp where he was being held on murder charges. Though he had cut his links with the group for some seven years before arriving in the U.S., the authorities pursued him relentlessly. Last year, he was ordered deported. Before his lawyer had time to file a staying order, agents of the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement seized him as he went to work one morning, and bundled him handcuffed into a car for deportation to Ireland. In his years in the U.S., spent mostly in Philadelphia, McNichol was, to all accounts, a hardworking and respected member of the community.
Jackie Goodman fled Northern Ireland in 1986 for Canada after being active in the Official IRA and then the INLA since 1970. Though he at time held leadership positions in the INLA, a series of internal coups put his life at risk from former colleagues as the organization began a long slide toward a bloody feud. Goodman cut ties with the INLA about three years before fleeing to Canada. For a brief period he also cooperated with the police as a “supergrass” but later retracted his statements. Goodman has been fighting a deportation battle since the mid-1990s.
Ward, like Goodman, was forced to flee Ireland after he was threatened with death by the then INLA chief of staff, Dominic McGlinchey, whom the press had nicknamed “Mad Dog.” In 1983, Ward had been ordered to murder two relatives of supergrass Harry Kirkpatrick, who the INLA had kidnapped in an attempt to force him to withdraw his testimony. Ward instead alerted gardai, who rescued them. He served two years on a charge of holding people against their will. On Ward’s release, the police supplied him with a ticket to Canada, where his attempts to build a new life for himself ended when, in 1996, he was ordered deported back to Ireland.
McGlinchey’s name figures prominently in the Mackin case also. The violent and unstable chief of staff murdered Gerard “Sparky” Barkley, a friend and close associate of Mackin’s, in October 1983. Mackin believed that he too was under threat. The organization was in a period of turmoil, which eventually sparked one of the bloodiest feuds in recent Irish republican history. But by that time, Mackin had fled to New York. One of those who testified at a deportation hearing on his behalf in 1988 was Patrick Finucane, who was murdered some months later.
His wife won political asylum in 1991 and he, too, was eventually granted status, finally becoming a U.S. citizen.
Malachy McAllister with his family fled to Canada in late 1988 after loyalist gunmen fired through the window of his home in the Lower Ormeau district of South Belfast. As a teenager, McAllister had had some minor involvement with the INLA and served a short sentence. His family had established themselves in their new Canadian home when deportation proceedings were initiated against them. In 1996 they fled once again, this time to the U.S. The McAllisters reconstructed their lives a third time and applied for political asylum. The case has dragged through the courts for seven years. Recently, they have won of the backing of such influential politicians as Sen. Hilary Clinton. Malachy McAllister’s deportation was halted last year, and currently the case is before the federal appeals court.
One obvious explanation for the apparently harsher treatment of alleged INLA suspects in North America is the fact that the organization is regarded as a more erratic, unstable entity than the IRA, even though it has been on ceasefire since 1998. Its Marxist reputation also dogs it. This has had unfortunate consequences for anyone associated — however remotely — with the organization and led to what most observers would regard as extremely unfair treatment at the hands of federal authorities.