Sunday, January 29, 2012

U.S. Obligations to UK under Terms of MLAT

Academic freedom is a legally meaningless “quasi-privilege,” and BC’s attempt to apply protected status to academic research makes “no claim of a cognizable federal privilege” Academic researchers have fewer protections against compulsory disclosure than journalists, since “the courts have long recognized the unique role which news reporters play in our constitutional system.” In contrast, “the limited protections afforded news reporters in the context of a grand jury subpoena should be greater than those to be afforded academics engaged in the collection of oral history” Journalism is a protected activity; academic research is not.

While the courts have no discretion in considering subpoenas issued pursuant to MLATs, the executive branch doesn’t have much, either: “In this case, the US-UK MLAT requires that, ‘the Requested Party shall take whatever steps it deems necessary to give effect to requests received from the Requesting Party’…Under the US-UK MLAT, the United States is obligated to obtain the requested documentary evidence in this instance and provide it to the authorities in the UK”


When foreign governments that have entered into MLATs with the United States wish to demand access to confidential academic research materials, the executive branch is compelled by treaty obligations to say yes, the courts have no discretion to say no, and “academic freedom” is a meaningless claim.


Much has been written and many opinions rendered regarding the subpoena request by the British government acting on behalf of the PSNI to compel Boston College to surrender certain information contained on tapes which are part of the “Belfast Project”. Above is outlined the obligations imposed upon the U.S. as a result of being a party to a Mutual Lateral Assistance Treaty (MLAT) with the UK. It seems very clear from the above that “academic freedom” is a legally meaningless claim and the executive branch of our government is compelled by treaty obligations to honor the British request. These international treaty obligations, unfortunately, would certainly “trump” any amount of intervention by American politicians to quash the subpoena request regardless of alleged consequences. This leaves only one solution and that is for the request to be withdrawn by the PSNI by whatever means are necessary.

Jack Meehan, Past National President

Ancient Order of Hibernians in America

Friday, January 27, 2012

Federal Judge Dismisses Case to Block Release of IRA Tapes from Boston College

NEWTON – A federal judge today dismissed a lawsuit by two developers of a Boston College oral history project who sought to block the release of interviews with former members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army to British authorities investigating a decades-old murder.

In a brief hearing, US District Judge William G. Young dismissed the suit brought by former IRA member Anthony McIntyre and Irish journalist Ed Moloney, a researcher and director, respectively, of the Belfast Project, a series of interviews with former IRA members and others about the sectarian strife in Northern Ireland.

“My big problem is with the standing of your clients,” Young told a lawyer for the men, James Cotter, during the hearing.

Young said the men could not act as parties against the subpoena for the tapes brought by federal prosecutors in Boston on behalf of British authorities, because of a treaty that requires both nations to share information that will aid in criminal inquiries.

Cotter argued that the US attorney general did not consider the perils of releasing the materials when he issued the subpoena. He said the First Amendment rights of Moloney, a US citizen, would be violated if the documents are released.

Lawyers for the men have also argued that the safety of McIntyre and his family could be endangered if the tapes are delivered to British law enforcement.

Coincidentally, the hearing was held at Boston College Law School under a long-standing practice of the federal court to bring court proceedings to various law schools.

After today’s hearing, McIntyre’s wife, Carrie Twomey, lashed out at the college, which has distanced itself from the lawsuit brought by the two men.

“Boston College are cowards!” Twomey shouted as she was being escorted from the building by campus police.

The fate of the recordings of the interviews remains uncertain.

British authorities are seeking them to aid in their investigation of the 1972 abduction and murder of Jean McConville, a mother of ten in Belfast whom the IRA has admitted to killing because she was suspected of being an informant.

Last month, Young ordered BC to turn over recordings of former IRA member Dolours Price, who has admitted to her involvement in the murders and disappearances of at least four people, including McConville.

The university had initially balked but complied with the order, but an appeals court blocked prosecutors from turning over the Price materials to the British authorities pending further review. Further arguments on the Price recordings are scheduled for March.

And last week, Young ordered BC to turn over more interviews from the project, an order that the university has said it may appeal.

In a statement, BC declined to comment on today’s ruling from Young on the lawsuit brought by Moloney and McIntyre.

In a related development, US Senator John Kerry on Monday sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asking her to work with British authorities to “reconsider the path they have chosen and revoke their request.”

Kerry wrote that the peace process in Northern Ireland could be harmed by the release of the tapes, an argument that lawyers for McIntyre and Moloney have also raised.

“It would be a tragedy if this process were to upset the delicate balance that has kept the peace and allowed for so much progress in the past 14 years,” Kerry wrote to Clinton.


Now that this issue has enjoyed its one day of fame in the press, perhaps it is time to look at it with the sometimes cruel eye of reality. It has become quite evident from his past and most current rulings that U.S. Federal Court Judge William G. Young has every intention of adhering to the subpoena request and more importantly to the US/UK Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty regardless of intervention by politicians. The chances of his rulings being overturned on appeal are “slim to none”.

Does this mean that the case is lost? Absolutely not. The official transfer of policing and justice powers from Westminster to the Stormont government became effective on 12 April 2010. This means that the PSNI has been under the control of and accountable to the Stormont government since that date. We have been led to believe that the request to subpoena the Belfast Project tapes from Boston College originated from the PSNI. Assuming that this is true, why hasn’t the Stormont government applied whatever amount of pressure is needed to the PSNI to withdraw their subpoena request and allow the entire problem to be resolved in Ireland instead of here in the U.S. If this were done, any perceived threat to the stability of the peace process in Ireland would be removed. Also, the confidentiality agreement between Boston College and the Belfast Project researchers could remain intact and the information contained in the tapes would be sealed until after the death of all those who were interviewed.

Jack Meehan, Past National President

Ancient Order of Hibernians in America

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Hunger-striker's daughter denounces Sinn Féin

Suzanne Breen - Sunday World – 16 January 2012

The daughter of a H-Block hunger-striker has slammed the Sinn Féin leadership claiming they let her father "die for nothing".

Louise Devine says she's "sickened" that the party top brass allegedly rejected a secret British offer which could have saved the last six hunger-strikers' lives – including her father's.

The claim that a substantial British proposal was on the table – first made by ex-Blanketman Richard O'Rawe – was confirmed by recently released British state papers.

Louise Devine is now demanding an urgent meeting with Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness and other key republicans who ran the hunger-strike from the outside.

"I want answers. I'm asking them to meet me face-to-face. They owe me that at the very least," she told the Sunday World.

"I was just five-years-old when I watched my daddy die in agony in a H-Block slum.

"I sat on his bed and he couldn't even see me and my brother because he was blind. I remember the tears running down his face as we left him for the last time."

The Devines are the first family of a dead hunger-striker to denounce the Sinn Féin leadership following recent revelations.

"There's now a mountain of evidence backing Richard O'Rawe's claim that the British made an offer effectively granting four of the prisoners' five demands and that this offer was accepted by the IRA's prison leadership but rejected by the outside leadership," Louise says.

"Had the British proposal been accepted, my father would be alive today. Instead he spent 60 agonising days as his body wasted away on hunger-strike.

"He died for nothing because the British were already willing to meet nearly all the prisoners' demands."

Sinn Féin strongly denies allegations an offer existed which could have saved the men's lives and it unnecessarily prolonged the hunger-strike for electoral gain.

But Louise (35) says she's "beyond anger" at those republicans who reportedly rejected the offer: "How do they live with themselves?

"They knew the suffering the hunger-strikers endured and the filth and squalor in which they lived. They're cold, heartless men."

Mickey Devine, a 27-year-old father of two – know as 'Red Mickey' because of his bright red hair and left-wing politics – was the last of the 10 hunger-strikers to die.

Louise claims Sinn Féin didn't inform her father, nor the INLA of which he was a member, of the secret British offer. "Had daddy known, he would have ended his hunger-strike.

"He was a young man with two children he adored and less than two years left to serve in jail. He'd everything to live for."

Mother-of-five Louise stresses she's "very proud" of her father and his sacrifice: "He died for his comrades. But the knowledge that he didn't need to is destroying me."

She's calling for an independent public inquiry into the hunger-strike: "Sinn Féin demands inquiries into everything that suits them. Let's see if they agree to this."

Louise was just five months' old when her father was arrested for arms' possession in 1977. "As a baby, the prison officers searched my nappy on visits to Long Kesh.

"When I was older, I hated visiting the jail. The screws were very aggressive to Blanketmen's children." Louise's parents' marriage broke up when her father was in prison but she and her brother continued seeing him.

"When he was on the dirty protest, I was afraid of him at first," she admits. "Here was this skinny, smelly man with a beard wearing an old army blanket – and people told me he was my daddy.

"I cried and threw a tantrum, refusing to sit on his knee during one visit, and he looked so sad."

But Louise says her father did everything possible to reach out to her and her brother, Michael og: "He couldn't buy us presents in jail so he made us hankies. They were all he could give us."

She breaks down in tears as she shows the Sunday World one hankie. On it, her father has drawn Mickey Mouse, Tom and Jerry, the Seven Dwarfs and other cartoon characters. "To Louise and Michael from Daddy," Mickey Devine has lovingly written.

Another hankie shows her father and his comrades with faces like monkeys. "Despite everything he was suffering, he was trying to make his kids laugh. He loved us that much," Louise says.

She remembers, in graphic detail, visiting her dying father in the prison hospital. She was only five-years-old and her brother was eight.

"Daddy was lying in bed, covered in bed sores, and in terrible pain. I climbed onto the bed to be near him and my Aunt Margaret said, 'Get down, you'll hurt him.'

"But daddy said in this wee weak voice you could hardly hear, 'She's all right, let her be.' He was just delighted I wasn't scared of him anymore. He held me close and I was so happy."

But Louise is riddled with guilt too: "I remember somebody feeling sorry for me and giving me a bag of cheese and onion crisps when I was on the bus going to the jail.

"I visited daddy stinking of those crisps. How selfish that was of me when he was starving.

"The prison authorities kept a bowl of fruit by his bed. I longed for the big red shiny apple. I knew not to take it but I feel guilty for even wanting it."

Her last visit to her dying father was heart-breaking: "Daddy's organs were collapsing. There was a terrible smell of his rotting flesh as his body broke down.

"He was blind so he couldn't see me or my brother. We sat beside him and he was told, 'Michael is on your left and Louise is on your right'. He held our hands and then he reached up and felt the shape of our faces.

"I remember his cold, skinny hand on my flesh. He mumbled words to us which I couldn't understand. He was drifting in and out of consciousness. His eyes were half open. As we left, tears streamed down his face.

"Michael and I should have been allowed to stay with him to the end. At his wake, I wouldn't leave his coffin."

The children were woken at 8am on August 20 1981 to be told that their father was dead. They were terrified as the INLA fired shots over his coffin. At the graveside, they threw red roses on his coffin.

The rest of Louise's childhood was "hell", she says: "Michael and I were bullied at school. 'Your daddy rubbed shit on his cell wall', 'Your da starved himself to death', other kids shouted.

"We'd come home crying and not go back to school for a week." On her birthday, first communion and Christmas, she'd envy other children "with their intact families and perfect lives".

Mickey Devine's own life – even before prison – was tragic. When he was 11, his father died of leukaemia. A few years later, he came home to find his mother dead from a massive brain tumour.

"Daddy had no family," says Louise. "I've five children. My wee boy Caolan is the image of his grandfather with his red hair and sense of humour. I just want daddy here now to be part of my family. But we've been robbed of him and he's been robbed of us."


The late Billy Thompkins was a very active member of Friends of Irish Freedom in Boston for many years. Billy met and later married Margaret, Mickey Devine’s sister, when she came here to Boston several years ago with a group from Derry to participate in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. They were both active in the Irish American community and good friends of mine. Margaret, better known as Mags, was never one to hide her feelings and often said that she believed there was much more to the Hunger Strikes of 1981 than that which “met the eye of the public”. Her opinion was shared by the family of Mickey's fellow hunger striker, Patsy O'Hara and others. However, anybody who reads stories such as this from family members and books like “Blanketmen” are left to form their own opinion based on any available information and because of the fact that there are two sides to every story and the whole unvarnished truth will, in all probability, never be known.

Jack Meehan, Past National President

Ancient Order of Hibernians in America

Thursday, January 5, 2012

AOH Statement on Proposed E-3 Visa Programs

The Ancient Order of Hibernians is this week praising the emergence of not one, but two bills in Congress that promise E-3 renewable visas to Irish applicants.

In a statement, The order avoided placing itself in between the two bills, one offered by Senate Democrats, and the other by Senate Republicans, and instead focused on the reasons why Ireland should be the recipient of an E-3 visa deal, much in the way that Australia secured one a few years ago.

The statement, signed by National President Seamus Boyle, and Dan Dennehy, the order’s national immigration chairman, reiterated that since its inception 175 years ago, the AOH has been active in working to improve the lives of Irish immigrants.

The statement, which is reproduced here in its near entirety said: “Now celebrating our 175th year, we continue to live up to the preamble of the AOH Constitution which requires that we encourage an equitable U.S. Immigration law for Ireland, and to cooperate with all groups for a fair American immigration policy.

“In the 1960s, AOH members participated in an effort to prevent removal of the quota of Irish visas by the Immigration Act of 1965. Those concerns were proven as successive economic downturns have left many of the Irish without the option to emigrate legally to the U.S. In the last 25 years, AOH has worked with the Irish Immigration Reform Movement, Irish Lobby For Immigration Reform, as well as many other organizations and government officials from the two nations, and elsewhere, to rectify the quota and restore the important cultural exchange between Ireland and the U.S.

“Current events and developments prove our understanding of the need to work with others to meet this goal. One of the great developments of the recent weeks was a videoconference and one week later a teleconference facilitated by the Coalition of Irish Immigration Centers and the Irish embassy.

“In cities across the U.S., Irish immigration advocates, in many cases seeing and speaking live to each other for the first time, shared ideas on the recent moves by Congress.

“AOH, ILIR and Rep. Bruce Morrison, Boston Irish and Chicago Celts and several other advocacy groups outlined recent work towards an Irish E3 and concerns for the undocumented. We look forward to working with all of the groups towards a successful outcome.

“The second and more immediate development is the introduction of two bills that propose an Irish E3. The first bill was proposed by Senators Schumer, Leahy and Durbin and it was quickly followed by the Irish Immigration and Encouragement Act sponsored by Republican Senators Brown (MA) and Kirk (IL).

“While neither bill solves the undocumented issue, they do address future flow from Ireland. The bills would modify the E3 visa, currently available to only Australia and a few select countries. The modifications would recognize Ireland’s excellent education system and allows Irish Nationals with a ‘leaving cert’ or two years experience in a trade to apply for 10,500 two year renewable visas. We are grateful to the sponsors of both of these bills for their recognition of the longstanding inequities relating to immigration from Ireland.

“Right now, AOH members across the U.S. are meeting and reaching out to their U.S. representatives and senators as part of the initiative to secure “the Irish E3 Visa.” The AOH maintains that Ireland has been extremely supportive to U.S. Homeland Security and Defense with the Shannon Stopover of U.S. Troops coming and going from the War On Terror and the innovations of U.S. Customs and Immigration at Ireland’s Shannon and Dublin airports.

“We are asking Congress to thank Ireland with an E3 as it had Australia in 2005. In this way, with 10,500 annual renewable visas, a secure and legal path to immigration will be restored, preventing the need for Irish people to seek less desirable methods to escape the current economic hardships in Ireland and strengthen the bond between our two nations.”



Since the passage of the Donnelly NP-5 and Morrison AA-1 Visa Programs in the 1980's the Ancient Order of Hibernians in America have been strongly in favor and strongly in support of immigration reform legislation which would permanently resolve the plight of our undocumented Irish nationals currently residing in the U.S. Neither of the bills that were submitted recently by Senators Schumer and Brown do anything at all to address those problems. Furthermore, the E-3 Visa is a non-immigrant temporary visa (or more accurately a temporary work permit) which does not allow the holder to adjust his/her status to that of a permanent resident alien. It gives precedence to college graduates who have not yet emigrated here over our undocumented Irish who have been living here for years. Unless and until a bill is submitted that specifically addresses a permanent resolution to the plight of our relatives, friends, neighbors, and Brother Hibernians who are living here out of status, the Ancient Order of Hibernians in America should not allow themselves to be fooled into supporting any bill such as those filed by Schumer and Brown that promise far less.

Yours in our Motto,

Jack Meehan, Past National President

Ancient Order of Hibernians in America

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A Question of Priorities

In accordance with a resolution which was enthusiastically and unanimously passed at our AOH/LAOH National Convention in Boston in 2006, an AOH National Board Committee for Veterans Affairs was created. It was also unanimously approved by the delegates that the sum of $5,000 would be donated by our National Board to agencies providing services to veterans of our own American armed forces. The newly formed committee under the leadership of Chairman John J. Kelly with the approval of our National Board determined that the initial amount would be distributed equally between the Archdiocese for the Military Services and the Wounded Warriors Project. It was my distinct honor, as our National President, to accompany our National Board Chairman of Veterans Affairs when the checks were presented with our sincere hope that they would be, hopefully, the first of many such donations from the members of the Ancient Order of Hibernians in America.

Once again at our National Convention in New Orleans in 2008, the legendary generosity of our members was evident when, in response to another resolution, they enthusiastically approved a similar amount to be donated to our National Committee for Veterans Affairs. We can be justly proud of our members, many of whom are veterans themselves, for recognizing the needs of our American veterans, young and old, and responding so generously to those needs. In the intervening time this very worthy cause has been taken up by several AOH State and County Boards, Divisions, and individual members. The troubling aspect is that, to the best of my knowledge, in the nearly four years since, there have been no further donations made by our AOH National Board for distribution by the National Committee for Veterans Affairs. The obvious question has to be - Why?

It seems to me that either our Annual National Board Christmas Appeal or our Hibernian Charity, or both, would be perfect vehicles to make donations to provide much needed assistance to agencies that provide services to our own American veterans, many of whom have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan with life altering injuries sustained in service to the United States of America.

There seems to be a widely accepted opinion among our members that all of the money donated by our members to our National Board Christmas Appeal each year must be donated to charities in the North of Ireland. This is simply not true. Our State and County Boards, Divisions, and individual members when making donations to the Christmas Appeal or the Hibernian Charity are perfectly within their rights and, very frankly, should be encouraged to specify which charities are to be the recipients of their generosity.

We can be very proud of the fact that our AOH National Board Christmas Appeal for many years provided aid and comfort to the dependents of political prisoners in the North when husbands and fathers were imprisoned for their political beliefs. We also agreed that our help would continue through a transitional period following their release in accordance with the Good Friday Agreement. But, as in every case of recovery, there comes a time when those receiving help from others must take the initiative and provide the necessary steps to complete their own recovery. Eleven years after the closing of Long Kesh and similar institutions where political prisoners were incarcerated should certainly be more than enough time for them to have taken those steps.

The dismal percentage of Divisions that have donated to the Annual Christmas Appeal in recent years may be indicative of the feelings of the membership that perhaps it is time to diversify our donations and identify other worthy recipients for our charitable works. It should be kept in mind that even though our members are extremely proud of their Irish heritage and strive to preserve all aspects of it here in the United States, the Ancient Order of Hibernians in America is an American charitable organization.

Many in our membership are several generations removed from our ancestral homeland. Indeed, many have never set foot in Ireland. Therefore our charitable donations should include worthy causes here at home and throughout the economically depressed island of Ireland. Here at home, I refer specifically to those agencies providing services to our own American freedom fighters., Charity begins at home and we, as Americans, should never miss an opportunity to help those who gave so much to preserve our precious freedom and our cherished American way of life. All gave some, some gave all!

Please give very careful thought to the enormous sacrifices that these valiant young men and women have made for us and exercise your right to specify the recipients of your generosity!

Jack Meehan, Past National President

Ancient Order of Hibernians in America