A man jailed for life over the 1988 killing of two British army corporals in west Belfast has been deported from the U.S.
Sean O Cealleagh, is understood to have arrived in Ireland on Sunday. He flew to Dublin accompanied by US immigration officers.
The 37 year-old had been in US custody since September 1 after the Board of Immigration Appeals ruled he could be deported, throwing out a lower court decision allowing him to stay in America.
O Cealleagh, freed under the Good Friday Agreement after serving eight years as a political prisoner, is married with a son and had been living in California.
He was one of ‘Casement Three’ controversially given life sentences in 1990 for minor roles in the deaths of two British soldiers who drove into the funeral cortege of IRA member Caoimhin MacBradaigh.
Mr O Cealleagh emigrated to the US in 1999, getting a jobs as a bar manager and marrying an American woman. He was granted permanent US residency two years later.
He has repeatedly denied involvement in the killings, pointing out that video evidence shows him only on the periphery as angry mourners attacked the two soldiers, who were subsequently shot by the IRA. He said had never been a member of the IRA.
Mr O Cealleagh was arrested in February 2004 at Los Angeles International Airport as he was returning from a visit to Ireland, where he attended the christening of a nephew.
In 2004, Sean’s lawyer, Jim Byrne, successfully argued that his actions were of a purely political nature. Judge Peters also ruled that Sean could legally stay and work in the US, noting that the trial in the north of Ireland that convicted Sean received widespread criticism.
Earlier this month, the Immigration Board of Appeals overturned the original decision by Judge Peters and said that while the act took place in a political milieu, the motivations were revenge.
O’Cealleagh’s deportation will force his American wife and young son, who live in the Orange County community of Westminster, to move to Ireland, said the family’s friend and neighbor, Gene Wagner.
“They want to be a family,” Wagner said. “Given that he’s not allowed to be here, that’s the only option that they have.”
It’s possible for a deported person to reapply for permission to re-enter the United States, but “it’s a long process and a long shot,” said Jim Hayes, a US deportation officer.
“We still consider him a very serious public safety threat, that was the basis for our attempts to have him removed,” Hayes said.