Former Irish political prisoner Pól Brennan was deported from the US today [Friday], returning to Ireland for the first time in 25 years.
Mr Brennan, who escaped Long Kesh in the famous mass breakout of 1983, settled in the US following his escape. Despite having lived openly and legally in California for decades, Pól was deported for presenting an expired work permit.
“I was shackled, hands and feet, the whole way,” Mr Brennan said. “And the plane was as cold as a refrigerator once we got out over the Atlantic,” he added.
A US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) spokesperson explained the use of shackles with the comment that Mr Brennan had significant “criminal convictions”.
After his successful escape from the H-Blocks, Mr Brennan met US citizen Joanna Volz. They married and together with her daughter Molly, they lived peacefully in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Along with fellow escapees Kevin Artt, Terry Kirby and Jim Smyth -- the original H-Block 4 -- he fought British extradition efforts.
Although Smyth was extradited in 1996, four years later, following the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, Britain scrapped its seven-year extradition case against the other three.
In January last year, Mr Brennan was detained at a Texas checkpoint over an expired work permit. He had applied for its renewal on time, but never received it.
For almost all of his campaign against deportation since, Mr Brennan was detained at the hellish Port Isabel immigration detention centre in Los Fresnos, Texas.
Mr Brennan was flown to Ireland on Thursday after a last-minute campaign failed to have Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano stay deportation ruling against him.
He was driven to an airport at Harlingen, Texas before being flown to Norfolk, Virginia. After a stopover of several hours, he was flown to Shannon where he was met by family members.
A Belfast native, Mr Brennan said he hasn’t decided when he is going to return home. Despite the release of political prisoners arising from the peace process, Mr Brennan still faces the possibility of arrest and imprisonment in British jurisdiction.