By Patrick Markey
Federal officials have opened a preliminary investigation into the allegations of exploitation surrounding the death of an Irish immigrant, Liam Mason, who was found hanged in a Bronx park last month.
Investigators from the US Department of Labor are looking into allegations that Mason was forced to work long hours for very little pay, and into the concerns about how employment practices may have contributed to the young man’s death, officials said.
Department of Labor officials are looking into the matter and communicating with other federal, state and local agencies and with worker organizations, David Saltz, a Department of Labor spokesman, said.
“There is a preliminary investigation to ascertain whether any labor violations have taken place because of allegations that these employees were not paid or not paid regularly,” said Dominick Denato, a wage and hour representative at the Department of Labor New Jersey office.
A spokesman for the U.S. Attorneys Office for the District of New Jersey said the office would not confirm that any investigation was under way by their investigators.
Mason, 23, an immigrant from County Monaghan, hanged himself in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx four months after arriving in the United States. Friends of the dead man said he had been promised $600 to $1,000 a week to work on a New Jersey paving and cementing project by a man who recruited him in Ireland four months earlier.
After he and several other men were allegedly left without cash in their New Jersey motel, Mason stayed with friends from Monaghan in Yonkers. After a final failed attempt to get a flight home to Ireland, he returned from the airport to the Bronx, where he was found hanged from a tree branch two days later. Friends of Mason claim the subcontractor was Irish and was now back in Ireland.
Brian O’Dwyer, chairman of the Emerald Isle Immigration Center, and Joe Jamison, director of the Irish American Labor Coalition, last week sent duplicate letters to federal officials urging them to investigate the allegations of exploitation. Last Friday in Washington, D.C., O’Dwyer and Jamison, along with other Irish American labor representatives, met with Marvin Krislov, solicitor for the Department of Labor, and John Frasier, acting administrator for the department’s wage and hour division.
Walter Kane, a representative of the Irish American Labor Coalition who also attended the meeting in Washington, said officials were also considering looking into how pervasive the problem of exploitation is in the Irish community. Department of Labor investigators were not concerned with the immigration status of victims, but rather in the labor regulations broken, he said.
Anyone with information on the Mason case or exploitation should contact Brian O’Dwyer at (212) 571-7100, Dominick Denato at the Department of Labor, District of New Jersey at (609) 989-2247 or the Irish American Labor Coalition at (212) 254-9271.
By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN – A joint Irish-British police operation foiled an attempted incendiary bomb attack Thursday on leading stores in London by dissident republicans, the first time the British capital had been targeted by them.
Four people were arrested in Ireland and six in London, three of them carrying primed incendiary devices, according to Scotland Yard’s anti-terrorist squad. Three men, ages 25, 21 and 19, and one woman, 21, were charged Tuesday with conspiracy to cause explosions. All but the oldest man were also charged with possession of explosive substances. They are to appear in Woolwich court today.
Gardai arrested a man and a woman in Dublin and two other men in Dundalk and Wexford.
The arrests were preceded by a search of a house in Dundalk that resulted in the seizure of documents, two shotguns, ammunition and a quantity of bomb-making components.
All those arrested in Ireland were released after being detained for questioning under the Offenses Against the State Act for two days.
Files in respect of three of them are being prepared for the director of public prosecutions.
A woman arrested in London was also released. Police in Britain can hold suspects for seven days without charge under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.
Security forces on both sides of the Irish Sea are concerned about cooperation between dissident groups since the Northern Ireland peace agreement in April.
The London bombing operation would have been their most ambitious move so far.
It is understood that some of those detained in London are students from universities in Dublin and Belfast who had traveled to London for summer jobs and had not been previously known to the security forces.
On April 2, a substantial car bomb was intercepted as it was about the board a ferry to Britain from Dun Laoghaire. It was believed to have been destined for the British Grand National race meeting at Aintree.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair praised the work of the British and Irish security forces in foiling the bomb attack.
“This has clearly been a very important and successful operation and further reflects the close cooperation that exists between the security forces in the United Kingdom and Ireland as together we defeat terrorism wherever it may exist,” he said in a statement.
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern also congratulated the police and said the actions “provide further evidence of the extremely effective cooperation which is maintained between the security forces on both sides.”
The following are RUC statistics of Northern Ireland violence since the beginning of the Drumcree standoff on July 5 through Sunday:
Attacks on RUC/British Army: 598
Shooting incidents: 19
Bombing incidents: 44
Firebombs recovered by RUC: 2,237
Incidents of firebomb attacks: 621
Damage to homes: 137
Damage to other buildings: 155
Damage to vehicles: 453
RUC officers injured: 70
Number of plastic bullets fired: 751
Number of Catholic churches burned: 10
By Anne Cadwallader
BELFAST – Ninety Catholic families were intimidated or burned out of their homes during the week, hundreds of RUC men were injured, and millions of pounds damage caused to tourism and the economy as Northern Ireland continues to reel from the Drumcree crisis.
Hundreds of Orangemen, meanwhile, remain encamped near Drumcree church in Portadown, protesting the Parades Commission decision to ban their annual march, which was to have been held almost two weeks ago.
As the Orangemen protest is joined nightly by thousands of their brethren, a low level of ethnic cleansing has been going on against vulnerable Catholic families, particularly in the eastern parts of Counties Antrim and Down, including Carrickfergus, Antrim town, Larne, Coleraine in County Derry and parts of Belfast.
One Catholic woman was forced to leave her home of 27 years after it was attacked by firebombs twice within a week. Protestant families who sheltered the Catholic neighbors were also intimidated and forced from home.
The village of Dunloy in County Antrim was besieged for a night by two thousand Orangemen who subsequently issued a military-style statement that they had “taken up positions” and “held” the village to show what they were capable of.
Local people armed with only hurley sticks were prepared to defend the area, but the Orangemen backed off when it became obvious villagers had been forewarned about their arrival.
Loyalists in both the UDA and UVF, the two main extreme Protestant paramilitary groups, were believed involved in widespread violence and intimidation during the week-long Drumcree siege. But they thrown themselves wholeheartedly behind the Orange protest, they would have brought Northern Ireland to a standstill, as they did in 1996, leading to a British government U-turn and forcing an Orange march down the Garvaghy Road.
It seems that although individuals were involved, the two main groups held back from outright participation in violence, for fear of losing their early prison release schemes.
The UDA is being blamed for gun attacks on members of the RUC in north and west Belfast, while the UVF was held responsible for a spate of blast bomb attacks at Drumcree and in Carrickfergus.
Every day of the week-long protest, hundreds of roads were blocked, with motorists advised to stay at home, cross-border trains canceled and no form of public transport in many areas after dark.
Neither group admitted breaking its cease-fire, with the Northern Ireland secretary, Mo Mowlam, threatening to postpone the prisoner-release schemes if they were proved to be involved.
The UDA, prompted by her warning, said any person found rioting would not be accepted onto its wings in the Maze jail, widely seen as an attempt to prevent its members being penalized for the violence.
The RUC-released film showing a gunman equipped with a long-barreled rifle firing at their lines under cover of darkness at Drumcree. The police also put on show catapults, lead weights, ball bearings and other missiles used against its members during the siege.
The UVF is the only group known to have pipe-bomb-making skills, and over 40 of these devices were hurled at the police and soldiers, night after night, in full view of international journalists and camera crews.
At no time, either day or night, was there any overt RUC or British Army presence at the Orange encampment. On Thursday, 20,000 Orangemen and supporters massed there from around County Antrim, the largest attendance of the week.
They crowded down at the 20-ft wide flooded trench, dug out by the British Army, yelling abuse and threats at police and soldiers. Shouts of “traitors,” “sell out to the IRA,” “cowards” and “you are no Ulstermen” are only the more repeatable.
On Thursday night, the sky was riven by huge blasts and at least four policemen were injured, one seriously. The following day more than 100 plastic bullets were fired to keep the Orangemen at bay.
Twenty people were taken to hospital with injuries, including a 21-year-old woman student who lost an eye. When hand-to-hand fighting broke out on the barricade blocking their path to Garvaghy Road, two arrests were made.
The Garvaghy Road resembled an armed camp, with long lines of massive British Army vehicles patrolling day and night and checkpoints at each end. Loyalists would sporadically mount roadblocks, preventing people getting to work or to shops.
More than 50 U.S. and other international observers worked around the clock, equipped with two-way radio contacts, monitoring loyalist and police/army activity. The accents of Boston, New York and New Jersey, in particular, could be heard throughout the week.
The observers were lodged with local families and proved invaluable to the Garvaghy Road Residents’ Committee in providing a buffer zone of neutral witness – and calling for assistance at time of high tension.
David McNarry, a leading Orangeman and member of its Grand Lodge “strategy committee,” caused uproar when he claimed on British radio that the Order “if it had a mind to” could “paralyze” Northern Ireland within hours.
A convoy of 100 cars bringing food, diapers and provisions to Garvaghy Road was ambushed by loyalists close to Portadown and two women and a man injured when a cudgel was thrown through a car window.
RUC men and women who were recognized at the main battlefield in Drumcree were also targeted. A policewoman whose car was set on fire was forced to leave the home she’d lived in for 30 years in Carrickfergus.
New loyalist paramilitary groups, hitherto unknown, sprung up. they are mostly believed to be flags of convenience for loyalists who didn’t want to risk the prisoner release scheme.
There were claims by the “Ulster Loyalist Action Force,” the “Ulster Protestant Association” and the “Protestant Freedom Fighters” who are believed to exist in name only. The “Orange Volunteer Force” was also resurrected and is believed to be behind arson attacks on Catholic churches.
By Anne Cadwallader
BELFAST – Black flags of mourning, black balloons and a somber, resentful silence awaited Orangemen as they crossed the River Lagan into the Nationalist Lower Ormeau Road district on Sunday, July 12.
Catholic residents had voted to stage a “peaceful dignified protest” on one side of the road only, without any attempt to block the parade’s path, as a gesture of respect to the three Quinn brothers, who were killed earlier in the day after a loyalist firebomb attack of their home in Ballymoney.
Heavy rain began pelting down as the Orangemen crossed the Lagan bridge into the area and continued as they marched down to Havelock Bridge, toward the Protestant Donegall Pass area.
Placards reading “March of Shame” were held up, and banners showing the Red Hand of Ulster symbol were pinned to buildings, bearing the caption: “The red hand of Ulster is dripping with innocent blood.”
Orange tunes were forbidden by the Parades Commission between the two bridges, but it did not escape the residents’ attention that at the very moment the first band reached the edge of the area, it struck up “The Sash” at full volume. The second band played “No Surrender,” also at full tilt.
The RUC had swamped the area 28 hours before the march was due to take place, only allowing residents through. There was great anger that, once again, residents were being hemmed in to facilitate an unwanted Orange parade.
After a meeting with local people, however, when assurances were given that no attempt to prevent the parade taking place were given, the blockade was lifted.
John Gormley, a spokesman for the Lower Ormeau Concerned Community, said that their gesture was a “one off” in respect to the grief of the Quinn family, and was not a precedent for allowing the parade to proceed.
He said in the future, the LOCC would oppose parades that did not have the residents’ consent and once again called for dialogue between his group and the Orange Order, who refuse to meet them.
Gormley said he was proud of the people of the area for their forbearance and dignity in the face of Orange provocation and pledged to continue campaigning for dialogue during the year ahead.
A spokesman for the Orange Order in Ballynafeigh, which had been represented at the Drumcree standoff, said the Order fully intended to press for the right to march down the Lower Ormeau in future years.
The weekly Saturday evening Irish community Mass at St. Teresa’s Church in Sunnyside, Queens, will be dedicated this week to the three Quinn brothers. The Mass begins at 7:30. The church is at 44th Street and 50th Avenue.
By Susan Falvella-Garraty
WASHINGTON, D.C. – As for the selection of a replacement for outgoing U.S. ambassador to Ireland, Jean Kennedy-Smith, chances for Senate confirmation during this session are dimming. Michael Sullivan, former Democratic governor of Wyoming, is waiting in the wings as the Clinton administration’s choice.
Because of appropriation bills taking priority on Capitol Hill, the Senate majority leader, Sen. Trent Lott, the Mississippi Republican, said ambassadorial nominations would have to take a back seat while congress sorts out funding issues.
Democrats said the senate Republican leadership is also attempting to stymie several Clinton nominations because of political considerations. It seems the United States’ top post in Phoenix Park will not be filled soon because of Sen. Jesse Helms will not allow James Hormel’s nomination to be ambassador to Luxembourg for consideration by the committee he chairs. Hormel is openly gay.
“It’s a shame that Ireland won’t have an ambassador from here at a very critical time because of a moral litmus test,” said one staff member from Capitol Hill.
The congressional session will end in October to allow for congressional races and will not come back into session until the beginning of next year.
Liam Mason died out of desperation. Friends of the young County Monaghan man have charged that he was driven to killing himself last month by the exploitation he suffered while working in New Jersey. This week, federal officials have said they will open an investigation into those allegations.
With an initial Department of Labor probe comes a chance to find out the truth behind the tragedy of his death. And perhaps an opportunity to hold those allegedly responsible accountable for their actions.
In cities such as New York, Philadelphia and Boston, where underground employment markets flourish, it’s not uncommon to hear tales of construction workers burned financially by unscrupulous employers: nannies duped out of wages and painters left without a weekly pay packet. That may well be one of the risks of working here undocumented. Most move on, and with the help of friends and family start again, putting their unfortunate incidents down to bad luck and experience. Certainly, few suffer such torment as Mason’s colleagues say he did before he died.
But, as is so often the case, it took a tragedy to bring to the surface an issue that many knew existed but few would talk about openly.
If a federal investigation should pin down those responsible for the abuse friends say Mason suffered through his last few months, then it should prove a warning to others who take advantage of illegal workers – workers who often feel they have little choice but to take what is handed to them.
It should also furnish those in similar dire situations with the knowledge that there is help available, that they do have alternatives. Hopefully, this investigation will help prevent the needless waste of another young life.
No battles are ever fought without the loss of blood. But in Northern Ireland, it is usually the blood of innocents that is shed.
A grim and tragic example of this occurred last weekend in Ballymoney, where the three young Quinn brothers perished in the flames of loyalist bigotry as a firebomb consumed their home.
The media was reporting that their deaths stunned Northern Ireland. But Northern Ireland should not have been stunned when every night for the last seven days, loyalist bigots were hurling petrol bombs into Catholic homes and businesses. Something like the tragedy that struck Ballymoney was bound to happen sooner or later. According to statistics published in the Irish Times newspaper, at least 130 Catholic homes in predominantly Protestant housing estates were fire bombed over a period of seven days.
This is no idle campaign, done on the spur of the moment, but a concerted effort by evil bigots to drive Catholics out of Protestant districts in counties Antrim and Down. Fourteen Catholic families in one area alone, around Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim, were forced from their homes. The town’s Catholic population continues to dwindle, thanks to a campaign of terror and intimidation. This was going on while the world’s media was focused on the Orangemen’s standoff at Drumcree. And it continues, even in the wake of the Ballymoney murders, with attacks on Catholic homes the day after the Quinn brothers died.
Of course, what happened at Drumcree and what happened at Ballymoney are far from being unconnected. The Drumcree Orangemen created so much sectarian tension that it could only discharge itself in one way – through blatant attacks on isolated, vulnerable Catholics. This has always been the loyalists’ response when their will is thwarted. They take their anger out on innocent Catholics, though in their warped vision no Catholic is ever innocent. Whatever the standing of individual Orangemen, most of whom are doubtless good-living, decent people, the culture of Orangism is imbued with sectarianism, triumphalism and militaristic bombast. The drunken louts who stagger alongside the Orange marches mouthing obscenities are the real face of Orangism. It is the culture of the soccer hooligan mixed with the politics of fascism.
Alarmed by what they see taking place in an area that is nominally part of the United Kingdom, some in the English media are warning that the events over the last few days in Ballymoney, Belfast and Drumcree, could be the beginning of the end of Britain’s commitment to Northern Ireland. Why should the British tax payer continue to financially support a state in which thugs can hold entire communities to ransom and defy the very government that keeps them from disappearing down the economic drainpipe?
The Orange Order and their hangers on must learn this simple principle about being part of a democratic state: It is that rights come with obligations, privileges with responsibilities.
In the wake of the Quinn brothers’ tragedy it is becoming clear that the Orange Order and the intransigents who tried to use the Drumcree situation to undermine the Belfast Agreement have suffered a resounding defeat.
Over 30 years ago, in Selma, Ala., three young children, all black, were sacrificed on the altar of racial bigotry, in an act that revolted the world and helped spur the civil rights movement to achieve its goals. The deaths of the Quinn brothers might well have the same effect, by starkly demonstrating that the cost of hatred, the price of intransigence, is always too high and that the innocent always pay it. The only alternative is compromise and accommodation.
By John Kelly
When I was a kid in Dublin, the guy who had the greatest potential to create mayhem was the one who owned the ball. Never did an urchin wield such control. If he didn’t like the way the game was going or if he got a sharp boot on the tenderest part of his shinbone, he could spoil the whole epic. All he had to do was pick himself up from the tarmac, grab the ball – his ball – and snarl that he was going home.
No more ball, no more game. That was the end of it. He was always a spoilsport, of course. But you have to be careful with spoilsports. And, most of all, you had to be as gentle as a brain surgeon with the guy who owned the ball. He was a potential chain reaction waiting to detonate with mega effect. The likes of him could destroy an entire day or even a week.
A bit like the Orange Order, in fact. Not alone do they claim to own the ball; they also want to keep kicking the other players around, in full view of the referee. They do it for several weeks every summer. And they play the game with an odd combination of KKK-type militarism and perverted Christianity. Not alone do they own the ball, they want to have it blessed.
My apologies for the unmistakable influence of the World Cup competition in this week’s column, but that’s the way a billion people or so have been thinking for the last few weeks all over the world.
Possession, defense, midfield domination and attack are the buzzwords of the time. That is why one of the most chilling quotations arising from the shocking intimidation at Drumcree and other parts of the North, blew a resounding whistle this week, reminding me of the horrible childhood horror called the “guy who owned the ball.”
Eugene Moloney in the “Irish Independent,” quoted a middle aged farmer facing Portadown’s Garvaghy Road, who said: “If they block us, the country will burn. It’s as simple as that. We’ve our friends all waiting across the province, if we don’t get down. It’s as simple as that. The country will burn. We don’t care. It’s ours, we can do what we like. We don’t care, we can burn it.”
There it is again, the whine of the spoiled kid who shouted: “I don’t care what youze think! I own the ball – and unless youze allow me to score a goal, I’m going home. And so is the ball!”
That sort of kid was bad enough to burn it. He could also kick it over the wall. Or he could take it home. His attitude was that if the world did not play his way, it would not play at all. The only possible response was to grab the ball, belt him over the ear and tell him to go home without it.
That would have been stealing, of course. It might also have led to violence and would certainly beg immediate parental punishment from one side or the other. However, unless this was done or unless, miracle of miracles, one of the other players had enough cash to buy another ball, the game was effectively over.
The Rev. Ian Paisley must have owned the ball when he was a kid; he certainly plays the game as though he did.
The Northern electorate decided very substantially that the peace agreement should be endorsed. They dutifully recorded their votes, understandably to a lesser extent for the members of the new Assembly and the Assembly dutifully sat together for the first time.
Then what happened?
Ten Catholic churches were burned, just for openers.
In a carefully coordinated fashion, the Orange Order displayed its formidable team in strategic areas of the North. It picked the easiest holes in the Nationalist defense, intimidating the opposition, intimidating Mo Mowlam, the Northern secretary, at every opportunity.
Catholic schools were firebombed. Catholic families in isolated houses were surrounded and attacked. The father of a young family from Lurgan broke down and sobbed during a TV interview as he recounted the terror of what he still endured.
Just barely in the background, Big Ian gleefully whipped it all up as Catholic families who are prosperous enough to do so, left the North for their annual trek across the Border to Donegal or much farther afield.
Many do not know if their homes will be intact when they return.
In Dublin and other parts of the Republic, families have invited the beleaguered families to send their children south of the border. One of the main organizers bringing the temporary refugee children to the Center for Peace and Reconciliation in Glencree, tucked in the foothills of the Wicklow Mountains, is Alice Kearns, the mother of Phillip Kearns, kidnapped when he was only 12, believed to have been murdered. The case made newspaper headlines for years.
Thus, the Orange Order, which opposed the peace agreement and the establishment of the Northern Ireland Assembly, only to be roundly beaten in the polls, is now trying to win what it has lost, the overthrow of the agreement.
The Orangemen claim, in unison with Paisley, that they are determined to achieve their aims in a perfectly peaceable fashion.
Tell that to the residents of Dunloy, in the heart of the Paisley constituency in North Antrim, near Harryville, where the local Catholic church and worshipers have been barracked by Orange supporters for some considerable time. In the last week, Nationalists, surrounded by a circle of Orangemen from the surrounding loyalist towns, had to protect their property, holding only hurley sticks in their hands.
The condemnation of Nationalists who opposed the Portadown Orange march is rich, coming from Ian Paisley, a man who first hit the headlines in the 1950s because he organized protests against every display of republican symbolism whether in Nationalist enclaves or not.
It was he who also organized the Divis Street riot in 1964 because residents had dared to hoist the tri-color.
That particular bit of bullying convinced Gerry Adams that he would have to join the republican movement.
Dangerous characters – those kids who owned the ball.