Northern Ireland

Bernadette McAllister: Assylum campaigner ashes returned from US for burial in Belfast

Husband Malachy McAllister deported from US in 2020 after long running campaign

Bernadette and Malachy McAllister meet with Hilary Clinton, Bernadette McAllister died on her 46th birthday just six weeks after being diagnosed with cancer
Bernadette and Malachy McAllister pictured with Hillary Clinton

The ashes of a Belfast woman whose husband fought a long-running battle to avoid deportation from the US will be buried in her home city 20 years after her death.

Bernie McAllister died on her 46th birthday in New Jersey on May 10 2004, after battling against cancer.

At the time of her death, Mrs McAllister’s husband Malachy had been involved in a legal battle to remain in America.

He was sentenced to seven years for his part in an INLA attack on an RUC man in Belfast in 1981 before being released four years later.

Belfast man Malachy McAllister
Malachy McAllister

In 1988 he emigrated with his family to Canada after his home was raked with gunfire in a Red Hand Commando attack.

After being denied asylum in Canada, Mr McAllister, his wife Bernadette and four children moved to the US in 1996.

In 2020 Mr McAllister handed himself over to officials from the US Department of Homeland Security in New Jersey and was later deported back to Ireland.

Mr McAllister’s campaign to remain in the US had received backing from high profile Irish Americans along with political and religious figures.

Now, almost 20 years to the day after her death, Mrs McAllister’s ashes will be buried in her native Belfast.

A memorial will take place in Farnham Street in south Belfast on Saturday morning before her ashes are taken to St Malachy’s Church on Saturday for Mass before being brought to Milltown Cemetery for burial.

Mark Thompson, from Relatives for Justice, said Mrs McAllister’s experience after her Belfast home was attacked by loyalists was one that “often hidden in the complexities of victimhood”.

“From Canada to New York Bernie endured almost two decades of uncertainty,” he said.

“The trauma of which undoubtedly led to illness and ultimately her untimely passing.

“Bernie is one of the many hidden victims of the conflict.”