With the reported assistance of the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs, Jackie McDonald and three other representatives of the ‘good’ UDA secured the necessary visas and are now in the US. Travelling on their British passports, natch. Now-Senator Martin McAleese continues to assist as they meet some familar names. The Irish Times’ Lara Marlowe reports
The trip is not a fundraising mission. Because of their paramilitary pasts, the state department had to provide waivers for them to receive US visas.
Mr McDonald, who served five years in prison for paramilitary activities, captivated the audience at a reception which was co-hosted by Norman Huston, the director of the Northern Ireland bureau, and Ambassador Michael Collins at Mr Huston’s home on Tuesday evening. Mr McDonald said his self-esteem increased when he joined the UDA as a young man. But the situation deteriorated rapidly, destroying his marriage and led much later to an attempted suicide by his daughter.
In Congressman King’s office yesterday, Mr McDonald said Senator McAleese “made it easier for some people who had kept their distance . . . to be associated with us”. John Bunting said it was important for loyalists “to keep that link with the Áras” after the presidential election because there had been “a fear of the Áras from people in our communities.”
Jackie McDonald was always keen for the UDA to be “afforded the luxuries that Sinn Féin and the IRA were afforded…”
[Jackie McDonald for President of Ireland! – Ed] Well, he’s a ‘peace-maker’ too…