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Bartender Tied to Murders Is Deported

The O.C. man's saga began with a 1988 funeral in N. Ireland that turned violent.

September 26, 2006|H.G. Reza | Times Staff Writer

A Seal Beach bartender who charmed patrons by singing Irish ballads was deported Sunday, one month after an immigration appeals court ordered him removed from the United States for his role in the murder of two British soldiers 18 years ago.

Sean O'Cealleagh was returned to Ireland aboard a commercial flight under the escort of two federal immigration officers, U.S. officials said. His deportation ended a nearly three-year effort by Immigration and Customs Enforcement to remove him from the United States after giving him permission to live here in 2001.

ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice said O'Cealleagh's removal came three days after an immigration judge in San Pedro signed the final deportation order. This month, a federal judge had denied a petition to allow him to remain free while he contested deportation, Kice said.

O'Cealleagh, 37, who lived in Westminster, is married to a U.S. citizen and has a young son. His family did not accompany him back to Ireland, Kice said.

A British court convicted him in 1990 of aiding and abetting the murders of two British corporals in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The soldiers were pulled from their car and shot at an Irish Republican Army funeral in 1988, according to an ICE news release.

Sentenced to life, he was released after eight years and immigrated to America. He had lived in the U.S. legally for three years when immigration officers detained him at Los Angeles International Airport in February 2004 upon his return from Northern Ireland. Immigration authorities said he should never have been allowed into the U.S. because of his conviction.

An immigration judge in April 2004 blocked the government's effort to deport him, ruling that his conviction was for a "purely political offense." The government appealed and an immigration appeals board overruled the judge in August.

A few days after the board's ruling, O'Cealleagh was taken into custody and jailed until his deportation. Immigration Judge Rose C. Peters, who initially blocked O'Cealleagh's deportation, signed the removal order Thursday.

His attorney, Jim Byrne of San Francisco, did not return calls Monday.

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hgreza@latimes.com

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