An Armagh man who claimed he was a terrorist on board a transatlantic flight will be deported from America, US authorities said today.
Aiden Mackle, 44, of Portadown, Co Armagh, was sentenced to 116 days in jail, time he has already served, for disrupting a flight from Atlanta, Georgia, to Dublin in the early hours of March 1.
Mackle told flight attendants he was a terrorist who knew Osama bin Laden and assaulted a Delta Air Lines employee who tried to calm him down after he was caught smoking in the toilet.
The US district court in Bangor, Maine, heard he was a recovering alcoholic with a mental health disorder who pleaded guilty in April to interfering with a flight crew and assaulting a member of a flight crew.
Sentencing Mackle yesterday, judge John Woodcock told him: “By invoking the name of the most notorious terrorist this country has ever seen, you could not have been more provocative,” the Bangor Daily News reported.
In court, Mackle sat directly in front of a portrait of former US special envoy to Northern Ireland George J Mitchell, who played a key role in negotiations which led to the Good Friday agreement.
Judge Woodcock said he found it “highly ironic” that a citizen of Northern Ireland would appear in the federal courtroom where Mr Mitchell once presided as a judge.
“More than any other American, he represents peace in Northern Ireland,” judge Woodcock said.
Mackle told the judge: “I completely and totally apologise to the people on this flight.
“This is something they should not have had to put up with, but the people who have suffered most are my parents and sister. My life has changed for the better (because of my arrest).”
The court heard Mackle, who was on his way home after visiting family and friends in California, was not taking his medication and was drinking heavily when he left Atlanta for Dublin at about 9.10pm on February 29.
After drinking four small bottles of wine he became unruly and had to be pinned down by the crew on board.
The judge said that the airline bore some responsibility for the incident for continuing to serve Mackle alcohol when he apparently was clearly intoxicated.
However, he added that he would not blame the victim and that Mackle was responsible for his actions.