IRISH barman Brian O’Boyle is back on the Border after being locked up for more than six weeks in Sydney’s Villawood Immigration Detention Centre.
O’Boyle was last week granted a bridging visa, allowing him to remain in Australia — and Albury — while his permanent residency application is processed.
Relaxing in the beer garden at Brady’s Railway Hotel with his fiance, Mr O’Boyle was at pains to thank those in Albury who had supported him while in detention.
His story created headlines in Ireland when he went to police to report being king hit on Dean Street and found himself behind bars when detectives found he’d been living in the country illegally.
Mr O’Boyle said he had gone to police after being attacked when stepping into a brawl to help a woman.
He said he was oblivious to his immigration status until detectives delivered the bombshell news.
He says he was tricked into paying $600 for a bogus permanent visa at a Melbourne backpacker hostel in 2008.
Irish media ran the headline “Irish Oz hero saves girl ... and gets arrested”.
As the former Paddy’s barman languished in detention with asylum seekers, Albury councillors Daryl Betteridge and Darren Cameron launched a petition calling for his release.
Cr Betteridge said he had collected 123 signatures before he found the Irishman would be freed. He said nearly all those he had spoke to were positive about the campaign.
“The reason he ended up in Villawood sort of struck a chord with people,” Cr Betteridge said.
But The Border Mail has also received a few calls from people with less than glowing reports of the Irishman.
Mr O’Boyle said he had matured in recent years and the worst thing he’d ever been convicted of was being drunk in a public place.
“I’m applying for a visa for Australia, not heaven,” he said.
“I suppose there is always going to be someone you’ve pissed off after 6½ years in a place.”
Mr O’Boyle’s stint in the Sydney detention centre has left him with an intimate knowledge in immigration law and a few interesting tales to tell.
He said as one of the few “white” people in the centre, he was something of a celebrity.
On Christmas Eve, he said an Iranian detainee had become upset by a Christmas-themed reggae party and had almost sparked a riot.
Generally, however, he said the people in detention “were absolutely lovely”.
“Everyone there was kind of in the same boat, pardon the pun,” he said. “People get frustrated.”
Family and friends have stepped in to financially support Mr O’Boyle until his application for permanent residency is processed — he is unable to work while on a bridging visa.
He will apply for a permanent visa under the partner category.