Ireland bid adieu to pounds and pence and enthusiastically embraced the new euro. The case of three Irishmen detained in Colombia took a turn with allegations, leveled by defectors from the FARC guerrilla group, that they were aided by the IRA. The State Department, meanwhile, added five loyalist groups to its list of terrorist organizations. U2 received eight Grammy nominations. The row over surplus money from the Westchester County Famine memorial headed for court while in sport, Munster’s rugby team continued to ruck and maul its way through the European Cup competition.
In Belfast, loyalists resumed their protests outside Holy Cross School in the north of the city. In a speech in New York, the Bush administration’s point man on the North, Dr. Richard Haass, pledged continued U.S. commitment to the peace process. Irish boxer Wayne McCullough revived his dormant career with a knockout victory in Las Vegas.
The GAA’s Strategy Review Committee recommended dividing Dublin into two football teams. Liam Neeson attracted rave reviews and large audiences to “The Crucible” on Broadway. Louth Republican Colm Murphy, the only man charged in the 1998 Omagh bombing, was convicted of conspiracy in a Dublin court. He was later sentenced to 14 years.
Derry sadly marked the 30th anniversary of Bloody Sunday. Irish Americans in Boston expressed frustration over the continued refusal of Mayor Thomas Menino to consider marching in the “Southie” St. Patrick’s Day Parade. A bill aimed at repealing Florida’s MacBride Principles law was scrapped. Munster ruggers made it to the European Cup semifinal by the end of the month, but Leinster were knocked out of the competition.
North political leaders Gerry Adams, David Trimble and Mark Durkan, as well as U2’s Bono, came to New York for the heavily hyped World Economic Forum. A debate on the future of Northern Ireland was notable for an acknowledgement by Adams that Unionist consent was needed for a united Ireland. It was also a standout due to the lack of access given the media. A resolution was introduced in the U.S. Senate proposing posthumous citizenship for Irish nationals killed in the Korean War. In a ceremony in a Manhattan hotel, Cardinal Edward Egan was formally installed as grand marshal for the 2003 New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade. The Irish rugby team trounced old rivals Wales in the Six Nations rugby championship. Republic of Ireland soccer manager Mick McCarthy was given a contract extension.
Oops, Allied Irish Bank couldn’t put its finger on $750 million apparently lost by a suspected rogue trader at its Maryland subsidiary Allfirst. Geraldine Finucane came to New York and renewed her call for a full public inquiry into the murder of her husband, Belfast lawyer Pat Finucane. North police chief Ronnie Flanagan announced that he would resign at the end of the month. The National Football League picked up steam in Ireland with All Ireland champions Galway unexpectedly losing to Tyrone.
A mortar attack in Colombia raised questions about IRA training of the FARC guerrillas. Hopes rose for a visit to Ireland in the summer by President Bush. A court settlement was reached in the Westchester famine memorial dispute. Ireland’s rugby team was vanquished 45-11 by England while the Republic’s soccer players beat Russia 2-0 in a friendly.
The man convicted of first-degree manslaughter in the shooting death of Kilkenny native Francis O’Loughlin in a Queens bar was sentenced to 18 years. A row over an inclusive St. Patrick’s Day parade in Queens erupted days before the event. Irish Ambassador to the U.S. Sean O’Huiginn was reassigned to Berlin. Top GAA players in Ireland signaled their discontent over lack of financial compensation for ever more demanding training and match schedules.
March, the month of parades, offered up the now usual mixture of celebration and controversy. Mayor Menino did boycott the Southie parade. The inclusive Queens parade passed off with protests but no serious incidents. U2 won four Grammy Awards. Ireland’s rugby team beat Scotland. Speculation centered on a possible deal, brokered by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, to open Croke Park to soccer.
The Echo dedicated the cover of its St. Patrick’s Day issue to the heroes of 9/11. The edition featured the return of the line of march for the Manhattan parade after an absence of several years. President Mary McAleese became the first serving Irish head of state to review the New York parade. The parade itself was notable for the silent tribute to the 9/11 fallen during which the entire line of marchers stopped, turned and faced south toward the place where the Twin Towers had stood. Irish gay groups protested their now annual exclusion from the parade. U.S.-bound Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble caused uproar, meanwhile, when he called the Republic of Ireland “pathetic, sectarian, mono-ethnic and mono-cultural.” In Washington, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern presented President Bush with the traditional bowl of shamrock.
Speculation grew that the IRA was poised to decommission more weapons. Novelist Tom Flanagan died at age 78. The remains of Sligo native Kieran Gorman, killed in the World Trade Center on 9/11, were flown home for burial in Ireland. Efforts to revive immigration provision 245i were stymied in the U.S. Senate. The pedophile crisis in the Catholic Church reached new levels, particularly in the Boston archdiocese.
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The church’s troubles boiled over in Ireland as well with the resignation of Bishop Brendan Comiskey amid allegations that he mishandled cases of alleged pedophilia on the part of a priest in his diocese. Gerry Adams signaled that he would be a no-show at congressional hearings in Washington into the alleged links between the IRA and the FARC rebels in Colombia. Roy Keane injured his leg and threw his soccer World Cup status into doubt. Several republicans were arrested in Northern Ireland in connection with a break-in and theft of documents from Castlereagh security base. Sinn F