President Clinton is acutely aware this week that the actions of one’s past can have a profoundly negative effect on one’s present. He is also engaged in a process of asking the American people to forgive him for some of his past deeds. On that basis he, and those in the administration battling on his behalf, might want to consider an act of forgiveness aimed at a group of Irishmen whose past lives in Ireland hang like a Sword of Damocles over their new lives in America.
The men known as "the deportees" remain hostage to the fortunes of the peace process, a process they broadly support. The deportation cases remain suspended based on a decision by Attorney General Janet Reno. One in the group, Charles Caulfield, managed to convince a New York court in a separate case last week that his presence in the U.S. did not pose a threat to society or the nation. Progress has been made. But suspension is not, in the popular phrase of the moment, closure. And so long as the threat of renewed legal action hangs over these men and their American families, their lives cannot be considered in any way normal or fully happy.
There is no suggestion here that President Clinton should make a crude pitch to curry favor with Irish Americans at this, his darkest political hour. In this matter he doesn’t have to. Irish America fully accepts the president’s consistency and concern in the matter of Irish peace and the need to encourage tranquillity where once there was only turmoil. At the same time, a complete ending to the deportations saga would doubtless encourage even more Irish Americans to judge the president and his record on a wider basis than is being generated daily by the single issue of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Apart from that, the president would be doing unto others what he would like done unto him.