Category: Archive

Envoy scrap

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

Doubt on Obama’s possible commitment to the envoy position surfaced a coupel of weeks ago with the publication of the “Obama Irish Fact Sheet” released on the website of the US-Ireland Alliance.
One line from the three page position paper embossed with the “Obama ’08” official campaign stationery caught the eye of some Obama critics for particular scrutiny.
They interpreted one passage as indicating the viability of envoy position would be in question if Obama wins the presidential election in November.
The line stated: “He (Obama) will consult with the Taoiseach, the British Prime Minister, and party leaders in Northern Ireland to determine whether a special U.S. envoy for Northern Ireland continues to be necessary or whether a senior administration official, serving as point person for Northern Ireland, would be most effective.”
The line prompted an immediate riposte from the McCain campaign with a pledge on behalf of the Republican presidential candidate that a McCain White House would be committed to maintaining an envoy.
Senator Mitchell took much the same tack this week, but regard to an Obama administration.
In an interview given an Irish radio station Mitchell said: “I don’t think there is much doubt that he (Obama) will in fact continue the recent practice of appointing a special representative to the position that I myself held. I don’t think it’s an issue. I think he will do that.”
Mitchell was the first special envoy, appointed by then President Bill Clinton. He went on to shepherd the acceptance of the Good Friday Accord in 1998.
Amid the furor and in response to the McCain pledge, the Obama campaign last week moved to put any question of the Democratic nominee’s support for the Northern Ireland peace process to rest by appointing a group of leading Democrats, Mitchell among them, to advise him on the issue. Obama called this grouping his Irish “dream team.”
In addition to Mitchell, Senators Edward Kennedy, Patrick Leahy, Chris Dodd and Congressmen Richard Neal Joe Crowley and Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley will act as Obama advisors on Irish issues in the coming weeks.
Supporters of Senator John McCain, meanwhile, assert that their candidate does not need a whole phalanx of advisors to help formulate policy on Northern Ireland issues.
“John McCain has been personally engaged in the peace process, so he doesn’t have to be educated by George Mitchell on what’s important and that’s very different than Senator Obama,” said national co-chairman of the Irish American Republicans, Grant Lally, in an interview this week.
Lally is the former president of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, and was a McCain delegate to last week’s GOP convention in St. Paul.
Lally does not accept the assessment of Senator Mitchell that Obama will come through with a continuation of the envoy position.
“It is clear that Barrack Obama, whatever weasel words he might use now, intends to downgrade the relationship with Ireland if he becomes president.
“Both his words and actions means he’s considering eliminating the special envoy position.”
Lally pointed to McCain’s hands on experience as an example of his candidate’s superior bona fides on the North. He said McCain had held multiple meetings personally with political representatives from the North and had conducted numerous visits to Ireland.
In 2005, Senator McCain was highly critical of the IRA in the aftermath of the killing of Robert McCartney and met with his sisters during their visit to Washington during St. Patrick’s Day festivities. He was recognized for his input into the Northern Ireland peace process by the American Ireland Fund.
“The IRA murder of Robert McCartney has unleashed courage at the grassroots level that has been lacking in the leadership of the IRA. People like the five McCartney sisters have bravely said out loud what everyone has known for years that enough is enough,” McCain said at a fund dinner at the time attended by Sinn F

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