By Ray O’Hanlon
“IF” is delighted to see the effort in Congress to obtain visas, even non-immigrant ones, for folks in the wee sod. The proposed Northern Ireland Visas for Peace and Reconciliation bill is indeed a worthy idea. However, even assuming that the measure passes and applications pour in from north of the Rio Not So Grande, “IF” was wondering how the matter of run-ins with the law will come into the picture. As a rule, a criminal record disbars a U.S. visa applicant and this might lead to problems with the peace visas.
Let’s face it, it would be hard to find 50,000 people from the disadvantaged areas of the North who have, at no time in their lives, thrown themselves head first into an RUC baton. There might yet be eager applicants who find their chances of a new start in America hindered by the imprint of a police boot on their backsides, or a filed-away record outlining heroic deeds such as being caught in possession of a milk bottle containing liquid not destined for the old man’s lawnmower.
If these visas are truly to be the offspring of peace and reconciliation, the matter of past deeds not entirely in keeping with the expectations of a normal society will have to be addressed, not just by Congress, but also by the authorities in Northern Ireland. If this potential glitch is ignored, “IF” reckons the only way of using up the entire 50,000 visa total will be to accept applicants who are still wearing diapers.
Dan’s road to Damascus?
“IF” was stopped cold by the recent Daily News letter from Daniel Patrick Moynihan lauding Tom Manton. It wasn’t the praise for Manton that caused surprise but the apparent endorsement by the great man of the MacBride Principles. Wrote Dan, in part: “I would like to highlight his service as co-chair of the Ad-Hoc Committee on Irish Affairs, established to promote peace in Northern Ireland, which helped make possible implementation of the McBride (sic) Principles.”
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Eh, for those of you who don’t eat, drink and dream the MacBride Principles, this is rather astonishing. Moynihan once told a group of union leaders back in the mid-’80s that the MacBride campaign was a “sinister plot to destroy the economy of Northern Ireland.” Then again, the fact that MacBride came out as “McBride” might indicate another hand behind the letter. Still, the name under the correspondence was Moynihan’s. Go figure.
Rep. Peter King and Speaker Newt Gingrich have had their differences, to say the least, so it was noticed that the Gingrich-led congressional delegation packing its bags this week for Ireland does not include King, the fiery Long Islander and longtime pal of Sinn FTin. Not to worry. King and Gingrich worked things out during a recent chat at the Dubliner Bar in Washington’s Phoenix Park Hotel. Seems that Gingrich will put in the good word and King will travel to Ireland in early September with President Clinton. That’s the GOP for you — Good ‘Ol Pals.
Just one more Times
What would an “Inside File” be these days without a crack at the New York Times. First though, words of praise for the recent Maureen Dowd column “Of Cabbages and Cops,” which tore strips off all these upcoming TV shows depicting Irish Americans — “Come in for dinner, guys, the potatoes are getting cold” — as feuding, loving, tight-knit, boozing, brooding screwed up, etc. But the line on potatoes, from NBC’s “Trinity,” does strike “IF” as being a tad familiar. Back in the glory days of radio comedy, Irish comic Maureen Potter would play a bawdy Dubliner on RTE whose most stirring line was “Christy, come in here, your dinner’s poured out.” When you reach America you get the spuds.
But back to the Times. Was it really necessary to return to that awful front page photo caption from the Quinn brothers funeral, the one that had the pallbearer pictured as being father of one of the dead boys and “possibly more?” The Times did just that, informing readers a few days later in the Corrections section that the man was actually “not the biological father to any of them.” Lord.
Some of you, meanwhile, probably saw that very flattering July 26 piece in the Times about Jean Kennedy Smith. Well-deserved indeed. But that photo of JKS with Mary McAleese. Was that the real Ted Kennedy standing behind them or one of those cardboard cutout things so beloved by tourists?
Broadside from Bunker Hill
Don’t mess with Boston. Fintan O’Toole of the Irish Times seemingly did in a column debunking Beantown’s recently unveiled Great Hunger memorial. O’Toole’s dim view of this artistic work prompted a letter to the editor on behalf of The Boston Irish Famine Memorial Inc. O’Toole didn’t fancy the memorial at all and pointed to the apparent inconsistency of depicting a starving family fleeing Famine-era Ireland that apparently grew fatter by the time it had reached Boston. There seems indeed to be a clash here between the literal and symbolic, but the IT letter pointed to the differences of view that might take shape through an Irish American as opposed to Irish-Irish eye.
The letter spoke of “an Irish-American identity that is different from, although complementary to, the native Irish identity” and at one point stated: “As Mr. O’Toole spends more time in the U.S., we think he will come to recognize and perhaps even appreciate that Irish-American history overlaps, but does not mirror, Irish history.” “IF” was wondering what O’Toole’s greatest sin might be: Dissing the Boston memorial or, even worse, dissing it from his temporary perch in New York?
Stella, we hardly knew ye
The impressive feat by Irish sprinter Emily Maher in pulling off double sprinting gold in the recent youth Olympics in Moscow merely underlines the fact that Irish sprinting down the years has been devoid of top-class medals. “IF” was scouring the record books and did come up with a Stella Walsh, who won gold in the women’s 100 meters at the 1932 games in Los Angeles. Only problem was, Stella was running for Poland. Upon further inspection, “IF” was more than relieved that she did. A footnote stated: “A 1980 autopsy determined that Walsh was a man.”