By Ray O’Hanlon
Under pressure on all political fronts, the Good Friday peace agreement is actually going up in public estimation across the water. But up in the Bronx it’s a different story. A group of Irish Americans opposed to the agreement recently met at a Bronx location to discuss coordination of tactics in their continuing campaign to highlight what they believe to be clear flaws in the accord.
These anti-treatyites — whose views are probably best reflected by the impassioned words of one-time Noraid front man Martin Galvin — are not necessarily against a peace process per se, but they are having a hard time swallowing some of the politics that’s going along with the current version. Then again, since when was Irish politics easy to digest (take three speeches, two U-turns and one stab-in-the-back, wash down with 10,000 gallons of unholy water and pray to heaven that you don’t come down with the ragin’ cyncism)? Anyway, the Bronx mutterings would appear to be something of a mirror image of events back in Ireland itself where the massed ranks of the anti-treaty republican movement have been growing restless of late.
"Republican groups are riven by further splits," was the headline over a recent report in the Dublin-published Sunday Business Post. The story paid particular attention to Republican Sinn Féin and tensions among some Northern members, who want to reach out to other republican groups such as the 32 County Sovereignty Movement, and Southern traditionalists, who want to keep RSF pure from outsiders who might be tempted to stray from republican orthodoxy as represented by the policy of abstentionism, and the continued refusal to recognize the legitimacy of the wee South, never mind the even wee-er North. Such North/South tension in RSF is reminiscent of what transpired in Sinn Féin back in the 1980s when the Gerry Adams led Northern young bloods took control of the reins of power long enjoyed by the geezers in Dublin. That little power struggle led to the emergence of two Sinn Féins. Question is, will there soon be a de facto third?
Irish cheer for Alan
Meetings abound. Another recent gathering witnessed the birth of "Irish Americans for Hevesi for Mayor Committee," a group dedicated to seeing New York City Comptroller Alan Hevesi walk through the doors of City Hall as boss. The Democrats will not hold their mayoral primary until September 2001 and the mayoral election itself is not until November of that year, but it’s never too early to start collecting for a candidate, assuming Hevesi is a candidate. A fund-raiser for Hevesi is anticipated within a few weeks and a second meeting of the committee is already slated for Monday, May 10, at 6 p.m. in the downtown Manhattan law offices of O’Dwyer and Bernstien.
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Fund rolls on
The peace process might be in difficulty, but the International Fund for Ireland keeps rolling quietly along and IFI chairman Willie McCarter is in Washington, D.C., this week to make sure that it continues to do just that.
McCarter will be meeting with a number of key figures on Capitol Hill as well as visiting both the Irish and British embassies, the Fund’s twin goalposts in the capital. The U.S. contribution to the IFI since its inception in 1986 currently totals $327 million. In recent years, the U.S. has been keeping its end up with an annual contribution of $19.6 million. That sum is in the budget pipeline once again this year, so it obviously makes sense for McCarter to shake the hand that continues to feed. The IFI money goes to aid employment-related projects in the Six Counties and the border counties of the Republic.
And speaking of border area employment schemes. The Sunday Times of London came out with a whopper over the weekend claiming that a former member of Bill Clinton’s security staff has alleged that the U.S. government backed a CIA scheme to buy off the IRA to encourage a cease-fire in Northern Ireland.
"L. Douglas Brown, a former Arkansas state trooper and CIA contractor, claims in his new book, "Crossfire," that the plan involved the establishment of electronics factories near the border to provide jobs for nationalists and channel money to the terrorist organization," the Times story alleged.
The times continued: "Brown also claims he was offered a well-paid job in the project as an inducement not to give evidence against Clinton in the investigation being conducted by Kenneth Starr, the special prosecutor. . . . The plan was abandoned in 1996, after five years of secret planning and research, because of technical difficulties." Ah, those dear old technical difficulties. The story, which ties the scheme directly to the Clinton White House and even mentions former Clinton adviser Nancy Soderberg along the way, doesn’t quite get into the details as to how money would be fed to the Provos but it all seems to revolve around the production of cell phones, Russian satellites and the need to keep the restless natives along the border so busy on the job that they simply haven’t the time to get up to their nasty terrorist tricks.
It’s a wonder that the British government and MI5 never came up with a scheme like this. After all, they presumably read the Sunday Times every week, a paper that could find sinners in heaven. "IF" was wondering why anyone would want to have the Provos working with electronics. You would think that the CIA, being fierce smart and all, would have had them working in a rather less energetic field — arts and crafts or the like.
Fr. Sean McManus of the Irish National Caucus is well pleased. The recent RUC hearings in Washington before the House International Relations Committee — convened in part because of heightened Caucus interest in the subject of RUC reform — gave the force a black eye. McManus himself spoke of a police tradition in Northern Ireland that "has been one of arming the dominant Protestants and allowing them to police the powerless minority."
He told the committee that the RUC "is 93 percent Protestant, 90 percent male, and 100 percent Unionist" and that a new police service for Northern Ireland "is desperately needed."
After years of battling in the trenches on behalf the MacBride Principles, the Caucus is well-versed in the art of stirring up the political dust in Washington and beyond. Does that mean the emergence of a MacBride-like series of principles aimed at changing the way Northern Ireland is policed?