By Ray O’Hanlon
Dare one say it, but the lack of white smoke from that recent meeting between the New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade central committee and the comrades from the Ancient Order of Hibernians does not auger well for the future relationship between both parties. It would seem that the AOH delegation, doubtless following its organization’s strict protocol in such situations, presented documents related to the national and New York State leadership’s problems with the New York AOH County Board. This was only going to prompt a shrug of the shoulders and a nothing to do with us reaction from Bill Flynn and his posse. As yer man said in "Cool Hand Luke," "What we have here is a failure to communicate."
For years, the traditional link between the broader AOH membership and the parade was indeed the county board, a grouping that, long ago in a galaxy far away, gave birth to the parade organizing committee. But new layers of parade bureaucracy have taken form, hydra-like, in recent years, so much so that the careworn relationship between the County Board and the parade main players is now, to say the least, tenuous.
Indeed, "IF" would be inclined to sympathize with the AOH leadership inasmuch as every time they attempt to deal with the parade leadership these days there seems to be a new committee springing up out of the corporate carpet. Six degrees of separation hardly explains it. At this stage, signs point to a messy divorce proceeding in parade land to cap several years of apparent separation, though whether the separation was strictly legal is open to some debate. And doubtless there will be just that in the weeks ahead. The only question is at what decibel level. Hopefully, a little lower than it reached at times during the meeting in the Mutual of America offices where, "IF" heard, Messrs. Dunleavy and Barker let rip at their visiting AOH brothers with a barrage worthy of a Fourth of July fireworks display.
As mentioned last week, "IF" recently undertook an undercover mission to the auld sod just to make sure that everybody was behaving themselves. Upon arriving, bleary eyed but expectant at Dublin Airport, "IF" fell off the plane, stumbled through passport control and made for the luggage belt — always a fearful moment, as travelers well know.
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Anyway, progress was being made in that direction when "IF" was stopped cold by a big poster ad welcoming one and all to the Celtic pussycat. Now for the first-time visitor this was a key moment, the point at which the visitor would derive and absorb one of his or her first, and possibly lasting, impressions of the emerald mini-continent.
The sign, big and bright, welcomed travelers to the homeland of the subject matter depicted in the ad. Well, was it the Book of Kells, James Joyce or even the pint of plain? Eh, no. Was it a picture of stunning scenery, the island of saints, scholars and chancers? Nah. Was it indeed a welcome to the land of self-perpetuating internal economies called tribunals? Indeed not.
The sign in fact proclaimed to all that Ireland was the home of a certain pouting boy band. The band members stared sulkily at the weary travelers, most of whom, it must be stressed, did not pause for a moment in their wildebeest-like stampede to the luggage retrieval area.
"IF" reckons that if we’re down to boy bands as national symbols there might as well be a few more of similar ilk in the airport. Bertie Ahern dressed in lederhosen as penance for the Nice referendum finger to Europe perhaps? Sinead O’Connor as a mere singer as opposed to a lesbian-unwed-mother-of-two-engaged-to-be-married-to-a-straight-man-bishop? Bono in wellies warning of the dangers of putting one’s foot in one’s mouth if one’s foot has been within an ass’s roar of an Irish farm subsidized to the hayloft rafters with someone else’s Euros? Ah, Ireland lite, yuv gotta luv it.
Pete vs. Ed.
Newsday urged the Bush administration in an editorial last week to get stuck into Northern Ireland as soon as possible. "It shouldn’t require the resumption of all-out violence in Northern Ireland for Bush to use the prestige of his office on behalf of peace. . . . The White House must move now," opined the Long Island-based daily. The paper also placed particular emphasis on the need for the IRA to "get rid of all armaments."
The editorial prompted an immediate response from Rep. Pete King, whose congressional district is smack in the middle of Newsday territory. King wrote that he had no doubt that the editorial was well intentioned but he took issue with what the said was a "dangerously one-sided" view on the paper’s part. King argued that the IRA had indeed made strides toward putting its weapons beyond use, but that despite this no attention was being paid to the fact that promises of RUC reform and a scaled-down British military presence had not taken place. He further argued that scant attention had been paid to "legal" guns being held by unionists, pipe bomb attacks on Catholic homes by loyalists and other attacks on Catholic kids going to school.
"Sinn Fein is doing its share," King wrote. "It is time for Unionists and the British to do likewise and it is time for Newsday to be more objective in its analysis."
That, of course, will require more than an editorial.
The EU’s expansion might have been delayed a bit by Irish voters, but the expansion of the Irish diplomatic service continues apace. Ireland’s foreign minister, Brian Cowen, in Prague last week on a visit, announced that the wee Republic will be opening embassies in Cyprus, Estonia, the Slovak Republic and Slovenia. Sounds like a World Cup qualifying group.
€ "General and local election results in Northern Ireland show the majority of the people there continue to support the Mitchell Agreement. Results also show that more and more people are frustrated with the political climate there, as voters moved away for the so-called moderate parties — the SDLP and the UUP — in favor of Sinn Fein and the DUP. Such a situation suggests that while Sinn Fein will work for democratic reform, more and more unionists will work against it. Your intervention to see that the terms of the Mitchell Agreement are implemented is therefore vital." "Action Request" in American Irish Political Education Committee newsletter which the PEC wants members to send to President Bush.