By Ray O’Hanlon
The San Francisco-based human rights organization Northern Ireland Alert has just released its second annual Northern Ireland Congressional Scorecard, which rates members of the House and Senate in terms of a variety of issues. A total of 27 categories are listed ranging from human rights cases in the North itself, the deportees in the U.S., the MacBride Principles and the Great Hunger commemorative stamp.
In the Senate, New Jersey’s Robert Torricelli comes out on top in terms of lending his support to various resolutions and letters. He was followed by Chris Dodd, Alfonse D’Amato, Ted Kennedy, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Connie Mack, Carol Moseley-Braun, Patrick Leahy and so on. Every member of the Senate signed on to at least one item, so there’s hope for all of them. For a few of them, that one item was Senate Resolution 59, the annual exercise in declaring March as Irish American Heritage Month. A no brainer.
But a few in the House managed to keeps their nibs completely dry. Most notable of the House laggards, according to the report, has been GOP Whip Dick Armey, who clearly has forgotten all that Irish blood shed to make Texas a place not to mess with. The top signer in the House is — no surprises here — Peter King. He is closely followed by fellow Ad Hoc Committee chairs Richard Neal, Ben Gilman and the outgoing Tom Manton. Other congressmen with green ink in abundance include Eliot Engel, Bob Menendez, Jim Walsh, Gary Ackerman, Donald Payne and the outgoing Joe Kennedy.
His word is his bond
New York City Comptroller Alan Hevesi hasn’t forgotten his Ireland Peace Bond proposal, unleashed so grandly at a press conference in Cardinal O’Connor’s Manhattan residence back in April 1995. But Hevesi wasn’t planning on raising the issue again publicly until he took a recent broadside from Robert McCartney, the leader of the United Kingdom Unionist Party, a grouping that manages to be rebellious while advocating total integration with the United Kingdom. That’s Northern Ireland politics for you.
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Anyway, McCartney stood up on the floor of the House of Commons to accuse Hevesi of “waving his promises, and his wallet, at Northern Ireland for many years without ever putting his money where his mouth is.” That wallet is a thick one. Hevesi holds the keys as investment advisor to the Big Apple’s pension funds which have a current estimated value of $83 billion. Hevesi spent a good deal less than that in sending out a press release refuting McCartney’s jibe. He said that McCartney’s statement offered further evidence that his commitment to international investment in Northern Ireland “is no greater than his commitment to peace and to the Good Friday Agreement. His attitude has always been an impediment to such investments.”
But what about the bonds? Well, the idea will not ultimately fly without British government backing. Hevesi has been in touch recently with British ministers including Mo Mowlam. He has been told that the British government is “actively reviewing” the peace bond proposal. “IF” is, of course, always actively reviewing things: Buying a mansion in Tahiti, flying to the Moon . . .
Let’s do the Fango
Bord F_ilte’s latest press pack arrived in the mail the other day loaded with reasons why Ireland is the only place in the Solar System to be right now. “IF” doesn’t need much convincing, regardless of the mayhem emerging in the Celtic moggy as a result of the cell phone generation’s penchant for big cars and homes that would make the folks in Beverly Hills blush.
Included in the package was a brochure for Irish health farms, or at least the select few that have made the B.F. approval list. God be with the days when relaxing in Ireland revolved around a few pints in the pub, a bag of chips afterward and a walk next day on a beach not being used in a Steven Spielberg movie. You can turn yourself inside out at these health places through Psychotherapy, Balneo Therapy, Fango Therapy, Aromatherapy, Reflexology as well as tried and tested ways such as cycling, tennis, walking and so forth.
One of the health farms lists a “Doctor on Call,” which is a comforting to know if the “Cell Rejuvenation Treatment” gets a little out of hand. It all looks most impressive in the brochure, but you would think that a more realistic photograph of a man slumped in a sauna would have found its way into this glossy production. Yer man looks like he’s just back from sprinting the Himalayas on a bread and water diet. Another five minutes in the place and he would have vanished in front of the camera.
If “IF” was present at the shooting he would have dragged this poor eejit out for a few pints, a big steak and a bucket of ice cream. Call it Craictherapy.
Steve and Maggie raising dust
Just over two years to go before the 2000 presidential election and the old stagers are beginning to dust off their campaign trail wardrobes. GOP zillionaire Steve Forbes is one. Steve is already recharging his batteries and, according to the Washington Post, will be heading to Iowa this week for a GOP fund-raiser in the company of his old pal Margaret Thatcher. “IF” can only wonder what Maggie has to say to the folks out there in corn country. “Get on your John Deere” perhaps.
Anyway, the travel plans of the fiscally dynamic duo have roused the Washington, D.C.-based Irish National Caucus from its summer slumbers.
Thatcher, needless to say, is a poster girl in the INC hall of shame and the Caucus president, Fr. Sean McManus, is clearly intent on hanging up Forbes on the same wall if he persists in his courting of Dame Maggie.
“Forbes’s association with Maggie Thatcher will give the impression that he himself is anti-Irish Catholic,” McManus thundered in a statement. A bit of a stretch perhaps. Still, the company you keep goes a long way toward creating the image you seek, especially in politics.
McManus refers in his statement to “Maggie, the 1990 book by Chris Ogden in which the author referred to Thatcher’s “natural antipathy toward the Irish, whom she considers, in large part, shiftless, sniveling and spineless.” Our Steve wouldn’t share that view, would he?