By Ray O’Hanlon
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern missed his meeting in New York last week with UN Secretary Kofi Annan because the Irish government jet developed a nose wheel problem at Ronald Reagan airport in Washington, D.C. Had the problem happened in Boston earlier in the day, Ahern would have missed his meeting with President Bush at the White House. And that, according to the taoiseach, would have been highly embarrassing.
It was bad enough missing coffee with Kofi, but “IF” has learned that this problem was not exactly a bolt from the blue. It seems that the government jet, a Gulfstream model flown by pilots of the Irish Air Corps, has broken down no fewer that four times and had only recently been returned from a three-month overhaul when Ahern and his party set out for his three-day U.S. visit.
Ahern was nice about the tarmac turmoil when pressed by the traveling — via the shuttle — Irish press pack. “I felt more upset for the Air Corps guys than myself,” he told reporters. Asked if it was time for a new and possibly bigger government plane, the taoiseach kept his response straight and level. “We have to look at all of our options,” he said.
“IF” can only assume a little hyperbole here. A hot air balloon is clearly not on, although there might be something to be said for a dirigible. At least it doesn’t need wheels.
Stormont und drang
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The politicians who inhabit Stormont may have hit — no pun intended — on a good idea when they lashed into each other in the hall outside the assembly chamber last week. Why not do it every week? Rather than have the citizens of the wee North constantly embroiled in a green and orange version of sturm und drang, why not leave it to the politicians to vent on behalf of everybody else?
Every Friday, before they head home for their stewed tea and Ulster fry, they could kick the bejaysus out of each other behind closed doors. A few weeks of this and some of them might even realize how silly all their posturing and faux outrage really looks. Then again, some of them, the literal-minded DUP crowd in particular, probably would not.
The “brawl in the hall” certainly illustrated to the world some of the hard-boiled attitudes that have dragged the North down for far too long. What chance sanity outside Holy Cross school when you’re faced with a scene like the battle of Stormont? Ah well, peace comes swinging slow. Like an uppercut.
There was a time when the opinion poll gap between Michael Bloomberg and Mark Green was on the lines of the distance you might expect between, say, Bob Hope and Osama bin Laden. Bloomberg, despite all his money, looked like he would be hammered out of sight in the New York mayoral race. The figures didn’t worry Irish radio broadcaster Adrian Flannelly, a man who can evidently spot a winner long before the off. Well, at least some of the time.
Flannelly, whose O’Dwyer and Durkan cousins are about as Democratic as they come in New York, put his money on the media mogul, stood back and watched the political frog that was Michael Bloomberg turn himself into a political prince of the city by election day.
“IF” called Flannelly the day after the count to congratulate the man on his astute reading of the mayoral tea leaves. Now, throughout the election campaign, a caller to Flannelly’s show, when put on hold, was treated to the latest news updates courtesy of Bloomberg Radio. But on this day of days, “IF” ended up listening to another all-news radio show. Somebody, Flannelly subsequently explained, had hit the wrong button on the audio machine. Good thing it was “IF” on the line and not the mayor-elect.
With his phone callers again being treated to Bloomberg news, Flannelly is now settling into his already familiar position as the $1-a-year mayor’s liaison to the city’s Irish community. This lone buck will likely be backing George Pataki next fall. Bet on it.
We should all have a mentor. Photographer Oistfn Mac Bride — whose “photobiography” entitled “Family, Friends and Neighbors” was launched at a Mutual of America-sponsored reception last week — looked to the late Peter Maas as his “silent mentor” for many years. Maas, the author of numerous books, including the Troubles-based “Father and Son,” passed away over the summer but not before he penned a tribute for the inside cover of Mac Bride’s book, which reads thus: “His stories and pictures made me weep, angry and anxious to see a resolution to Ireland’s war that has been going on for too long.”
Maas, whose Irish roots were mostly in Donegal, was always there with a good word when needed. The last time “IF” set eyes on the author of “Serpico” was at a book signing in Manhattan for Rep. Pete King. But “IF’s” most abiding memory of the man is as a result of interviewing him in his apartment at the time that “Father and Son” was published in the late 1980s. It’s not just that Maas was an easy and interesting interview. It’s the fact that he served up a roast beef sandwich that still ranks as the best “IF” has ever tasted. Mentors nourish in more ways than one.
Jim McGreevey, the man from Woodbridge/Banbridge, might not be tarrying forever in Trenton. “IF” hears that the newly elected governor of the Garden State is very ambitious and the thought of capturing the White House at some point in the future has crossed the man’s mind. And sure why not? Between now and what might be, of course, there is the matter of governing New Jersey as it, and everywhere else, faces into a deepening recession.
Managing New Jersey’s ship of state will require a lot of savvy and energy, but at just 44, McGreevey is really still in his political boyhood. Before last week’s vote, McGreevey told “IF” that he would be eager as governor to strengthen economic links between New Jersey and Ireland. He reckons the economies of both are similar, with a lot of emphasis on the high-tech and pharmaceutical sectors.
If that be the case, a McGreevey gubernatorial visit to Ireland , north and south, is on the cards in the not to distant future.