A few weeks ago, Congressman Steve Rothman, a New Jersey Democrat and member of the House International Relations Committee, put pen to paper and came up with his thoughts on the present state of the Northern Ireland peace process.
"My deepest concern," Rothman said, is that Unionists are actively working to stall the (Good Friday) agreement, a move that they know, if carried on for months, will ultimately kill the accord."
Rothman went on to say that the "strategic decision" to hold the Good Friday Agreement hostage had several dimensions. One of them was that "a significant number" of unionist were opposed to the creation of the Northern Ireland Assembly.
Another dimension, according to Rothman, had more to do with Washington than Belfast: "The Unionist strategy of stalling the accords is also designed to marginalize one of the major forces in support of the agreement, U.S. President Bill Clinton. With only 16 months left in his second term, the Unionists may be figuring that they can wait for the next U.S. leader who they hope will lack the penchant for peace displayed by Mr. Clinton."
Rothman concluded: "Knowing this moment to forge a lasting peace will not last forever, Unionists are cynically trying to bury the accord."
There are those who would agree with this view, those who would not. But beyond what unionists are actually doing is the matter of motive. Is it based on a deep-rooted and quite explicable reluctance to jump into bed with Sinn Féin? Or is it a case, as Rep. Rothman would contend, of outright bloody-minded stalling with a view to killing the Good Friday accord and any chance of power sharing in a new political arrangement?
Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter
Within Sinn Féin, not surprisingly, the feeling is that UUP leader David Trimble is playing public relations games with a view to pulling the agreement down. "It’s not about guns, it’s their fear of an all-Ireland dimension," said one SF source.
"Trimble wants to get us excluded (from the assembly/executive) or provoke us to walk out. De Chastelain would be able to deal with decommissioning in a way that would not bring the whole thing down if he was allowed. Trimble has succeeded in substituting decommissioning for everything else this peace process was about."
If this is the case, the omens are not good even should George
Mitchell manage to cobble together a little more time for supposed negotiation.
Mary & Maggie
General Pinochet should be flattered to be the rope in the tug-of-war between two such formidable women. Maggie Thatcher reckons the former Chilean dictator should be canonized while Mary Robinson, human rights supremo for the United Nations, reckons he should be dumped into a dungeon. It would be quite a debate if someone was able to lure Mary and Maggie into the same room to debate old Augusto and other worldly affairs, past and present. Anyone got Don King’s number?
The U.S. State Department’s website includes a section entitled "Frequently Asked Questions." Eleven are included. Two of them have to do with Ireland, more specifically the IRA. The first asks why the IRA isn’t on the State Department’s current list of terrorist groups. The second question reads: "What happens if the IRA carries out another act of terrorism, such as killing a police officer or blowing up a police station?" The State Dept. replies that it will not speculate on hypothetical situations. "We expect the IRA to adhere to its responsibility to maintain the cease-fire. Obviously, any resumption of violence by the IRA would have a direct impact on the ongoing review." Both questions are quite legitimate, but it’s a curious thing indeed that in a nation of probably more than 270 million souls, roughly 45 million of them Irish American, few or nobody seems to ask State questions about say, allegations of collusion in the wee North, loyalist violence, the assassinations of Pat Finucane and Rosemary Nelson, the latest evidence about Bloody Sunday etc. Curious indeed.
Tipples on the Potomac
All has changed, changed utterly, on the banks of the Potomac. Readers will recall several "IF" reports a while back pointing to serious tensions in matters social between the Embassy of Ireland in Washington and the plenipotentiaries of Britain, a nation whose biggest architectural contribution to the nation’s capital was to burn much of it to the ground back in the days when sheep grazes unsafely outside the White House. Well, out with tension in with tippling. The recent joint fundraiser for the Northern Ireland Voluntary Trust is a clear signal indeed that diplomacy is finally winning over those more devious instincts which apparently prompted her majesty’s emissaries to make an unseemly grab for St. Patrick’s Day and the celebrations surrounding it – the lot of ’em. Perhaps the British taxpayer will be spared the price of at least a few gin and tonics and sausage-rolls come March 17, 2000.
United we trade
"IF" has to admit that Steve Forbes is a man of bold ideas as well as big money. The GOP presidential hopeful popped up in the Wall Street Journal the other day as a result of his proposal that the United Kingdom ditch the European Union and join hands with Uncle Sam. Speaking at a forum in London, Forbes said that as president he would would urge the U.K. to quit the European Union and sign a free-trade agreement with the U.S. and Ireland. Presumably, Big Stevie reckons that the paddies would go along with anything that has the word "free" in it but he clearly has little or no understanding of the deep historical and heartfelt, nay almost loving, feelings between the political rulers of the wee sod…and the European central slush fund in Brussels. Free lolly wins over free trade Steve.
"He called Irishmen, by and large, the best newspapermen around." From the Media Talk column in The New York Times. It refers to Stanley Walker, legendary City Editor of The New York Herald Tribune, whose 1934 book "City Editor" has just been republished by Johns Hopkins University Press."