By Ray O’Hanlon
One hundred years ago there was a guy named William who was president of the United States. It was not an entirely peaceful time. American soldiers were fighting Filipino nationalists even as the ashes of the war against Spain were cooling down. The U.S. was involved in a partition deal. Not with regard to Ireland of course. That was still some years in the future and the U.S. would keep its distance from that one.
No, the U.S. was negotiating with Germany over the future of the Samoan Islands. Some of Samoa went to Berlin, some went to Washington. From that point on, partition would be an acceptable political solution to William’s successors in the White House.
There’s another William in the White House in 1999. His middle name is Jefferson and his term of office is winding down. He took over the job from a man named George and may yet have to hand over the keys to a guy named George, or even a guy named John.
Back in 1799, there was a guy in the presidency named John who had taken over from a George. He passed the job on to a guy named Jefferson. Lining up to replace William Jefferson whazhisname in 2000 will be a bunch of guys including another named William. And, of course, there’s Al, the odd name out in all of this.
Names apart, partition will loom large for William Jefferson’s successor. Not Samoa’s. The Irish version and the one that will come under ever increasing strain for political, economic and demographic reasons as the new century gets into its stride.
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More than any other airport in Ireland, Shannon contributed to the birth and growth of Irish aviation in the 20th century. But a hallowed place in history might not be enough to keep Shannon’s prospects at high altitude in the century to come.
With Aer Lingus expected to go public in the latter half of 2000, pressure is building on the Irish government to scrap the current policy of requiring one Aer Lingus flight from the U.S. to Shannon for every flight to Dublin. One recent newspaper report suggested that as much as £100 million might be shaved off the value of Aer Lingus in a flotation if the carrier was still obliged to serve Shannon for what are widely perceived to be purely local political reasons.
At present, 95 percent of Aer Lingus is owned by the Irish government, with the other five percent in the hands of the airline’s employees. Should a flotation fall short by a figure even approaching £100 million, there would be an enormous outcry from industry, taxpaying voters and share purchasers outside the immediate Shannon area, which, politically speaking, covers counties Clare and Limerick.
As it stands, the bilateral air treaty between Dublin and Washington requires U.S. carriers and Aer Lingus to include Shannon in their plans. A consequence of this is greater U.S. reluctance to allow Aer Lingus fly into more U.S. cities. On top of all this, the European Union wants to scrap bilaterals altogether and essentially deregulate the skies over the Atlantic, thus letting the market alone decide on points of departure and arrival. Either way, change is in the air for the opening years of the new century.
Moloney to speak
Irish journalist Ed Moloney is expected in Rocky Sullivan’s in Manhattan on Wednesday, Jan. 5, to speak about his recent up close and personal experiences with the forces of law and order in the wee North and his battle to protect sources behind his reports for the Sunday Tribune.
Moloney managed to avoid a prison stint at her majesty’s pleasure, but the whole issue of journalists and the protection afforded them under the law is still a contentious one in Northern Ireland, the Republic and Britain. Moloney’s case ended in what amounted to a legal standoff. Moloney promises to reveal the background to the affair at Rocky’s and more on recent political developments in the North. After his talk there will be something akin to a victory celebration. The night’s business begins at 8.
Howz about brain surgeon?
The story of Irish immigration to America in the 20th century is one that will keep academics toiling well into the wee years of the 21st century. There were the Irish of Ellis Island, the Irish of the 1920s, the GI Bill Irish, the 1950s Irish and the undocumented Irish of the ’80s and ’90s.
In between these peak periods there were also many Irish who headed west for a new life, some of them in circumstances that seem odd, to say the least. Take this pledge, for example. It was delivered by an Irish woman bound for America at the U.S. Embassy in Dublin in 1965. She stated in writing: "I [identity withheld] do solemnly swear that I will not seek or take up employment in the clerical field as a typist, receptionist, or any other related position; in the restaurant industry as a waitress, cashier, or any other related position; in the secretarial field as a shorthand-typist or any other related position; in department, variety, or grocery stores as a salesperson, cashier, or any other related position, involving retail trade; or as a nurses-aide; or any unskilled or semi-skilled occupation in the manufacture of plastic furniture covers and plastic covers in the New York-area which includes the five boroughs of the city proper, the counties of Nassau and Suffolk on Long Island, and the additional counties of Westchester and Rockland, during the period of full employment in those fields certified by the Secretary of Labor in the United States."
This pledge was signed by the woman in the presence of the U.S. Embassy’s vice consul at the time, George J. Peterson. Lord only knows how the signatory to this document survived in her newly adopted country given that she was denied her chance to make millions in the plastic industry. Or maybe she did.
Either way, it would be hard to imagine a young immigrant making a similar promise today: "Yeah, sure, Mr. Vice Consul, I promise I won’t touch a computer when I get to America, really. And construction? No way. Bar and restaurant business. Not a chance. I’m planning to take up brain surgery. So are all me mates waitin’ outside the door."