By Ray O’Hanlon
Mike McCurry’s office is a comparatively spacious corner of the White House west wing, especially compared with the cramped briefing room next door crammed with the press and all its paraphernalia. The president’s press secretary was taking a few minutes from his crazy schedule one day last week to chat with “IF” about the great question of the month: Who will be the next U.S. Ambassador to Ireland?
Well, if Mike knew anything, he wasn’t about the let either the penny or the name drop. But he was emphatic about the importance of the Dublin post. It has social and diplomatic prestige and any ambassador would be a central figure in what is now a key foreign policy area for the White House.
The identity of the next plenipotentiary extraordinary was also the subject of gossip over a few lunch tables that day and a reception at the Irish Embassy that evening attended by one of the leading “candidates,” Beltway lawyer Paul S. Quinn. But the apparent frontrunner is still former Wyoming governor Michael J. Sullivan. He’s a friend and longtime supporter of President Clinton. Ballsbridge might indeed benefit from a blast of fresh wild west air. But names apart, what is worrying some is that November elections might delay necessary Senate confirmation and that Jean Kennedy Smith’s office might be left vacant for a period of several months as Northern Ireland lumbers on in its efforts to make the peace stronger.
One man’s informer . . .
IRA informer Sean O’Callaghan’s book has finally come to the surface in Ireland. Appropriately entitled “The Informer,” O’Callaghan’s tome has been receiving mixed reviews. Take this from Irish Times Security Correspondent Jim Cusack: “The narrative detail in this book supports his claims about his actions and motivations in a way that was not possible in his journalism of the past three years. The Informer is a milestone in writing about the last 30 years of violence on this island.”
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But, in contrast, here’s Gene Kerrigan in the Irish Independent: “The book comes over as ghost-written. And not just in the usual sense of having been written for O’Callaghan by a professional writer: the tone of the book is flat, dead, as though emanating from someone not quite with us. Although it tells of terrible things done, of death and betrayal, it lacks feeling or depth. O’Callaghan tells us he felt this or believed that, but the words are passionless, unconvincing.”
Even chewing the cud ain’t easy
So what chance for cross-border bodies doing a decent day’s work? It isn’t going to easy if the circumstances behind a recent Irish Times story are anything to go by. Irish agriculture minister Joe Walsh was, according to the IT, “forced to cancel his first formal engagement in Northern Ireland since the Agreement vote.”
Walsh had been lined up address a seminar in Enniskillen jointly organized by the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association and the Northern Ireland Agricultural Producers Association. The subject was an issue that doesn’t exactly dominate street thinking in West Belfast or Portadown: the impact of reform on the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy.
But even the price of bread and milk was deemed too sensitive in these post-agreement times and Walsh’s visit to the wee North was scrubbed at the last minute. The Times report attributed this to “political sensitivities” in the run up to the assembly elections, a run up, by the way, that seems to be attracting little public interest anyway.
The IT report pointed to the Northern Ireland Department of Agriculture as the nerve center for these wounded sensitivities. Walsh’s one man invasion never took place and northern sensitivities have been spared. Spare us!
“I have no had the time, nor, I may add, the inclination to read through this book. I have, however, read pages 690 to 732. There is a great deal of unmitigated filth and obscenity.” British Director of Public Prosecutions, Sir Archibald Bodkin, on James Joyce’s “Ulysses” after a copy was seized by British authorities at Croydon airport, Dec. 22, 1922. From a recent report in The Guardian.