By Ray O’Hanlon
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern’s upcoming visit to New York is expected to include some Fianna Fáil business in between all the pressing official stuff. While much of the media back in the wee sod have been concerned about whether Bertie will be accompanied by his partner, Celia Larkin, "IF" is keeping a close eye on the money — as opposed to honey — trail. According to various reports in Irish papers, Fianna Fáil is currently in debt to the tune of somewhere between $2-3 million.
While this might roughly correspond to the funds set aside by the George W. Bush campaign to keep the man’s cowboy boots clean on the campaign trail, back in the 26 counties two or three mil is no small hill of fatback and beans. The irony of the situation, of course, is that there has never been so much money spoken of in the same breath as the name Fianna Fáil.
However, the problem is that while some FF pockets have been bulging to the point of bursting, some have rather large holes in them. One report a while back even had FF party bosses talking about going after Charlie Haughey and Ray Burke in an effort to retrieve money they feel should not be left in the greased hands of the former taoiseach and minister for foreign affairs.
Against this backdrop, Bertie will have to play the poor mouth. That will be some trick. But as we already know, Ahern has his ways even when the means are elusive. A big question, though. is, with the Shinners buzzing through New York lately like a swarm of locusts, are there any greenbacks left for the plucking by the Soldiers of Destiny? Bet someone else’s bottom dollar there’s one or two.
Irish America’s long arm
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Ed Moloney scored one for investigative journalism with his court victory last week arising from the William Stobie case. But he could not have won alone, as he was quick to acknowledge in his paper, the Sunday Tribune. In this edited extract, Moloney says thanks to those in Gotham who rallied to his side when he had to beam up the Bat Signal: "Patrick Farrelly, formerly of RTE and now a New York-based freelance TV producer, hit upon the idea of recruiting well-known U.S. journalists to the cause, the reasoning being that no-one in Britain or Ireland, government or media, could easily ignore the views of such renowned representatives of a country which enshrined freedom of the press in its constitution.
"He persuaded Pete Hamill, Jim Dwyer, Nat Hentoff, Sydney Schanberg, Peter Finn, Juan Gonzalez, Paul Schwartzman, Jimmy Breslin, James Ridgeway, Terry Golway, Alexander Cockburn and Linda Perney — all of them national figures in U.S. journalism — to put their names to a letter to the Irish Times protesting against the court order. Vincent Browne was later to dismiss them as "media celebrities from New York" but I was proud to have them take up cudgels for me.
"Sandy Boyer, a professional campaign organizer, smoothed the way to human rights groups, arranged interviews on local radio stations and briefed the Irish-American media. Human Rights Watch and the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, both significant civil liberty groups, were won over. The Irish Echo backed the campaign. The Committee on the Administration of Justice in Belfast had already given its support and their combined weight led Amnesty International to join the fray.
"Jo Thomas of the New York Times helped introduce me to the highly prestigious Committee to Protect Journalists which agreed to back the campaign with letters of protest to the British and Irish authorities.
Pat Doherty, aide to the New York City Comptroller, Alan Hevesi, arranged an interview with the New York Times while Hevesi agreed to back the cause with angry letters to Mo Mowlam and Tony Blair.
"Their efforts didn’t end there. Two pickets were mounted outside the British Consulate in New York and a committee set up to coordinate further protests. It all paid off a few days before the first court hearing in Antrim when the U.S. journalists’ letter was published in the Irish Times along with Human Rights Watch’s angry statement denouncing the court order. A powerful momentum was building. " And so it was.
Aussie Go Bragh
Australians will vote this weekend on whether to retain ties to the British monarchy or have unto themselves a rather large wee republic. The problem for the Aussie republicans, however, is not so much monarchists as the fact that the republic on the ballot is half-baked. Rather than promising a constitutional head of state, in this case a president, elected by voters, the proposition is for a president elected by parliament — a politician’s politician. So the republican cause might just come a cropper because many Aussie republicans won’t support it. That will leave Australia’s symbolic leadership in the rather passé hands of QE2 and her governor general.
On another front, Aussie exiles who want to vote one way or the other will have no problem. "IF" called the Australian Consulate in New York the other day and was informed, via a taped message, that voting was possible if a mate/sheila turned up at the consulate with a valid passport. It was also possible to vote by mail. If a mate/sheila left a fax number the Consulate would even send on the appropriate form. And these guys aren’t even a republic yet!
There’s another very wee republic — name withheld due to acute embarrassment with regard to the exile voting rights issue — that could learn something from the mates and sheilas Down Under, even the monarchist ones.
Jim Lyons, President Clinton’s special adviser on economic initiatives for Ireland and the U.S. observer to the International Fund for Ireland, has been nominated by Clinton for the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, a position just one step below the U.S. Supreme Court. Lyons has been steering the economic side of the administration’s Irish policy since 1997. However, the new job might not be easy to get. Senate Republicans are expected to give Lyons a rough ride through the nomination process because he has been close to Clinton for years and has figured in the bustup over Whitewater. No possible replacement for Lyons in the Irish job, should he secure the court nomination, has yet emerged.