By Ray O’Hanlon
After several years of tough campaigning, Irish Famine stamp boosters got the news they wanted in late 1998. The Postal Service would release a stamp marking the Great Hunger in 1999. At least that was the general understanding. But first sight of the proposed 33 cent commemorative, featured in a recent issue of Stamp Collector, reveals a stamp depicting simply "Irish Immigration." The stamp has a sailing ship arriving in a harbor.
Echo reader Marie Tierney Smith also spotted the stamp coming over the horizon, this time on the web. She’s not a happy camper and argues that the long-awaited Famine stamp has been diluted, compromised and denigrated. "IF wonders why the stamp design people couldn’t have mentioned both the Famine and immigration on the stamp.
Right below the Irish stamp, Stamp Collector featured an upcoming issue that remembers landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. His name in on the top left corner while "Landscape Architect" is on the bottom right. So why not something like "Great Irish Famine" on the top left and "Immigration to America" on the bottom right?
A different airline
It’s been quite a year for Aer Lingus, what with full planes, the bit of competition from Continental and the announcement of a Los Angeles Service in 1999. It’s been a standout one too for the airline’s increasingly visible advertising campaign, which is based on the slogan "We Come From a Different Place."
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There are all sorts of variations popping up in the print press. One ad reads: "Plastic smiles, inattentive attendants, assembly line service. Ever wonder where airlines are coming from?" The ad goes on to draw a contrast between Aer Lingus and all the other, eh, plastic airlines. Another ad declares: "We don’t train our employees to be warm, courteous and caring, they’re raised that way. Where we come from, hospitality is a way of life and good conversation is something of a national pastime."
"IF" senses a familiar ring to all this. It sounds very like the one-time, but clearly not forgotten, Aer Lingus catchphrase, "The Friendly Airline." This is no harm at all, but there’s no way you can be a saint all the time, so if you get the short treatment on an Aer Lingus flight this holiday period, just remember: You come from a different place too!
First Boris, now Nelson
It wasn’t just Boris Yeltsin who was eager to save Ireland. The cause of peace in the wee North was also offered the singular services of Nelson Mandela. But Ulster said no. "IF" understands that Mandela offered to travel to the North to bolster the "Yes" campaign in the wake of the Good Friday accord but that the Ulster Unionist Party vetoed the idea because Mandela is the world’s most famous ex-terrorist who managed to lead his country to peace without any decommissioning.
The SDLP, too, was apparently reluctant. The party apparently felt that high-profile outsiders, however well intentioned, could prompt a negative local reaction in the referendum vote. The wee North is a tough town indeed.
The elusive line beckons
Maureen O’Hara is a grand choice to lead the New York line of march on St. Patrick’s Day. But what of the line of march itself? Will it make a return to the pages of the Irish papers, remain confined to the city’s Catholic papers, or simply vanish into the mists of history? Time will tell.
Meanwhile, ILGO hasn’t been hanging around. Little posters have been popping up about the place posing the question: "Who’s nine and still can’t walk?" The posters urge people to protest ILGO’s exclusion from the parade, a cold shoulder that will indeed be 9 years old on March 17. The line of March, the nine of March. There’s a verse in this somewhere.
Meanwhile, Maureen seems to be a big favorite over at the New York Post, where ex-Echo hack John O’Mahony secured the top of Page 12 for the lady who gave John Wayne more trouble than all the Apaches and Comanches put together. The Daily News ran the story, without a byline, on Page 52. Maybe the Post will get the line of march as well.
Another Gerry pens one
Gerry Adams is not the only Gerry with a republican background to be putting pen to page. Gerry McGeough, a former IRA prisoner who spent 14 years in the U.S., some of it in jail, has written a novel which apparently draws heavily on his republican experiences in County Tyrone.
The book, "Defenders" is now available in the U.S. It tells the story of an IRA leader in Tyrone and of the various British agencies who are determined to break up his unit, at virtually any cost.
The IRA man, Turlough Gallagher, ends the book a fugitive in the U.S. "It’s a work of fiction," said McGeough, who hopes to publish another two novels, making up a trilogy.
McGeough was born in 1958 and brought up outside Dungannon. He hasn’t been back since 1981, even to see his parents’ graves, fearing the RUC may still want to arrest him. He is currently living in the Republic.
He arrived in the U.S. during 1981, having spent a year campaigning throughout Fermanagh and his native south Tyrone in support of the hunger strikers.
In 1982, McGeough escaped an FBI sting operation that landed other republicans in court for attempting to acquire surface-to-air missiles for the Provos.
He spent some time on the run in Hawaii, Sweden and elsewhere before he was arrested in Germany, where he spent two years awaiting trial, mainly in solitary confinement, in an underground bunker. Just the kind of place to dream up a novel.
He was extradited back to the U.S. in the cargo hold of a plane, "along with large quantities of beer and machinery," he remembers.
Bailed in the U.S., he spent the next two years giving speeches in support of the republican struggle. On, of all days, Easter Monday 1994, he was sentenced to three years. In 1996 he was deported to Ireland and is now in the first year of a four-year degree course in history at Trinity College Dublin. While in the U.S., he wrote a book of short stories, "The Ambush and Other Stories," but "Defenders" is his first novel.
The book is available by mail order through Irish Visions ( 474-7480) or at The Irish Book Shop in Manhattan ( 274-1923).