Category: Archive

Inside File Bubba’s left the building

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Ray O’Hanlon

Like or dislike the guy, you can’t ignore that by the end of this week, Bill Clinton’s departure from the White House will leave an enormous question hanging over the future of U.S. policy toward the North, the peace process and all the rest of it.

Eight years of Bubba-does-Ireland have gone in the blink of an eye, and though the so-called "Irish Question" — it’s more the Irish/British question — remains a dominant factor in the daily life of Irish America, there is no telling where, or if, it will penetrate the boundaries of the Bush administration’s foreign-policy team. It could well take a while before the new administration’s intentions, indeed abilities, in the matter become clear. For the time being, the afterglow of the Clinton Irish years will have to do.

Clinton’s rhetorical output on Ireland has been extraordinary in both content and mass. No president in the history of the republic has focused so much time and energy on Ireland, and yet if there is one thing to be learned from the last eight years, it is the fact that the office of president is but one of the ingredients needed for positive change in the troubled history of the islands that guard the western approaches to the landmass of Europe.

Going back for a moment to the start of it all — the Irish American Presidential Forum in New York on that April night in 1992 — there was one thing that Clinton said that gave a clue to the man’s openness and potential commitment to an issue that had for so long eluded official America’s absolute and serious attention. As he was leaving the room following his promises to this, that and everything else, Gov. Clinton was stopped by Conor O’Clery of the Irish Times. A member of the panel questioning Clinton that night had been Martin Galvin, then of Noraid, an organization yet to win the kind of official acceptance that has been spread far and wide by the peace process. O’Clery asked Clinton is he was aware of Galvin’s Noraid associations. "Give me a break," the future president said, "I’m doing my best."

Terry’s concern

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Director/producer Terry George is not alone in his concern that the political changes in Washington this week might not be entirely in Ireland’s favor. Ireland, George told "IF," might not be getting too much prime-time attention in the weeks and months ahead, be it at the political or artistic level.

Maybe yes, maybe no, but George is keeping up his end even as the big switch takes place in the White House. George’s current project, as many know, is the Saturday night CBS drama series "The District," which stars Craig T. Nelson and the excellent Glaswegian actor David O’Hara.

While the incoming political who’s-who will spend this Saturday night frolicking at inauguration balls in, well, the district, most of the rest of us will be huddled at home saving the cost of red gowns and tuxedos. And as we do, we might take a gander at the latest episode of "The District," which, on this night of nights, comes with a strong Irish twist.

A backdrop to the story is the presence in Washington of a Sinn Féin delegation that is heading for the White House in an effort to seal a peace deal for the North. O’Hara plays an ex-RUC detective now in the employ of the D.C. police. Suffice it to say, there is a history between O’Hara’s character, Detective McGregor, and a member of the Sinn Féin delegation. Another level to the plot is the constant cycle of death and revenge that have equally affected troubled Belfast and the drug-torn neighborhoods of Washington, D.C.

"The District" is worth a look, but the last prime-time exposure for Ireland’s woes? George’s pessimism could be a little premature. We’ll perhaps get the true measure of the situation after St. Patrick’s Day.


And still on the wee North and its portrayal on screens big and small. Jerome O’Connor, co-producer of the movie "An Everlasting Piece," is furious with Hollywood hero Steven Spielberg over the limited distribution of the movie, a tale of the Troubles in Belfast during the 1980s.

O’Connor alleges that Spielberg’s DreamWorks has pulled the rug from under the movie by slashing the number of early release theaters from 750 to a mere eight. This, he alleged in a statement to the New York Post, was because the Hollywood heavies didn’t like the politics of the film at a time when Spielberg is out buying new frills and garters for his visit to the queen in London next month, where herself will grant him an honorary knighthood. "Arise, Sir E.T.!"

Anyway, DreamWorks is denying everything of course, but, nevertheless, the fate of "Piece" looks more than ever like a case of hair today, gone tomorrow. O’Connor should invite Lance Hool over to his own dreamworks, The Half King Bar in Manhattan, so that the two of them can cry into their pints together. Readers will recall that Hool directed "One Man’s Hero," the screen story of the San Patricio Brigade in the Mexican/American war of the 1840s. Hool, too, alleged that his flick, which starred Tom Berenger and Patrrick Bergin, fell foul of the heavies at MGM for political reasons and that it was effectively killed at the box office by being limited to a mere 11 theaters, all on the West Coast — and this despite favorable reviews in the likes of the L.A. Times and New York Times.

Yep, Jerome and Lance should collaborate on a film all right: "Godzilla Goes to Hollywood?"

Whither O’Huiginn?

There will be much coming and going in the Irish diplomatic corps this year, with a number of ambassadors packing their bags for Dublin or other capitals. Ireland’s ambassador to the U.S., Sean O’Huiginn, will be four years in D.C. this summer and it might be his moment for another posting, but then again maybe not.

O’Huiginn’s deep reservoir of experience in both the sticky matter of the North and the tricky field of Anglo-Irish relations could mean that he will stay on in Washington for a while longer. From his command post at the Irish Embassy in Sheridan Circle, O’Huiginn is especially well placed to keep an eye on both her majesty’s plenipotentiaries on Massachusetts Avenue and the Bushies downtown as they either catch or drop the Irish ball.

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