A group of leading Irish Americans who are supporting Vice President Al Gore’s candidacy sat down with Gore’s national security adviser, Leon Fuerth, in the veep’s ceremonial office in the Old Executive Office Building last week. The discussion was frank and forthright and, according to a source who was present, everyone emerged feeling confident that the Gore team is intent on picking up where Bill Clinton leaves off with regard to Ireland and the peace process — contingent of course on Gore winning the November election.
The meeting was a precursor to the forum being organized in Washington, D.C., this week by the lobby group, Irish American Democrats. Fuerth is listed to speak as is former senator George Mitchell, Senator Chris Dodd, Rep Richard Neal and others. As September winds down, the Democratic Party activists who place Ireland atop their priority list seem intent on reminding Gore and his people of Al’s words to the bipartisan Irish forum in New York last March: "In a Gore administration, peace and justice in Northern Ireland would be in the very top rank of foreign policy."
Say it once, say it twice. In the light of the watery statement on Ireland in the Democratic platform, it’s not surprising that there has been pressure on Gore’s team to come out with an updated statement. March, in political terms, is a lifetime ago.
All this Democratic activity on Ireland would likely be taking place anyway but there is little doubt that it is being spurred on to extra heights by the groundbreaking Bush position on Ireland which was also unveiled to Irish Americans back in March. This statement was later boosted by the GOP’s surprisingly strong party platform statement on Ireland and reinforced again by Bush in that letter to political leaders in Ireland recently hand delivered by Connecticut governor John Rowland.
This is indeed a presidential campaign unlike any other. Both the Bush and Gore campaigns now seem intent on outdoing each other with regard to the Irish issues and, as we enter the final weeks of the campaign, there is every reason to expect more from both men. Of course, the best way for one candidate to step ahead of the other in the statement stakes is to actually speak out on the issue, preferably within earshot of the press. Over to you George, Al.
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The RPG launched into the MI6 Building by the Thames in London last week, apparently by "dissident" republicans, is likely causing ructions at the top of the British intelligence world. And the blame for what was undoubtedly a huge lapse in security may well fall on the shoulders of MI6’s rival agency, MI5.
MI6, the Secret Intelligence Service, is nominally charged with foreign intelligence operations while MI5, the Security Service, is supposed to concentrate its efforts on domestic British intelligence operations. The banks of the Thames being very much British, this was primarily MI5’s beat and it evidently dropped the grenade, minus the pin. That will not please the chaps at MI6, James Bond’s movie screen employers.
Of course, there has been something of a rivalry down the years between both services. MI6 once had quite a few operations afoot in Northern Ireland despite the fact that the place wasn’t "foreign" — at least officially. At one point in the 1970s, the agency — according to the book Big Boys’ Rules by British journalist Mark Urban — set up a fake holiday company in the North which in turn gave out free holidays to republicans, pre-dissident variety. The republicans were given tickets for sunny Spain but their tanning was soon interrupted by friendly chaps from MI6 offering all manner of inducements for providing information to MI6 back in the rainy wee North. Northern Ireland, being a small enough place, it was inevitable that MI6 and MI5 would find themselves competing for the same turf and over the same people. Over the years, the boot boys of MI5 managed to shove the more urbane MI6 chaps into the margins. Hence, the undoubted anger by the Thames last week when the dissidents, some of whom might once have vacationed in sunny Spain, let loose with a well-aimed projectile. Mr. Bond would not be pleased.
A symbol’s demise
There’s uproar in the auld puddle over the fast declining stocks of wild Atlantic salmon. As readers are aware, "IF" takes a keen interest in the fate of Ireland’s flora and fauna, increasingly trampled as both are under the wheels of unrestrained progress in the Celtic Moggy.
The Atlantic salmon, a very symbol of Ireland carried on its coinage, has been under pressure for years now, not least due to overfishing and poaching. Now even the bureaucrats in Europe are becoming concerned. Some of them must have taken rod and reel to Ireland at one stage or another.
Anyway, the Irish government is being reeled in by the European Union over declining wild salmon stocks. The European Court of Justice is placing Ireland in the dock for failing to set aside a sufficient number of protected spawning sites. A report in the Irish Independent quoted one spokesman for a preservationist group as saying: "Reports indicate a worrying downward trend in their numbers over recent years. This is especially noticeable in drift net catches around the Irish coast."
Drift netting is, of course, a huge part of the problem. Iceland has banned all forms of netting and now anglers from around the world will pay any amount of money to fish for salmon in its rivers for the simple reason that they are virtually certain of catching them. Not so in Ireland where years of neglect, inaction and indifference have conspired to kill the fish that lays the golden spawn.
"IF" has taken particular note of the fact that the Pfizer drug company has recently signed on to the MacBride Principles on fair employment. The company operates in Ireland where one of its better known products is Viagra, a drop of which is for sure yer only man. With that stuff on their side, how can the MacBride boosters possibly lose in their effort to end a situation in which Catholics in Northern Ireland are more than twice as likely to be unemployed than Protestants. Altius, citius, fortius and so forth and so on.
Perhaps Viagra pitchperson Bob Dole should be hired to spearhead the MacBride campaign from here onwards, and upwards.