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Inside File Commonwealth flies a kite

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Ray O’Hanlon

There has been much talk in the wee Republic about joining things and other countries joining things the Republic is already in. There was the debate about joining NATO’s Partnership for Peace, which really wasn’t much of a debate at all. Membership has now been sealed in ink despite huffing and puffing from the neutrality-is-sacred lobby. There’s also been rumbles about Irish military neutrality in the context of possible full membership of NATO.

Irish politicians and civil servants from the Department of Defense were recently given a VIP tour of NATO headquarters in Brussels and were doubtless mightily impressed. The tour was organized by the U.S. Embassy in Dublin, with Ambassador Mike Sullivan reportedly involved in every major detail.

On another level, Dublin is carefully studying the implications of a slew of new nations joining the EU and likely running off with much of the Euro cash that went Ireland’s way over the last 25 years. Above and beyond this there has been talk of possible renewed Irish membership of the British Commonwealth. The secretary general of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, recently stated his belief, on the BBC World Service, that Ireland would be back in the Commonwealth "within five years." The chief might be sticking his neck out a bit on that one. "IF" passed his prediction under the eyes of a reliable source. The reaction was swift: "Not a chance."

Al steps out

Vice President Al Gore stepped further away from President Clinton’s shadow with a St. Patrick’s Day message of his own in which he urged Irish Americans to stand with him for peace.

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Gore, the only presidential candidate to attend the recent Irish American Presidential Forum in New York, referred in his message to President Kennedy’s view of Ireland and America as being two nations, divided by distance, but united by history.

"I believe Irish Americans should be proud of the strong commitment and dedication their counterparts in Ireland and Northern Ireland have expressed toward achieving peace through the Good Friday accord. I encourage all Americans to stand with me as we push for peace in Northern Ireland," Gore said.

The Clintons had that Fleetwood Mac number as their campaign song. Guess Al’s going to step out to the tune of "Stand By Your Man." For Irish American functions he can modify it slightly: "Stand By Yer Man."

What a difference . . .

. . . a year makes. March 1999 and the annual statement from the Friends of Ireland group in Congress. Paragraph two: "The Agreement is a unique opportunity to end a tragic conflict which has caused needless tragedy and destruction. It holds out the promise of a new beginning, honorable and realistic, for all involved. The Agreement was endorsed decisively by the people in both parts of the island of Ireland as a clear democratic mandate to their political leaders. We call on all those leaders to implement that mandate fully and fairly, and to embrace the opportunity for peace offered by the Agreement with courage, imagination and empathy. History will not deal kindly with those who fail to do so.

March 2000 Friends statement, paragraph two: "We are deeply troubled by the suspension of the democratically elected Government of Northern Ireland by the British government and the stalemate over decommissioning. We urge all political leaders in the North to recommit themselves to the spirit and letter of the Good Friday agreement."

Friends statement March 2001. Any guesses?

"Finn-al" three

Roscommon’s own Peter Finn is in the hunt for a Pulitzer Prize, "IF" has heard. Finn, who is based in Warsaw for the Washington Post but who has been writing much in recent times about Kosovo, is in the hunt for a foreign reporting Pulitzer. Indeed, Finn is one of the final three under consideration by the Pulitzer committee. Whether Finn wins a prize or not will become evident on April 10 when the Pulitzer winners are announced. Either way, the lad has done well. Must be something in the Shannon water.

Fair enough

Good news it seems for the Great Irish Fair. The City of New York discovered a plot of undeveloped land close to Steeplechase Park in Coney Island, Brooklyn, site in recent years of the big end-of-summer Irish event. Boy, a piece of land in Coney Island devoid of some high-rise monstrosity looming over the beach. How did they miss it?

Anyway, welcome news nevertheless for the fair and the other annual event which takes place on the proposed site of a Mets minor league baseball team — the Ramadan Festival. "IF" had a look at the city’s "Final Environmental Impact Statement" for the stadium project. It mentioned the fair and festival in passing. But it also included an unintended irony. The heading atop the Final Environmental Impact Statement’s inside pages describing itself is "Baseball Stadium at Steeplechase Park FEIS." Feis, of course, is the Irish for festival.

Stella’s coup

The Washington, D.C.-based Political Action Committee, Irish American Democrats, raised close to $70,000 for Hillary Rodham Clinton’s New York Senate campaign during a recent fund-raising event it hosted on the banks of the monied Potomac.

According to IAD president Stella O’Leary, the fund-raiser attracted a veritable who’s who of prominent Democrats from New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Rhode Island as well as New York and Washington, D.C., itself.

O’Leary said that the event made history in that it was the first time that a Political Action Committee organized around the issue of Ireland had staged a fund-raiser for a single candidate.

"IF" is impressed. Let’s hope campaign finance reform doesn’t too quickly get in the way of this new-sprung manifestation of Irish American influence. "IF" somehow doubts that it will.

Which is it?

The Irish Independent recently ran that story on alleged bloodthirsty Irish-American gunrunners in the New York area — the one Martin Galvin is suing over — under the headline "Blood money trail to North." A few days later, the same paper runs a column penned by Conor Cruise O’Brien from New York. The headline above Cruiser’s piece is: "Americans turning their backs on men of violence." "IF" will ignore the insulting suggestion in that line, but apart from that, which is to be? Blood money or seed money for the Celtic Tiger’s prosperity. Americans, Irish or otherwise, deserve better than such broad-brush treatment. Talk about stereotyping.

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