By Ray O’Hanlon
Sinn Féin Publicity Director Rita O’Hare reckoned she was in the right place in the immediate aftermath of the Omagh bomb
"I’m glad I was on the ground in New York and that there was someone here from Sinn Féin saying very firmly that this was an attack on the peace process as well as an attempt to bomb Sinn Féin out of the process," O’Hare told "IF."
O’Hare, who is based in Dublin — she faces a warrant in Northern Ireland going back to the early 1970s — said it was hard to avoid the conclusion that the intent of the Omagh bomb was death.
Not only were Catholics and Protestants killed, she said, but "a significant number of republicans" too.
"The bomb was not aimed at the British forces of occupation but at the peace process, and us and our role in the process. The peace agreement was an historical document, but that’s all it will ever be if it’s not acted upon," O’Hare said.
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O’Hare is due to take up the position as head of the Sinn Féin office in Washington, D.C., but delays in securing a long-term U.S. visa have delayed her transAtlantic move.
O’Hare’s U.S. visit included stops in Chicago and Washington, D.C. In Chicago, she accepted a peace award for party leader Gerry Adams presented by Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition.
O’Hare’s condemnation of the slaughter dovetailed with that of Adams and others. The Irish People newspaper also crossed the line into "the politics of condemnation," albeit with a swipe at the British.
Stated an editorial: "It has been our policy neither to condemn nor condone attacks on the oppressors of the Irish people by dissident organizations. As long as there are English troops on Irish soil it is inevitable that Irish men and women will resist their occupation by force of arms.
"However, the bombing in Omagh last Saturday was not an attack on the occupation forces or their military installations. It was a direct attack against the Irish people….The perpetrators of this carnage in Omagh….should be condemned by all Irish activists and organizations…"
And so it goes.
Don’t forget us!
Sinn Féin had little trouble getting its view out on the bombing but not so its estranged relative, Republican Sinn Féin. Indeed the Ruairí O Brádaigh-led party became quite flustered when it concluded that its view was being ignored. "Today’s disastrous tragedy at Omagh was an action which was neither controlled not disciplined and as such cannot be condoned in any way." The RSF press release deserved a Pulitzer for understatement but apparently didn’t make much of an impression with the Irish media. So the party followed with a more forcefully worded statement, "Omagh Explosion – Statement No. 2." This described the bombing as "totally unjustifiable" and deplored and rejected "the absolute inhumanity of it." Statement No. 2 did also state that the bombing "blurs British responsibility for the situation here."
Apparently there were few takers because the lads and lassies at Teach Dáithí O Conaill issued a third statement castigating the media for ignoring the other two. "Our first statement on the Omagh bombing has been totally ignored by the media in the 26 counties and the second has received minimal coverage only."
It concluded: "Republican Sinn Féin will continue to work politically, for British disengagement from the 32 Counties and for a new four-province federal Ireland with maximum devolution of power to local level as well as for the political, cultural, social and economic regeneration of the Irish nation."
Unfortunately for RSF, the Celtic Tiger, feeling quite regenerated already thank you very much, wasn’t listening.
Diplomats on the move
Irish diplomatic outposts in the U.S. have been upgraded to reflect Dublin’s view that the U.S. is a most important friend. The posts of consul general in Boston, Chicago and San Francisco – currently filled by diplomats of First Secretary rank – will be elevated over time to that of Counsellor rank. The Consul Generalship in New York, presently open to diplomats at Counsellor level, will be elevated to the rank of Ambassador/Assistant Secretary. At present, Ireland’s Consuls General in all four cities are occupying these higher ranks in an acting capacity. In other moves, the press officer at the New York Consulate, Adrian McDaid, has been promoted to Counsellor rank and is now the Consulate’s Deputy Consul General. Popular Vice Consul Anne O’Leary is leaving at the end of this week for pastures new. Irish diplomacy, for those of you who have not studied it in minute detail, has four main ranks: Third Secretary, First Secretary, Counsellor and Ambassador. Assistant Secretary is the title given a diplomat of ambassadorial rank based in Ireland. The Department of Foreign Affairs is headed by the Secretary General, currently Paddy MacKernan, former ambassador to the U.S.
Sindo’s shrinking world
Circulation at the Sunday Independent in Dublin continues to take a tumble according to latest circulation figures. The paper sold an average of 309,320 copies per issue between January and June of this year. That’s down from 333,966 for the same period in ’97. Obviously a few shillings have to be invested. The first few could be spent on a proper graphics department. The day after the Omagh bombing, the Sindo had a front page story which included a map of Northern Ireland. Omagh was, of course, on the map. So too were Belfast and Portadown. So too was another place named "Londonderry."
€ "The President’s hand in the fragile Ireland peace effort, the stabilization of Bosnia and his promised campaign against international terrorism may yet come to seem among the most substantial parts of his legacy." From a New York Times story reflecting on President Clinton’s possible place in presidential history.
€ "A British withdrawal would open the way for the bloodiest violence Ireland has seen in 350 years….And contrary to both Protestant fears and IRA expectations, it would be a war in which well-armed, radicalized Protestant forces would enjoy overwhelming advantages…By weakening Northern Ireland’s union with Britain and by increasing Protestant fears, the peace agreement may have brought the province closer to civil war. Only cross-community cooperation in the Assembly and the ascendancy of moderate unionists on the Protestant side can avert it." Martin Sieff in National Review.