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Inside File Cool hands win over UN

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Ray O’Hanlon

Ireland’s minister for foreign affairs, Brian Cowen, evidently played a fairly cool hand when in New York recently for the opening of the UN General Assembly. His boss, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, is also being praised for his role in securing Ireland a seat on the UN Security Council in the face of what appeared to be an overwhelming offensive by Rome’s diplomatic legions as the battle for a rotating seat neared its climax.

Ahern was in town a few days before Cowen for the UN Millennium Summit. At one point, according to a well-placed source, Ahern was in a room jammed to the windows with high-flying diplomats representing the nations of the world. Ahern spotted his Italian counterpart working the room. Ahern watched him for a while. He is well used to working rooms himself but this was not his normal crowd. Still, the taoiseach quickly deduced that working a gaggle of diplomats is really not that much different than schmoozing the voters on a Dublin street. The Italians, though unaware of it at the time, were about to collide with the well-honed Fianna Fáil version of how to win friends and influence people.

Ahern glad-handed his way around the room with consummate ease. The assembled plenipotentiaries were impressed. "IF" can’t be sure that the representatives of planet earth were told to vote early and often, but vote Irish they very much did. The result was that the Roman blackshirts were seen off in much the same way as a bunch of, well, blueshirts.

A few days after Ahern’s little coup, Cowen found himself doing much the same thing. At one point, clearly tired from his travels and non-stop lobbying, Cowen spoke with reporters at the Irish Consulate.

"We’ve put our case, I believe, in a very coherent and honorable way," he said. "We believe in the principle of equitable rotation and this has found a resonance with other smaller and medium-size states. . . . From our point of view, we are very hopeful and confident."

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Clearly, Cowen’s hopes and confidence were well placed. One wonders if Ahern and Cowen were tempted to toast Ireland’s victory with a glass of Chianti. But that would have been rubbing it in. Pints all around.

Emmets going, going . . .

"The Irish Sale" at the Swann Galleries in Manhattan promised and delivered a fascinating afternoon last week as books, maps, posters and letters sprung from the last several hundred years of Irish and Irish-American history came under the auctioneer’s hammer.

Of the many items for sale, three in particular were of special interest to more than one buyer. They were all books dealing with the life and times of the Emmet family, most especially Robert Emmet, hanged by the British after the failed uprising of 1803, and Thomas Addis Emmet, the United Irishman who would become attorney general of the State of New York.

The most interested bidders, it turned out, were both descendants of the famous Emmets. But they were not on the same page at all as far as bidding was concerned. In the room was Susanna Emmet Doyle, while bidding by phone against her from New Jersey was Christopher Emmet. "IF" will keep secret the identity of the triumphant Emmet. But that’s not all. There might have been a third Emmet in the mix only for an unresolved conflict and a traffic jam. According to an "IF" source, Alexandra Emmet Schlesinger, wife of the Kennedy administration’s Arthur, was on her way to the auction by car when she got stuck as a result of a demonstration at the United Nations linked to the inflamed Middle East situation.

So one Emmet won, the other two lost out and the books presumably went cheaper than they might have done had the entire clan been bidding furiously against each other at the crucial moment.

Bombings book

Worse even than Omagh in terms of casualties, the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of May 17, 1974, still represent the most deadly atrocity of the troubles in Ireland over the last 30 years. The dead numbered 33 after explosions ripped through the heart of Dublin and the center of Monaghan Town.

And as if death and injury weren’t bad enough, the survivors and relatives were then treated to years of investigative delay, bungling and doubletalk and a growing fear that the bombings were not entirely the work of loyalist paramilitaries. The bombings have occupied the mind of investigative writer Don Mullan for years. The man who penned "Eyewitness Bloody Sunday" believes that the suspected involvement of British military intelligence in assisting loyalist bombers to place no-warning devices "dwarfs Bloody Sunday in its implications."

Mullan’s new book, "The Dublin and Monaghan Bombings," will be making its debut in the U.S. a few days from now. The author is lined up for a coast-to-coast tour that will begin with a launch at O’Lunney’s in Manhattan on Wednesday, Nov. 1. Mullan does not yet have a publisher on this side of the Atlantic and is himself organizing the movement of books from city to city.

Mullan interviewed the families of 31 of the 33 victims for his book and also interviewed the head of the Republic’s state forensic laboratory regarding crucial evidence that somehow went missing along the investigation’s path.

They said

"The gentle rains still fall and the torrents of words still flow. Ireland is still Ireland. But the harshest winds of poverty and isolation blow no more; a new prosperity has utterly transformed the place in the last decade." R.W. Apple in the "Dining Out" section of the New York Times.

€ "Senator Kennedy has had a long, honorable and deeply knowledgeable involvement in Irish affairs, which cannot yet be said for Mr. Mandelson. He has been a consistent supporter of a peaceful and democratic resolution of the conflict, and has played a positive role in encouraging republicans and others to abandon violence. . . . He is entirely correct, and is not out of date, when he observes that the UK government is not implementing the Patten report in full — though Mr. Mandelson still says otherwise." Professor Brendan O’Leary of the London School of Economics. O’Leary recently testified to Congress on the issue of police reform in Northern Ireland.

€ "Clinton also became more active in mediating, if never quite solving, overseas disputes in the Middle East, in Africa, and in Northern Ireland." Joe Klein in New Yorker magazine.

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