By Ray O’Hanlon
Rep. Joe Crowley has been keeping a keen eye on the debate over the Great Hunger curriculum, especially the New York version. This is not surprising given that he crafted the initial enabling legislation back in the days when he was an assemblyman in Albany. Crowley told "IF" that he was fully sympathetic to the views of those, among them Dr. Maureen Murphy of Hofstra University, who put the New York Famine curriculum together for the state’s public a schools.
At the same time, Crowley is also considerate toward the view that the 1,000-page-plus New York curriculum might not have highlighted the Penal Laws in Ireland as much as it might have. "The modern definition of genocide can be applied to 17th, 18th and 19th Century Ireland," Crowley said.
Overall, though, Crowley is delighted that he bent an ear a few years back when the Irish American Teachers Association came to him complaining that the Great Hunger, the event that really gave birth to modern Irish America, was only given a passing mention in state history and social studies textbooks.
"It was a defining moment for me," Crowley said. "There was only one or two paragraphs in the history textbooks. Given the fact that there is now an entire curriculum that has to say something about how far we’ve come."
Crowley reckons that the New York curriculum could not become a model for teaching about the Great Hunger, not just in other U.S. states but also in Ireland, where there has been a tendency in some quarters to sweep the event under the carpet of history. No harm at all.
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Daithi’s big move
Former Irish Consul General in New York Daithi O Ceallaigh is the new Irish ambassador to London. O Ceallaigh, who once pulled the job of Irish plenipotentiary to Iraq only to see the post go up with the masonry of that fabled city in the Gulf War, is one of several Irish diplomats with U.S. experience who are doing well in the promotion stakes.
As previously reported, former Ambassador to Washington Dermot Gallagher is taking over the helm in Dublin as secretary general of the Department of Foreign Affairs. The outgoing secretary general, Paddy McKernan, himself a former ambassador in D.C., is becoming Ireland’s man in Paris. Pat Hennessy, onetime political director in the Washington embassy, is the new Irish ambassador to Isr’l. He succeeds Brendan Scannell, former consul general in Boston and political director in Washington. Scannell will now head the Anglo-Irish division at the Department of Foreign Affairs, the job that Daithi O Ceallaigh will leave in his wake as he heads for the Court of St. James.
Another former Washington hand, Michael Collins, Ireland’s outgoing ambassador to the Czech Republic, is on the move to the Department of the Taoiseach, where he will have responsibility for Northern Ireland, the European Union and international affairs in general. Collins was stationed at one point in Saudi Arabia, so presumably he knows a thing or two about shifting sands.
"IF" spied through its telescope the other day a piece in the American Irish Political Education Committee’s newsletter protesting the naming of a U.S. Navy ship after Winston Churchill, the well known Kentucky colonel and comrade-in-rank with Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness.
The ‘gis guided-missile destroyer was recently commissioned and is based in Norfolk, Va. And while it’s not quite geared up for fighting on the beaches, the WC would appear to be quite capable of making an unholy mess of an enemy beach should that ever become necessary.
Anyway, the PEC is not happy and included in its newsletter an "Action Request" which reads: "I am deeply offended by the Navy’s decision to name a destroyer after Winston Churchill. There are countless brave Americans who have served in our Navy and deserve this honor. I urge you to ensure that ship naming does not become a political game and that it remains a coveted honor for Americans only."
PEC members are asked to send this plea to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Churchill, of course, had American blood in his veins by virtue of a Yankee mammy, so he actually has some claim on a U.S fighting ship’s name, unlike, for example, Margaret Thatcher. Hey, you never know!
Then again, according to the PEC, Churchill fought for British imperialism and was "an anti-Irish bigot." Well, Churchill’s feelings on Ireland were a little more complicated than that, but it’s likely true that there are many great Americans whose names have never, or will never, appear on the hull of a U.S. Navy ship.
"IF" reckons that the PEC should take the high wave and consider launching a counteroffensive on the grounds that a precedent has indeed been set. So how’s about the USS Eamon de Valera? After all, he was even born in America. The fact that Dev ended up being a pain in WC’s stern is neither here nor there.
It’s not often that a cardinal has more pulling power than a pope. But Ray Flynn will tell you that it can happen. Flynn, former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, was sitting patiently a few days ago in the Barnes & Noble bookstore on Fifth Avenue in midtown Manhattan, a mere couple of blocks from St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Flynn was ready and eager to sign multitudinous copies of his biography of Pope John Paul II. Unfortunately, the multitude never turned up, although it was nearby.
Flynn’s signing coincided with the dedication of 50th Street between Fifth and Madison Avenues in honor of the late Cardinal John O’Connor. A throng gathered to witness the dedication of "John Cardinal O’Connor Way" and was blissfully unaware that Flynn was nearby with his papal tome.
Fr. Sean McManus of the Irish National Caucus has turned up on one of those lists that Northern loyalists like to draw up from time to time when the danger of peace breaking out all over the place reaches dangerous levels. According to a report in the Sunday Mirror newspaper, California legislator Tom Hayden and British government minister Clare Short are also on the list of people that loyalists contend are supporters of the IRA.
"I wonder if those behind this list are against the idea of peace in Ireland," McManus said.
None of the above three would ever count as IRA backers, but it doesn’t take much to annoy the perpetually angry.