By Ray O’Hanlon
Just when you thought it safe to call the Orangemen at Drumcree a bunch of maturity-challenged eejits, up jumps Conor Cruise O’Brien with a last-ditch defense of the indefensible. The Cruiser’s passions invariably surface at crucial moments — except during the years of broadcast media censorship in Ireland authored largely by his good self — and last week the UK Unionist from Howth struck again with a New York Times op-ed castigating the residents of the Garvaghy Road and their spokesman Breandan MacCionnaith.
Opined the Cruiser: “The focus throughout the past week, and in similar debates over the past few years, has been on the Garvaghy Residents Association. It has been widely but dimly seen as representative of opinion in the Catholic area of Portadown. But there is evidence that the association is in fact controlled by the local IRA.”
O’Brien did not follow up with much in the evidence department other than to point to the somewhat robotic MacCionnaith as being “one of a number of undeniable IRA activists.” Cruiser reckoned that the Garvaghy resistance to an Orange march was a Sinn FTin/IRA-inspired plan. But if it was, “IF” wonders why the residents of the Lower Ormeau in Belfast, where SF’s writ runs strong, were so quick to compromise and turn the Orange march down their stretch of asphalt into such a clearcut propaganda victory. Could it be that political allegiances on the Garvaghy Road are not quite what the Cruiser perceives them to be?
Anyway, the last word on it all goes to another writer not entirely unsympathetic to Unionism down the years. Writing in the Sunday Independent, historian Ronan Fanning proclaimed his disgust with the loyal brethren. “The bowler hats, umbrellas, the gloves the collars, the banners — all the pathetic paraphernalia of Orangism are but the bits and pieces of the bourgeois disguise of barbarians.” More of that in the “Sindo” and Cruiser will be canceling his subscription.
The caption that wasn’t fit to print
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The New York Times was at its pedantic best — ergo its worst — last week with its front page caption below the photo of the grieving father of the boys burned to death in Ballymoney. Under the heading “Ulster Funeral: A Grim Sorrow, a Glint of Hope,” the paper’s large, discerning but presumably not entirely insensitive readership was informed that the people of Rasharkin had just buried three young Catholics. The caption continued: “The boys — three brothers — died when their home was firebombed. One pallbearer was John Dillon, father of one boy, and possibly more.” You would think that under the circumstances the editorial whizzes on 43rd Street would have concluded that the least the other two boys deserved on the day they were buried was the benefit of an editor’s doubt and, more important, a definite dad.
See you in September…
So the song goes. President Clinton is set to finally make his promised return visit to Ireland in the first half of that month — on his way back from Moscow where he will share a toast or 10 with Boris Yeltsin. Unlike Yeltsin, Clinton can at least be depended upon to get off the plane once it lands in the we sod. What he does then is still being worked out. Much will depend on the course of events in the North. Golf, of course, is more than possible in the early Irish fall, so perhaps Clinton will finally get to hack around Ballybunion.
Dick Spring doesn’t quite call the shots as he did when in government, but perhaps Bertie will smile on Spring’s long-thwarted ambition to see a U.S. president carve lumps out of the famed Ballybunion rough.
Meanwhile, Irish diplomats on both sides of the Atlantic are preparing the ground for Newt Gingrich. The speaker of the House is due to make landfall in the auld sod next month. And visits to the wee sod by Gov. George Pataki and Mayor Rudy Giuliani are still in the works. Word has it that the main issue in both cases remains timing. Given that he is running for reelection, a pre-November visit by Pataki to the family roots in Louth would do no harm at all. But only a cynic would think in those terms and Pataki backers would doubtless argue that their man’s a shoe-in anyway.
Que pasa, Carlos, how’s the craic?
One political visitor to Ireland who seems to be fast turning himself into a permanente residente is former Mexican presidente Carlos Salinas de Gortari. Salinas doubtless misses the warmth of a Mexican summer, but it seems unlikely that he will be winging his way south from his Irish perch any time soon. The New York Times reported the other day that that while Salinas himself has not been charged with any crime, many of the people who surrounded him during his presidency have. Some of them, including brother Ra_l, have been convicted of serious crimes.
Salinas, according to the Times, “lives in Dublin in a kind of self-imposed exile.” Sure, half the people there are doing that. Anyway, “IF” was wondering if Salinas knows how to swing a golf club. A day out in Ballybunion with Bill Clinton would doubtless serve to remind el presidente of happier times atop Mexico’s rich political pie.
Another summer, another uproar over statues
The statues are standing still in Ireland this summer. But 3,000 miles from Ballinspittle, an Irish journalist is writing again about the very same thing, although this time the statues are at least motionless. In doing so, Irish Times/Daily News scribe Fintan O’Toole has managed to upset not a few people in Boston who are very proud of the recently unveiled Famine memorial depicting desperate Irish fleeing Ireland and hopeful ones arriving in the new world.
“$1m Famine memorial a monument to kitsch,” was the headline over O’Toole’s IT column in which he wrote that the monument “shows not an ability to face our past, but a complete inability to imagine it. As a memorial to the dead, it offers pious cliches and dead conventions. As an effort to confront a national trauma, it shows a depressing immaturity.” Hmmm! Word has it that they are not very happy with O’Toole in Beantown and that an angry letter is winging its way to the IT. Watch this space.