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Inside file Don’t mention the war

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Ray O’Hanlon

While Irish Foreign Minister David Andrews was briefing the planet’s representatives on the peace process at the United Nations last week, British Prime Minister Tony Blair was following the old John Cleese maxim at the same venue: "Don’t mention the war." He didn’t mention the peace process either, for that matter. Still, Blair spoke about terrorism and didn’t mention Ireland or the Irish. Progress of sorts. Blair did touch on Northern Ireland in a speech the same day at the New York Stock Exchange. He urged more private investment in the North because the success of the peace process depended heavily on economic prosperity.

Andrews, meanwhile, touched all the right buttons — lashings of stuff on conflict resolution, nuclear disarmament, U.N. reform, peacekeeping, development cooperation and so forth — in a speech that was partly a pitch for Ireland’s hoped for return to a seat on the Security Council. Ah, if only the old sod ruled the world. Just for starters, Emperor Bertie could build the Great Wall of Drumcondra.

Trimble’s flight of fancy

"IF" was wondering if David Trimble’s mind pondered the possibility of a Nobel Prize during his flight from Belfast to New York last week. After all, the Wall Street Journal was suggesting that the frontrunners for the prize "appear to be the Northern Ireland peace negotiators." And wasn’t David himself one of them? The first minister designate might be hanging tough on decommissioning but there’s nothing like the prospect of international acclaim to loosen the old resolve.

Meanwhile, "IF" detected a breakthrough in relations between unionists and that "foreign" country to the south. Some will recall deputy UUP leader John Taylor’s outburst on a Belfast to London flight a few years ago when he was served butter from County Cavan. Taylor was outraged that Fenian butter would be served on a British plane.

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Trimble doesn’t seem to worry about that sort of thing. He flew Aer Lingus from Belfast, touching down in Shannon on both legs of his journey. London, for once, was out of his loop.

Red rose Rita

There must be something in this. Trimble flies into the Big Apple on a plane sporting a big green shamrock while Sinn Féin’s Rita O’Hare begins her new job in Washington with a reception, the invitations for which sport a long-stemmed red rose. O’Hare is obviously satisfied that the British won’t seek to deport her for a warrant in Northern Ireland going back to the 1970s. Either that or she reckons that if they do Irish Americans, including Bill Clinton, will wrap themselves around her like an encircled wagon train.

O’Hare is taking up her new position this week as "Sinn Féin Representative to the United States." O’Hare comes with the experience to do the job for her party inside the Beltway and beyond. Being publicity director for S.F. in Ireland was never a task for a lightweight, especially pre-peace process.

Meanwhile, Mairéad Keane will be flying back to Ireland, presumably on Trimble’s favorite airline, to take up her new post as head of Sinn Féin’s International Affairs Department. O’Hare’s former job in Ireland is to be handled by Dawn Doyle. Tiocfaidh ár Dawn? Are there any jobs left in Sinn Féin for the lads?

Green flush

With elections looming, the cocktails are being shaken and stirred in an effort to whip up support for Irish America’s favored candidates.

"Irish For Pataki" are holding a $75 per person ($250 or $500 with VIP reception) event for the New York governor on Oct. 8 in Manhattan. Earlier this week, there was a bash for congressional hopeful Joe Crowley hosted by Tom Manton at O’Neill’s of Third Avenue. Rep. Peter King, meanwhile, took in $28,000 and change at his recent Plaza event.

Charles v. Alfonse

Looking at the Al D’Amato-Chuck Schumer slugfest from a purely Irish immigration lobby perspective, it seems a pity that both can’t head off to the Senate on a yellow bus with packed lunches in January. Schumer is, of course, poster boy for the annual diversity Schumer visas, while D’Amato is prime sponsor in the U.S. Senate for the proposed non-immigrant "transition visas" for Ireland. It’s a shame, again from a purely Irish perspective, that one of them has to lose.

Celtic moggy a fatcat

One hundred and 50 years after the Great Hunger, the Irish now consume more calories a day than even those known the world over for a healthy national girth. Viewers to the ABC show "20/20" last week were asked to guess who chomps more calories a day, the Irish, the Russians or the Americans. The answer was the Irish with a whopping 3,800. The high rate was due to the Irish habit of consuming lots of fatty meats and confectionery. Ah, those rashers and sausages. Got some?

They said

€ "The Irish experience of emigration has long been the subject of countless ballads, as well as providing one of the most important ingredients in the North American ethnic cocktail. Emigration, however, is no longer Ireland’s problem. Today the country is having to face up to the changing social and political attitudes created by a new and unprecedented phenomenon: a wave of immigration . . . which has in some instances put a question mark against Ireland’s reputation as the country of a hundred thousand welcomes."

— Irish writer and lecturer John Horgan in the New York-published Catholic magazine Commonweal.

Don’t bless me, father

Fr. Sean McManus of the Irish National Caucus took it on the dog collar the other day from Clinton critic and Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman. McManus had lashed into Lieberman over his attack on Clinton, accusing him of embarrassing Clinton during his recent Irish tour. Not so, retorted Lieberman in a letter to the Fermanagh-born Redemptorist.

"Your tone and content were unjustified and offensive, considering my longstanding support for peace and for a united Ireland and my lifelong close relations with the Irish community," Lieberman wrote McManus.

"Although I did not enjoy seeing the president asked about my remarks in the presence of Prime Minister Ahern, the fact is that they did not diminish at all the great success of his visit to Ireland, and they did elicit a broad apology which I believe can lead to the necessary healing for him and the country."

Perhaps McManus will now lift the political Fatwah he imposed on Lieberman after his anti-Bill barrage.

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