Category: Archive

Inside File Emigrant votes for Christmas?

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Ray O’Hanlon

Bertie Ahern’s recent visit was much to do with peace in the North and prosperity in the South, but a few others issues raised themselves as the taoiseach raced hither and yon through the canyons of Manhattan.

One that cropped up momentarily during a meeting with the Irish-American press was the matter for votes for Irish diasporites in America and other assorted lands. Bertie was forthcoming to a degree, but he wasn’t quite ready to proclaim all citizens of the wee republic absolutely equal, be they domiciled in Tallaght or Tahiti.

What he did say was that the All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution, chaired by Fianna Fáil’s Brian Lenihan, is now expected to report by Christmas with regard to both the emigrant vote issue and proposed reforms to the Irish Senate. Seems that the voting rights issue might be dealt with gingerly for now by means of limited voting rights for senators. Still, a toe in the door is better than no toe at all.

Trimble’s turnaround

While Sinn Féin types are apt to be a bit Jesuitical on matters political, the same could never be quite said about their unionist opponents. The red, white and blue brigade is legendary for its blunt talk, the word "no" sometimes passing for entire speeches. But being blunt doesn’t imply being stuck in one place. No sireee!

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Just contrast David Trimble’s warm words on the rights and aspirations of nationalists last week with what he was saying a mere three years ago at his party’s annual conference: "Compromise between nationalism and unionism is not possible, and even if it were, it is not desirable," Trimble said at the time. What a difference a wee trip to Damascus makes. Last week it was on the lines of: "We now have a chance to create a genuine partnership between unionists and nationalists in a novel form of government." Ah politics, you gotta love it.

Bravo, Jim

Congressman James Walsh couldn’t make it to the State Department press conference last week announcing details of the upcoming Walsh Visa program. His daughter was involved in a big soccer tournament and he was away cheering her on. But Walsh did sent along video greetings just in case the assembled hacks got the notion that the "Irish Peace Process Cultural and Training Program Act of 1998" had nothing to do with the upstate New York Republican. As for his absence? "IF" couldn’t think of a better reason to quit the Beltway for a few days. This guy has his, eh, goals, in right order: Family values in deed, not just word.

Mad dogs and . . . ?

"IF" well remembers the Rev. Ian Paisley in New York a few years back leaning over a podium at a conference organized by the National Committee on American Foreign Policy. Big Ian was telling the room in no uncertain terms that he was British. But that wasn’t all. "Don’t ever call me an Englishman," he added with that rolling growl of his.

Paisley’s declaration of his British — but neither Irish nor English — "nationality" nicely highlighted the whole confusing issue of national origin as it pertains to not a few people born on the island of Ireland, a place that some would have in the "British Isles" and some would most definitely not.

Being born on the island of Ireland has resulted in many down the centuries referring to themselves as British. And there are of course the Anglo-Irish, a widely recognized and accepted category of people, though, like Irish Americans, not a distinct nationality. Most Anglo-Irish would be inclined to call themselves Irish, the accent often explaining the rest of it.

Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton was "born in Ireland," according to the recent exhibition in his honor at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Shackleton’s primary biographer in recent years, Roland Huntford, described Shackleton as being Anglo-Irish but rather more Irish than Anglo. Shackleton, like Paisley, was definitely not an Englishman.

"An Irishman in England Shackleton remained for the rest of his days," Huntford wrote. Well, tell that to the National Geographic Society in Washington which is the current custodian of the Shackleton exhibition, entitled "The Endurance" after the Kildare man’s doomed ship. The society’s holiday gift catalog offers a new book on Shackleton’s adventures way, way down under. "His name is synonymous with leadership, perseverance, and physical courage. In 1914, Englishman Ernest Shackleton led an ill-fated expedition to Antarctica." Tut-tut!

Meanwhile, back to those "British Isles." Reader Ellen Shanahan from Yonkers sent "IF" a copy of a recent ad from the New York Times that was flogging a Millennium £5 coin from the British Royal Mint. QE2 is on one side and the reverse side features "a map of the British Isles." The wee sod is included, of course, and that has Shanahan hopping mad. "Their version of the British Isles rankles met, to say the least," she said. She ain’t alone.

Safe deposit

Just in case you were all wondering about that now legendary $855 New York Mets check for the fund-raising group Famine Ship Limited . . . yes, no? Well, anyway, "IF" has been, eh, checking around. It is in fact safely stashed away in a special account. The Famine Ship folk, as previously reported, decided that the check should not be cashed as a protest over its paltry size. They were also concerned that the Mets might take umbrage at all the lousy publicity surrounding their less than jaw-dropping donation to the Jeanie Johnston Famine ship project and put a stop on it.

In fairness, the Mets did no such thing. At the same time, the Shea Stadium suits have not seen fit to top the check up with a few dollars from the considerable pile of greenbacks the club gathered as a result of the heroic post-season exploits of the Mets team players. Meanwhile, the $855 is gathering a few bucks in interest. In a couple of hundred years we might be talking real money here.

They said

"What I admire, albeit grudgingly, is the consummate spin-doctoring that coined the term ‘Celtic Tiger’ for what is no more than greed on an epic scale. Back in medieval times, youths wore trenchcoats and snap-brim hats in the belief that they would be thereby metamorphosed into Alan Ladd or the like; today, they sport cellphones with the same purpose." Hugh Leonard in the Sunday Independent."

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