By Ray O’Hanlon
Gerry Adams can get rather Jesuitical when the question concerns weapons decommissioning, but the man was positively blunt last week when asked if he was planning to run for the Dáil in the next Irish general election.
"No," was the terse reply.
There has been considerable speculation that Adams would lead his party’s charge in the wee Republic the next time Fianna Fáil — "The Republican Party," lest we forget — trips up and his obliged to "go to the country."
Louth was mentioned as one possible constituency, which is no surprise given Dundalk’s reputation down the years as a virtual dormitory town for republicans from all walks of, eh, work. A possible Donegal constituency was also being mentioned as a base for an Adams run at Leinster House.
But now it seems that Adams will stick to the so-called "Mother of Parliaments" in Westminster, where he and fellow MP Martin McGuinness are presently locked in a titanic duel with her majesty’s doorkeepers over use of the jacks and other facilities. Adams also ruled out running for the Dáil any time in the future, at least not until it became "a 32 County Dáil."
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Of course, given recent events and the obvious eagerness of the Irish government to bury some of the deeper burdens of Anglo-Irish history, who’s to say that when Ireland is finally united the capital of the new-sprung nation won’t be Belfast and that Irish politicians of every stripe will not be taking their seats in a 32-county Stormont. Sounds crazy? Well, just step back a couple of years and consider "Martin McGuinness, minister for education."
That Bradley letter
Bill Bradley’s call for a British withdrawal from Northern Ireland — mentioned in last week’s Echo — was made 18 years ago, but it was not surprising that it would surface again given his now viable bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.
The letter, written on U.S. Senate letterhead, mildly prophetic and dated Sept. 28, 1982, was sent to Fr. Sean McManus of the Irish National Caucus. It read thus: "Please extend my greetings to the members of the Irish National Caucus and all the Irish-American community. I am proud to join in celebrating your efforts to end all violence and terrorism in Northern Ireland.
"I believe that a peaceful solution to this political situation will come only when Britain sets a timetable for withdrawal. Then the prospect of unity with Ireland will become real. I welcome the progress in recent talks between the Irish and British governments and I believe the sooner the British express their interest in the unity of Ireland, the sooner stability will be established. I also believe the United States’ role should be constructive and should show evenhandedness so as not to exacerbate the polarization of Ulster society. I believe that violence only detracts from negotiating efforts.
"I look forward to working with you in the continuing effort to advance the protection of human rights in Ireland."
Click click, who’s there?
U.S. Ambassador to Ireland John Moore must have had a crystal ball. Back at the start of the Troubles, Moore flew to the U.S. Embassy in London to call the Nixon White House and State Department. He didn’t trust the phone lines out of Dublin. He suspected the British had them tapped.
According to recently released Irish state papers, Moore relayed the Irish government’s view that a UN-sponsored peacekeeping force was needed in the North. The word back from Washington, on a secure line presumably, was that this idea was a non-starter.
In more recent times, it has come to light that the British have been listening to just about every communication into and out of Ireland by means of a 13-story spy tower deep in the Cheshire countryside. The Irish ambassador to London, Ted Barrington, has raised the matter several times with her majesty’s eavesdroppers but to little avail. But because of pressure from a number of TDs, the issue of the listening tower affair is now being raised at ministerial level between the tapped and the tappers. Listen to this space.
Voteless in Seattle
Vote early, vote often, as they say in Irish politics, jokingly of course. Ha ha! Those on this side of the Atlantic eager to vote early and often will have to hang fire a little longer. Seems that the parliamentary committee charged with reforming the Irish Constitution did not, as expected, issue its findings to the government by Christmas. Try not to faint from shock.
Anyway, the committee, led by the Fianna Fáil’s Brian Lenihan, wants to wait until the peace process in the wee North is finally consigned to the history books one way or the other. That will take at least a few months, quite possibly well into the second half of the year. This means that the matter of votes for desperate diasporites in Seattle and elsewhere around the globe will simply have to wait.
Equally up in the air is the matter of voting rights for Irish citizens living north of the Rio Ulster. Women once threw themselves in front of galloping racehorses to secure the vote. We live in easier going times.
They are comparing him to Melville, Conrad and Proust, but if there is one thing that the late novelist Patrick O’Brian accomplished that was especially unusual, it was his Irishness.
The historical record is littered with the achievements of Irish people who miraculously became British once fame was established. O’Brian is one of the few to reverse the trend. He claimed to be Irish — indeed once told "IF" that he was from Ballinasloe, Co. Galway — when in fact he had been born in London.
O’Brian’s recent death in Dublin only served to play up his adopted Irishness even though the truth of his English origins has been known for several years. In the end, the author of the now famed Aubrey/Maturin novels did have to settle for a draw. The New York Times obituary described him as "Anglo-Irish." Irish-Anglo might have been a more accurate assessment, but that precise term is yet to be enshrined in the lexicon. Patrick O’Brian would be a good start for it.
€ "Two of my officials are presently in Washington speaking to officials from his department." Martin McGuinness, referring to his meeting last week with his U.S. counterpart, Education Secretary Richard Riley.