By Ray O’Hanlon
Great days if you’re a republican who likes to read the "right" newspaper. Now you have any number to choose from. Well, four to be exact. The arrival in print of The Sovereign Nation stirs the pot in an already crowded market. SN is the voice of the 32 County Sovereignty Movement and its bottom line is that it does not like the Stormont accord one bit.
Neither does Saoirse, Irish Freedom, which describes itself as "The Voice of the Republican Movement." Republican Sinn Féin to be exact. The paper’s editor, Rúairí Og O Brádaigh, was lifted by the Special Plod in the wee South last week along with some of his comrades but released a couple of days later. One word has it that the arrests were intended to put the fear of God into the rebels in advance of the visit by the Duke of Edinburgh. No doubt the entire story will take up a few paragraphs in the next issue.
On the other side of the republican green line are The Irish People and An Phoblacht, Republican News. AP/RN publishes in Ireland, while the Irish People is the familiar "Voice of Irish Republicanism in America." The People has a clear advantage over SN and Saoirse in that they are both monthly while it is weekly. The IP mostly takes the Sinn Féin view on things and is going along with the Good Friday agreement. That said, the paper is still being cautious about all the changes afoot. Its subscription renewal form reminds readers that the paper carries "firsthand reports about the war going on in Ireland" and exposes the "truth about the war in Ireland." War, it would appear, still has the edge on peace when it comes to the hard sell.
Paddy, we hardly knew ye
A while back "IF" met up with famed Irish author Patrick O’Brian, he of the bestselling and critically acclaimed Aubrey-Maturin novels.
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"IF" was well aware of the fact that O’Brian was a infamously prickly character who was extremely averse to answering personal questions, even to friendly interviewers or fawning fans. Still, how personal is your birthplace? After all, it is a matter of public record. So "IF" asked O’Brian where in Ireland he hailed from.
The reply was swift and decisive. It was a personal question and he didn’t answer personal questions. Tail firmly between legs, "IF" began to retreat, but before the back was fully turned the great writer uttered an additional line: "Ballinasloe, Co. Galway."
Having wrested this pearl from the eye of the sphinx, "IF" made a rapid retreat in search of a stiff lemonade. Another stiff one was required last week when New York magazine came out with a front page story to the effect that Patrick O’Brian is not who he claims to be. And he ain’t from Ballinasloe either. Turns out he is not even Irish, but English-born Richard Patrick Russ.
No wonder he didn’t look "IF" in the eye when he came out with the Ballinasloe yarn. Still, who cares where he comes from? The books are terrific reads and being Irish isn’t a closed club. At the same time, he might want to get the story straight before he turns up at the pearly gates because, as we all know, there’s more craic by far in the great beyond’s Irish quarters.
Boot on other foot
"If there was any doubt about how far the minnows of world rugby have still to travel, that doubt was dispelled at Lansdowne road yesterday. . . . This was international rugby in name only and, as we expected, the professionals were never in any trouble against enthusiastic but severely limited amateurs."
Familiar words. They could have been culled from any number of reports in recent years of yet another heroic Irish rugby loss. But no, Ireland actually won this World Cup qualifier, 70-0, against the enthusiastic amateurs of the former Soviet republic of Georgia. Irony is, these words, from a Sunday Independent report, will likely come in handy again in a couple of weeks when the lads step out against South Africa.
In that game, the Irish sharks will themselves become the minnows. Still, 70-0 isn’t half bad for a team that frequently has trouble playing only half good.
Albert of Arabia?
Albert Reynolds arrived in Iraq only a few days ahead of a possible U.S. blitz. He was attempting to revive the once lucrative Irish beef trade with the Iraqis but couldn’t resist putting himself in the way of the gathering storm in the desert. He told reporters that he believed Saddam Hussein had neutralized about 80 percent of his mass destruction weapons and that dealing with the remaining 20 percent would be no bother at all.
"IF" reckons the Provos should hire Albert to deal with all those hysterical unionists. The man is unflappable, a regular Sphinx. Saddam could also learn a thing or two about how to really run a country if he bothered listening to the former taoiseach. No doubt, Albert managed to top up that glowing year-round tan of his in the Iraqi sunshine. "IF" reckons that Albert has his own no-fly zones. Anywhere north or south of latitude 55 degrees, a line that just allows him the run of most of the cloudy wee North.
Green hills of Hollywood
Los Angeles-based Irish journalist Steve Brennan and his actress wife, Bernadette O’Neill, have secured a publisher for their book "The Irish in Hollywood." The tome is due for release next fall and will be published by NewStar Press. The tale of the Irish in the magical hills overlooking the Pacific goes back to the silent screen days and the authors mix history with contemporary accounts of today’s big screen Irish.
Everyone from Mary Pickford to James Cagney and Liam Neeson are promised is a book that will, according to NewStar, "reveal how the Irish and Irish Americans became some of the most brilliant, influential and dedicated people ever to colonize and build Hollywood." Brennan is a former Irish Journalist of the Year while O’Neill’s screen credits include the excellent "Eat The Peach." But why not publish now?
O’Livingston, we presume
A letter, dated April 2 of this year to Fr. Sean McManus, president of the Irish National Caucus. "Dear Father McManus, Thanks very much for your letter. I enjoyed seeing you at the St. Patrick’s Day luncheon, and if I ever make it to the speaker’s chair, I assure you we’ll maintain the tradition. After all, with a great-grandfather named Dennis Sheedy, what else could I do? Besides that, a great portion of my constituents are Irish Americans. Best Wishes. Sincerely, Robert L. Livingston, Member of Congress." Sure there you go now.