By Ray O’Hanlon
Wyoming might the least populous state in the Union but it might well be giving us the next U.S. ambassador to Ireland. Mike Sullivan is a former governor of the Equality State, but while his political legacy is still remembered in Cheyenne, his face isn’t exactly familiar in the wee sod.
As always, when an embassy is up for grabs, there is much fussing in Washington. Not a few influential and highly capable people would really like the job as Bill Clinton’s plenipotentiary in Ballsbridge. Bruce Morrison, Mark Gearan, Tom Donohue and Paul Quinn are but a few of the names being floated. But no name is currently floating as high as Sullivan’s.
Still, there are those who are concerned that Sullivan is not the man for Ireland, not least because he has never set foot in the place. Such concern is legitimate. This is no time to be throwing the Irish job around as a mere political reward.
Then again, George Mitchell was hardly well known in Ireland or Irish America before his recent triumphs and Bill Clinton was way off the Irish American radar pre-April 1992.
Regardless of his previous failure to bridge the miles between Cheyenne and the Shannon, Sullivan does have one big plus in his favor. He’s an FOB – Friend of Bill. And that’s not a factor to be dismissed lightly. Jean Kennedy Smith’s considerable success was undoubtedly aided by the fact that brother Ted was a a 24-hour link between her and Clinton.
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Sullivan doesn’t seem to need that kind of bridge. That he apparently ranks as a personal friend of the president could well be crucial if things get sticky in the peace process. Outside the threat of imminent major conflict, not all ambassadors get straight through to the president of the United States by phone at 3 a.m. Those who do are usually trusted confidantes and friends. In the end, such friendship, personal and political, could be of greater significance than a hundred previous golfing trips to the Emerald Isle.
Stench of censorship dogs Indo stable
Much ado in Dublin over the latest flap in a paper hitched to the Independent stable. The Sunday Tribune’s New York columnist, Maire Crowe, has quit over the paper’s refusal to publish one of her regular weekly columns. The column dealt with the state of journalism in America and Ireland and touched on two books: Pete Hamill’s “News Is a Verb” and Sunday Business Post writer Emily O’Reilly’s critical tome on slain Sunday Independent crime reporter, Veronica Guerin: “Veronica Guerin: The life and Death of a Crime Reporter.”
Crowe’s view of the O’Reilly book was not entirely uncritical, but she also saw it as a valuable opportunity for a little critical self-examination on the part of Irish journalism. This, however, has not been the attitude of the various organs financed directly or indirectly by the Independent group, including the Tribune. The general tack taken in the Sindo/Indo/Turbine has been to canonize Guerin and damn anybody who dares question this view. Such sensitivities could be viewed as being entirely human, but the result has, at times, bordered on the tacky, such as last weekend, when the Sindo came out with a big front page photo of Guerin – to mark the second anniversary of her murder – accompanied by a blaring headline: “At The Going Down Of The Sun And In The Morning . . . We Will Remember Her.” An additional front page story was headed: “Neither age nor the gutter press can tarnish her now.”
With little sense of irony, the Sindo accused the “atavistic media” of ignoring “the facts.” One of the facts was that Ireland, prior to Guerin’s arrival on the scene, had become a lawless place in which professionals – lawyers and accountants – had sprung up to aid criminals in their quest for respectability and security. This only three weeks after the Irish Indo had pulled a story by one of its own columnists, Bruce Arnold, about the circumstances, and presumably a few of the “facts,” surrounding a _30,000 payment by the Tony O’Reilly-owned Fitzwilton company to former Fianna Fail Minister Ray Burke. The Sunday Business Post, meanwhile, published Crowe’s banished column in full.
Tommy scores, Henry runs
Tommy Smyth wears glasses on TV, but they must be doing the job all the same. The Knockbridge, Co. Louth, native has been analyzing World Cup games for ESPN 2 with his usual enthusiasm and verve. Tommy was on the ball the other day when Croatia played Japan. the game was evening poised but Tommy predicted that Croatia would clinch it in the last 15 minutes because Japan would run out of gas. They did, and the Croatians put one in the old onion bag just under 14 minutes before the 90 was up.
Henry Diamond, meanwhile, has moved well on since he got into a spot of bother in the Tucson arms case a few years back. The Northern Ireland native and Queens resident is running for president of the Dockbuilders, Piledrivers, Divers and Marine Construction Local 1456. Final ballots in the election are due on June 28. Diamond is expressing confidence that he will win. He is pledging to lead the local with integrity and put an end to cronyism.
The Old Sod boots China aside
President’s McAleese and Clinton were set to get together for a chat at the White House this week despite the fact that Clinton’s handlers were doing somersaults trying to keep their man’s mind focused entirely on his China trip. But the Middle Kingdom had to wait its turn. Bill was going to set aside a few minutes for li’l ‘ol Ireland and that was that.
“IF” was wondering if McAleese was aware of how the Irish swiped their current embassy in Beijing from right under the noses of the Americans a few years back. The Yanks wanted the building in order to extend their own considerable compound, but before the State Department’s bureaucratic wheels could pick up speed, the sole Irish diplomat in Beijing at the time, Paul Kavanagh, put down the deposit on his own initiative and sealed the deal. Ah, small is beautiful, grasshopper. Anyway, the Americans were fit to be tied. The current Irish ambassador in Beijing should invite Bill over to the Irish quarters for a viewing and a jar after one of those interminable Chinese banquets and recount the tale directly.