Category: Archive

Inside File Irish-British question

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Ray O’Hanlon

Try as they might, the bowler-hatted brigade can’t quite convince the world that both they and the wee North are in fact British, even in July. On the flip side, the Irish have a hard time shedding the association between "Irish" and violence, terrorism and guns. Hence we have "Violence averted at Irish march," a headline in one U.S. newspaper the morning after Drumcree. "Irish march?" Surely not, brethren.

Another headline, in the New York Daily News commuter edition, News Express, was guaranteed to cause equally flushed faces at Bord Fáilte: "Riots Rock Ireland." But hey, if it’s on the island and the fields are green . . .

And then there was the concluding line in that story, written by AP, in which it was stated that last week’s crisis talks, in Weston-under-Lizard no less, had "failed to break a deadlock over the Irish Republican Army’s refusal to begin disarming." Nobody else and no other deadlocking issues?

Similarly, a letter from Gerry Coleman of Irish Northern Aid published in the New York Times last week took on the issue of decommissioning. Coleman made the point that weapons in the hands of any one side was not the problem in the North. The heading over the letter seemed to forget one or more sides, however: "Arms and Irish society." Enough to make a loyal son of Ulster blush. What about British society?

Of course, you don’t have to be loyal in order to turn red in the face and white and blue all over the rest of yourself. Just ask Malachy McAllister, one-time member of the Irish National Liberation Army who is, whether he likes it or not, a true-blue British national by proclamation of a federal court. Still, now that he’s officially British, at least there’s little chance of McAllister ever being accused of being a British terrorist. Such a being has never existed in the convoluted nomenclature of the Northern Ireland troubles.

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That said, the day might be fast approaching. One of those recent editorials in leading U.S. papers, specifically a leader in the Boston Globe, used a term rarely if ever seen in print: "unionist terrorists." Any day now, lads.

Real winners

Not that they probably spare much thought for this, but all the strutting around by Orange Order members at this time of year doesn’t exactly lead them into the winner’s circle, at least in the economic sense. While they bowler-hatted gents roam around the fields and streets of the wee North remembering a battle fought 311 years ago, thousands of their fellow Ulster folk, Protestant and Catholic, are high-tailing it across the border to vacation spots in Donegal, Kerry and other Republic vacation spots.

The July fortnight is a traditional holiday period in the North, to be sure, and many would be going on vacation anyway, but all the violence, tension and stubborn posturing of recent years now results in an exodus from the Six Counties during this two-week span that could truly be described as biblical in proportion.

Indeed, entire neighborhoods are virtually devoid of people for the period and that’s because the inhabitants have broken for the border or have taken flight to the papist principalities of Europe such as France, Spain and Portugal. And, of course, the traveling Ulster folk, be they genuine vacationers or de facto evacuees, spend vigorously as they advance, Williamite-like, into the southern hinterland. If the sound that typifies the North at this time of year is that of the fife and drum, the sound of the South is to be found in the sweet ringing of cash registers. The Orangemen might rejoice at winning the Battle of the Boyne. But they’re losing the battle of the coin.

Top guns

It was a moment to file away for the next argument over guns in Northern Ireland. A former RUC sergeant was sitting in the studio audience recently during the broadcasting of the RTE show "Questions and Answers." The show generally features a panel of invited politicians and pundits and they answer questions or consider statements presented by members of the audience. On this occasion, the retired RUC man offered some insight into the thorny matter of gun licenses in the Six Counties.

According to the ex-cop, every time a gun license application from a Protestant came his way, it was taken out of his hands and processed elsewhere. The end result was always the same, however. Licenses were granted "willy-nilly" to Protestants even as the British army was confiscating shotguns and .22 rifles legally owned by Catholics, some of whom were less concerned about masked gunmen as they were about foxes among the chickens.

Gary’s record

"IF" has cause to occasionally scan that highly useful Congressional Scorecard compiled by San Francisco-based Northern Ireland Alert. Curiosity, however, was the spur in this case and no prizes for guessing why. How does Rep. Gary Condit, shape up when it comes to lending his name to various House of Representatives resolutions, letters and so forth aimed at the situation in the North?

Well, the best that can be said for Condit is that the one resolution that he did sign was an important one. It was the combined resolution condemning the murder of Rosemary Nelson and calling for independent inquiries into the Nelson and Pat Finucane murders. Condit’s one action taken keeps him off NIA’s dreaded "uninterested" list but hardly stacks up against Rep. Donald Payne’s chart-topping 18 actions taken.

A committee?

There’s no sign of the Jeanie Johnston, but a press release from the Irish government’s Department of the Marine did make landfall in the U.S. in recent days. Seems that a "Focus Group" representative of the stakeholders in the project will now man the decks of the foundering project. One of the group’s first tasks will be to actually finish up the ship’s construction and then, maybe, sail it around Ireland. So after all the hype, fuss and disappointment — a committee. Jayzus!

They said

€ "The Irish Republican Army is like the proverbial sleeping dog: Why kick it to see if it’s asleep? The pro-Catholic paramilitary organization hasn’t fired a shot in nearly four years. But preventing a recrudescence of war between Catholics and Protestants hinges on the Irish Republican Army surrendering at least some of its arms . . . " Editorial in the Dallas Morning News.

€ "Such has been the strength of his anti-British comments that he has been described as ‘making Ted Kennedy look like an Orangeman.’ " From a profile on Rep. Peter King in the Belfast Telegraph.

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