Category: Archive

Inside File Irish Dems target Ben Gilman

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Ray O’Hanlon

Keep the chardonnay on ice. The reception being organized to raise funds for members of Congress in the New York area who voted nay in the House of Representatives’ Clinton impeachment vote has been put back until early March. It had been set for Jan. 20 in Manhattan, but because of the fund-raising nature of the event, papers must be filed with the Federal Elections Commission and that will take a little time.

The fund-raiser is being put together by the New York arm of Irish American Democrats. The idea is to funnel money and support to those Democrats who stood behind Clinton and to work for the ouster of those Republicans who voted in favor of impeachment. And despite his considerable track record on Ireland, Rockland County representative Ben Gilman is one of the GOP members in IAD sights.

This despite the fact that Gilman — who chairs the House International Relations Committee and is also co-chair of the Ad Hoc Committee for Irish Affairs — followed up his pro-impeachment vote by co-signing a letter to Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott urging that Clinton be censured by the Senate but not thrown out of office.

The letter is cutting little slack with the Irish-American Dems. One source told "IF" that Gilman was absolutely in the group’s firing line and that by signing the letter he (Gilman) had merely underlined the fact that his House vote was "lousy" in the first place.

So Gilman is not to be singled out for Irish Democratic praise, as has been the case with Pete King and Chris Shays, the two New York tri-state area GOP congressmen who voted against impeachment.

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This is certain to rankle many Irish-American Gilman backers, who would likely see him as a congressional version of Clinton, in other words, "the best friend Ireland ever had in the International Relations Committee." Certainly, there is no lack of support for Gilman in Irish American GOP ranks. He is to be honored by Irish GOP activists at O’Neill’s in Manhattan in early February. "IF" reckons the scene is being set for a right donnybrook in November 2000, or maybe even sooner.

Sparks on the Web

The skin and hair is flying on the internet following allegations that America Online pulled a number of Irish web pages because it took exception to their Irish nationalist/republican political leanings. AOL claims that it had to clean up the pages because obscenities were being used.

Some AOL subscribers are crying foul, alleging censorship and anti-Irish bias. Some Echo readers, meanwhile, were angry over a story last week in which AOL cited foul language for temporarily canning the Irish Heritage Forum web site. Rubbish, they roared. It was censorship, pure and simple. One reader said he could not recall a single incident of abuse or foul language as outlined by the AOL spokesman in the story. Another said that AOL was anti-nationalist and anti-republican. The same reader, directing fire not at AOL but at l’il ‘ol "IF," concluded: "Nice Irishman you are."

Yet another e-mailer said that the closure of "boards" extended into the area of Scottish heritage and encompassed not just the Irish language but also e-mails in Scots Gaelic.

Others, however, contended that the chat areas on AOL were never shut down and that only some message boards were pulled. And there have been complaints too of threats and intimidation being delivered down the wires due to the fact that not all the "posters" airing their views on the Irish Heritage Forum site were cut from the same political cloth.

Ah, free speech, you just can’t beat it. But you can sometimes get enough of it. Time to read a book, turn on the telly, get a life.

Quids pro euros

There was a time, not a million years ago, when the pound, both Irish and British versions, were valued equally on the island of Ireland. You could spend sterling notes in the Republic easily enough, although for reasons not in the banking code or economic textbooks, you were lucky indeed if you could unload the Irish version in the wee North or the so-called "mainland."

The two currencies eventually went their separate ways. Sometimes the punt was up against sterling, sometimes it was down. One way you always knew you had reached the border, on the main roads, at any rate, was the sudden appearance of signs proclaiming currency exchange facilities. These roadside bureaux des changes will continue to do business for a few years, at least as long as Britain holds to its "fog in the channel, continent cut off" position and stays outside the common currency area.

But London’s embracing of the Euro at some point would appear to be inevitable. When that day comes, Northern Ireland and the Republic will become virtually a single market with a true single currency. The money changers will vanish from the border while the frontier itself will become, in the eyes of many, that bit less relevant. At least in economic terms.

You might think such a possibility would please Sinn Féin. But that’s not the case at all, judging by a recent editorial in An Phoblacht/Republican News, which stated in part: "The replacement of the púnt by the euro is a form of national treason by the bulk of our politicians, even if many of them may not realize what they are doing. An army and a currency are the two classical essential features of being an independent state."

Beefed up security

We are all too familiar with the enormous security measures that top politicians and celebrities require these days. Back in 1967, however, the late Jackie Kennedy got a taste of personal security — Irish style. During her visit to Ireland she stayed at Woodstown House, Co. Waterford. The Irish government was not happy. Woodstown was a little run down in appearance and gardaí viewed it as being a security nightmare.

But according to newly released cabinet papers, those charged with protecting Jackie and her two kids, Caroline and John, took a little comfort from one aspect of the cordon sanitaire thrown around Woodstown. Less a ring of steel it was than a steer with a ring. Apparently, there was a huge and ferocious looking Black Angus bull tethered on the front lawn and "rotating in circles" as one garda member put it. The gardaí were told by the owners that the bull was there to frighten away trespassers. Well, it worked and no mis-steak. Jackie spent a few relatively peaceful days at the place watched over by the burly beast.

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