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Inside File Irish Dems vs. Irish GOP

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Ray O’Hanlon

And in the green corner. Well, who exactly? The impeachment mess has thrown up a clear demarché between Irish American Democrats and Republicans — of the GOP persuasion, that is. The group calling itself Irish American Democrats is prepared to fight to the last drop of Chardonnay to defend Bill Clinton and his Irish policies. The first round of this Irish Alamo is set for Jan. 20 in Manhattan when Brian O’Dwyer and Frank Durkan will host a party to raise money for all members of the House of Representatives in the New York area who voted against impeachment.

In a joint statement, O’Dwyer and fellow lawyer Frank Durkan, who also chairs the Americans for a New Irish Agenda lobby group, expressed outrage at "so-called moderate Republicans" who had voted to impeach "the best friend Ireland ever had in the White House and would jeopardize the peace process for narrow, partisan and vindictive reasons."

The statement continued: "We wish these Republican congressmen, many of who purport to be a friend of Ireland, had shown the courage of Representatives Peter King and Christopher Shays.

"Many in the community have voiced their outrage to us and we feel that the best way that they can voice their anger is by attending the fund-raiser and working to defeat those members of Congress who have brought about the impeachment."

Fighting words indeed. Contrast this with a statement from the National Assembly of Irish American Republicans, which takes a lash at another manifestation of the Democratic Party’s Irish American arm, Irish for a Democratic Victory.

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The statement read in part: "With two national political parties, it can be helpful when they take positions that show exactly where they stand. This is one of the defining issues for Republicans as well as the President’s Democratic defenders and reflects the core values of the two parties.

"It is a terribly unfortunate situation that the president is putting the country through, and the two parties will have to live with their positions. A very few Democrats, like Rep. Jim Moran of Virginia, have taken independent positions and been punished for it by groups like the Irish for a Democratic Victory. Whatever happens, the nation will be stronger because of our rule of law, as unpleasant as it may be, and it is doubtful that any future inhabitant of the White House will turn it in into Joey Buttafuocco’s garage."

Strong stuff. But this week’s "IF" spleen-venting award must go to AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney, who described the House impeachment vote as "the disgusting conclusion of a single-minded, hate-driven, partisan stampede to oust a president twice elected by working families to pursue an agenda on their behalf." John J. is clearly no Republican and, along with most Irish Americans of Democratic Party persuasion, is doubtless steeling himself for the, eh, mickraking battles ahead.

Bill’s Irish luck

1998 was indeed a turbulent year for Bill Clinton. His few days in Ireland likely stand out as some of the better ones. 1999 is cutting up rough already for the 42nd president. Anyone who wished him "Happy New Year" — while really meaning it — must have done so with fingers firmly crossed.

As we all know, Clinton now faces an impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate. Given his keen sense of history, Clinton’s holiday reading may well have included works on the presidency of Andrew Johnson, the Democrat who presided in the post-Civil War White House between 1865 and 1869. Johnson was impeached in the House of Representatives by a group described then as the Radical Republicans. He was, however, acquitted on two counts in the subsequent Senate trial. In each Senate vote the margin against acquittal was as marginal as you can get: one vote. The luck of the Irish perhaps. Johnson was a McDonough on his mother Mary’s side.

Toasting Ned Devine

"IF" was impressed by "Waking Ned Devine," a whimsical romp that should do great things for the Irish tourist industry. The scenery was only massive and with a little luck most people who see the movie will be the types who wake up and leave the theater before the credits roll up all the way. If that turns out to be the case, most "Ned Devine" fans won’t know that the film was shot entirely on location in the Isle of Man.

That said, the place is just the image of Kerry and one scene looks like it had to be filmed in Killary Harbor, Co. Mayo, even though it was actually an equally spectacular Manx fjord. It reminds "IF" of a funny interview given by the late Robert Mitchum in which he described a lifetime of making movies during which he never once stood in the place that the film itself was depicting.

But back to Ned Devine and a somewhat new twist on movie product pushing. There were several scenes in which whiskey was consumed. Either the makers could not get a sole distiller to lash out a few drams or they were intent on reaching a level of commercial fairness all too rare in this dog-tipple-dog age. Either way, it ended up that the four best-known brands of Irish all popped up at one point or another in the story. Ned Devine was duly waked with Paddy, Powers, Bushmills and Jameson. Is it any wonder he departed alone?

Still on the movies. "IF" has taken some satisfaction in the praise being heaped on Brendan Gleeson these days, not least by Janet Maslin in the New York Times. Readers with good memories will recall that "IF" was all for Gleeson playing Michael Collins in the movie after his powerful portrayal of the man in the Thames Television/RTE production "The Treaty." Still, Gleeson is having his moment in the sun now. He missed out playing one general but got to play another.

Tommy’s good cause

Just because the Manhattan hostelry bearing his name is gathering cobwebs doesn’t mean that Tommy Makem is finished in New York. Far from it. Makem plays on and the New Hampshire-based Bard of Armagh will be strumming and singing for the cause of Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral in downtown Manhattan on Saturday, Jan. 16. The Makem concert concludes a day’s list of events aimed at raising funds for the restoration of a church that was the sending off point for Irish Brigade soldiers in the Civil War. Requiem Mass and a series of commemorative marches will precede the concert, tickets for which are $40. For details, call (212) 226-8075, ext. 13.

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