By Ray O’Hanlon
"IF" is not sure which of these two’s wrath it would most fear: Mary Robinson or the Irish Times. Better in this case to be a distant spectator to an extraordinary row that sprang out of Robinson’s visit last week China, a trip that also took in Tibet.
This was the opening paragraph of an IT editorial on the matter: "It is disappointing on her first visit to China as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights that Mrs. Mary Robinson should choose to limit and determine the Irish media coverage of her activities. Tomorrow she flies to Tibet, accompanied by one journalist — Mr. Charlie Bird of RTE — and a cameraman, having excluded the Irish Time’s Beijing correspondent, Mr. Conor O’Clery, from coverage of the visit."
One does not exclude the Irish Times for slight reason, to be sure. According to the IT account, Robinson’s spokesman, Joe Diaz, wanted to avoid the impression that the Tibet trip was just an Irish jaunt. This impression would apparently be created if she was accompanied by only Irish journalists. "IF" is not sure of that. Two reporters and a cameraman is hardly the White House Press Corps. There must be more to this than meets the lens.
Anyway, the Times thundered on, suggesting that Robinson was sending the wrong message in a country where press censorship is rife. "Whatever her rationale, Mrs. Robinson has done a poor day’s work for at least one of the principles which she seeks to further in her visit to China," the times concluded.
It would indeed seem odd to exclude O’Clery, former Washington correspondent for his paper. He recently traveled to Tibet and filed a detailed report on conditions in a country that has been experiencing a kind of Chinese plantation for five decades now. His knowledge and insight would certainly have served Robinson well. Perhaps, in this case, the lady’s not for learning.
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FF to smooth ruffled feathers
You don’t become the largest political party in Ireland through an inability to scrape the you know what off your shoe when you step in it. "IF" would not be far wide of the mark in suggesting that some of the party’s top people have been busy smoothing ruffled corporate feathers after a number of Irish-American bigwigs failed to gain entry to the Bill Clinton lunch in Dublin hosted by Bertie Ahern.
Fianna Fáil is looking to the U.S. for big bucks this fall and is now clearly having to face into the teeth of competition as a result of the rapid rise of Sinn Féin’s U.S. fortunes. Perhaps the two should get together and form "Friends of the Irish Republic" or something on those lines. Whatever about ideological differences, both SF and FF would certainly agree on certain fundamental issues: The value of money, the need for Gerry Adams to get rid of his beard, the glories of holidays in Donegal, and, of course, a united Ireland.
Millions of Americans read and heard of President Clinton’s first use of the "S" word — "Sorry" — during his appearance in Dublin with Taoiseach Bertie Ahern. Few know who asked the question that finally burst the dam. It was the Echo’s Susan Falvella-Garraty. There you are now.
Hard landing for Shannon?
One line in the recent Aer Lingus release announcing plans for a Los Angeles service beginning next year came and went with little comment or explanation. The new service, said Aer Lingus, "will provide nonstop service to Dublin, with continuing service to Shannon." What exactly does "continuing" mean? Does it imply continuing on the same plane or will Shannon-bound Angelenos have to switch to a connecting aircraft.
"IF" understands that Aer Lingus hasn’t quite yet decided how to work the "Dublin stopover." Clearly, it would be flying in the face of sound economics to use an Airbus that has just flown 6,000 miles. It would have to take off again, land in Shannon, and later take off for Dublin again in order to cover the "nonstop" flight from the Irish capital back to L.A. Then again, this might actually happen on occasion because Aer Lingus services its growing transAtlantic fleet in the County Clare Airport.
Meanwhile, there are growing suggestions that Shannon’s quota of transAtlantic flights — one out of every two flight from Ireland to the U.S. departs Shannon — might come under renewed pressure once Aer Lingus managed to land in bed with the long sought "strategic partner." There are four potential strategic alliances in the air right now which, one way or another, are attractive to Aer Lingus decision makers. The fledgling alliance between American Airlines and British Airways is the one most often named in this regard. The thing is, once you hook up with the big boys, you are not always your own boss anymore. AA and BA might have their own ideas about Shannon and they might not be entirely sympathetic to the famous airport’s claim to being the gateway to Ireland and indeed Europe.
Napalm in the morning?
The folks in County Monaghan must have thought they were in one of those ‘Nam movies. A couple of days before Air Force One touched down in Belfast, people in the Castleblayney/Clontibret areas turned their eyes skyward at the noise caused by six double-rotor Chinook helicopters apparently flying over supposedly neutral Irish territory. First thoughts among the more Fenian-thinking locals turned to a British invasion from the sky, but it turned out later that the choppers were part of the U.S. advance force assigned to the Clinton visit.
Natives of Clontibret are no strangers to invasion, of course, and well remember the dark-of-night commando raid by Democratic Unionist Party deputy leader Peter Robinson and assorted loyalist heavies back in August 1986, an escapade that nearly landed wee Peter in an Irish stockade. Now if only the DUP had an air force.
They said . . .
"If Senator Lieberman had any sensitivity to the value of Irish Catholics, he would not have attacked President Clinton at exactly the time the President was in Ireland." Fr. Sean McManus, president of the Irish National Caucus.
€ "The time has come for David Trimble to stop playing games and acknowledge that Sinn Féin is entitled to their two cabinets seats in the Northern Ireland government. Sinn Féin is entitled to these seats under the Good Friday Agreement without any prior decommissioning by the IRA." Rep. Peter King of Long Island.