By Ray O’Hanlon
David Trimble is not a man for stomping around the hills chewing a cigar or smoking a pipe. He’ll leave that to Che Guevara and Gerry Adams, two bearded men who Trimble joined at the chin last week when he took part in a panel discussion on terrorism and the new world order hosted by the New Atlantic Alliance, a Washington, D.C.-based conservative think tank. Trimble complained that the Clinton administration "and many from their generation" had "romanticized the men of violence" in Northern Ireland in much the same way as "Che Guevara has been romanticized."
There’s more to it of course. Adams is also being ostracized by not a few, including Mr. T., while Guevara — Lynch on one side of his family — never lived to see how romanticized he would ultimately become.
"IF," being incurably romantic, has a good mind to do up some David Trimble T-shirts and see how they do in the marketplace of romantic public opinion. Trimble brandishing a Union Jack and "Venceremos" in big red letters should do it. "IF" will do a Gerry Adams version too: "Tiocfaidh ar lá" and Gerry in a black beret.
The now equally romanticized leaders might actually sit down, swap shirts and do the political business that people of every generation expect them to do. Forget the romance, but there’s no harm in a bit of vision when lives are clearly at stake.
McCain’s road to Ballydamascus
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At some point along his political path, Sen. John McCain made a U-turn and noticed Ireland. It doesn’t particularly matter when and where this apotheosis took place. What does matter is that McCain, a formidable political operator by any standard, is now focusing at least some of his considerable energy on the North and in a manner that could result in his becoming a significant broker between unionist and nationalist interests.
Readers will recall that McCain was in the front rank of Clinton critics in the early days of the 42nd president’s efforts to end the Troubles. Back in 1996, McCain took Clinton to task for straining relations with London and granting Gerry Adams a visa. By last year’s presidential election, however, McCain’s position had begun to change. This was in no small part to the influence of Rep. Peter King who supported McCain’s own presidential bid and who will doubtless pay a price for that in the coming Bush years.
In most recent times, McCain has reached out to David Trimble — along with Jesse Helms, he commended Trimble’s "distinguished leadership" in a letter last October — and is clearly sympathetic to unionist feelings on the peace process. At the same time, he was also a signatory to the National Assembly of Irish American Republicans letter to Bush urging the 43rd president to take up where Clinton left off in terms of White House involvement in the quest for a lasting settlement.
In this light, McCain would appear to have the potential to become a focal point on Capitol Hill for all sides in the peace process. It’s really up to him, though. Hopefully, the man will be encouraged by his new-found interest.
A century’s man
Magill, the monthly political affairs magazine in Ireland, recently surveyed academics and members of the Dáil and Senate to find out who they thought was Ireland’s most outstanding politician of the 20th century.
Surprise, surprise but the winner was neither Eamon de Valera nor Michael Collins, but rather Sean Lemass, the veteran Fianna Fáil independence fighter who became taoiseach in 1959 and dominated Irish political life throughout most of the 1960s.
Lemass beat out de Valera in the poll, with W.T. Cosgrave, the Irish Free State’s first leader, coming in third. Michael Collins was named by some respondents, as was the late Jack Lynch. Garret FitzGerald — 75 a few days ago — and John Hume were also in the pack and both did well in a separate "visionary" category.
The survey also asked who respondents felt was the politician who had the worst impact on Ireland in the 20th century. Charles Haughey led this dubious list. De Valera was second again in this category.
The most impressive politician in the current Dáil, according to the survey, was Minister for Foreign Affairs Brian Cowen, who is due in Washington in a few days where, hopefully, he can impress the Bush people with both the force of his intellect and his plain political force.
Corporations are mad into this "branding" business these days, so "IF" was quick to take note of an ad in one of Boston dailies the other day that listed a series of bargain air fares in February and March out of Kennedy, Newark and Boston to Shannon Dublin and Belfast.
The heading over the ad was simply "IRELAND." Underneath, in the wee print, was "Travel on Scheduled Carrier." There followed the usual warnings of blackout dates, restrictions and so forth. But just who was the oh-so-shy scheduled carrier?
A call to the listed toll-free number turned up none other than Aer Lingus. No big surprise there really given the departure and arrival airports. Delta and Continental are the only other scheduled carriers that fly to Ireland, but neither flies out of Boston’s Logan Airport.
But again, why the reluctance to flog the vaunted Aer Lingus brand name? After all, we’re not talking Rinkydink Airlines here.
€ "The AOH is an organization of Irish Catholic men that supports and defends the Catholic church, including the church’s stand on the subject of life. Indeed, the AOH was born in Ireland for the purpose of protecting the Catholic clergy during the times of religious oppression. However, the AOH is also a voice for immigration reform, peace with justice in Northeast Ireland, and the prevention of defamation aimed at those of Irish heritage. Unlike many of its critics, the AOH does not have the luxury of looking at events with a narrow perspective." Extract from the statement by the Richmond County St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee, organizer of the controversial Staten Island parade.
€ "Very few, if any, foreign policy issues received bipartisan support in the Clinton administration, apart from the Irish issues. Although President Clinton receives much of the credit for his efforts in the North of Ireland, the Republican Congress supported his agenda throughout and indeed often led the way." Extract from the recent National Assembly of Irish American Republicans letter to President Bush.