By Ray O’Hanlon
Christmas is coming and the grand marshal is getting, well, padded for the New York St. Patrick’s Day parade. In the past there has been feverish speculation about this time of year as to the identity of the individual who will lead the way up Fifth Avenue. But this year there is little or none of it. So is anybody out there much interested?
The answer is maybe. Fact is, the whole grand marshal thing has lost much of its zip given the fact the selection process is stitched up tighter than a papal conclave. There is no real horse race, so why bother betting and blathering?
Doubtless this will be one of the matters up for discussion when AOH National President Tom Gilligan sits down with the parade committee to discuss the present tense state of affairs surrounding the March 17 festivities.
"IF" has heard that the meeting might be taking place in New York this weekend. Gilligan, of course, lives in Florida’s Broward County, so the parade committee might be in no mood to take his advice on how to run an election. As for the identity of the grand marshal? Like the hanging chad, he/she is out there just waiting to stand up and be counted.
Big send off
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The Rev. Ian Paisley went back to the well for a few days recently and doubtless came away from Bob Jones University in South Carolina more convinced than ever that he is marching boldly along the road to salvation.
Big Ian’s reason for the U.S. visit was, it must be said, a somber one. He was among the officiators at the funeral of Fannie M’ Jones, widow of Bob Jones Jr., the man behind the university at the center of a rumpus in the early days of Campaign 2000 when Dubya turned up for a pray-for-me-while-voting-for-me session with the student body.
Scary tale for King
Peter King is delighted at the emerging prospect of a George W. Bush presidency. But the Long Island GOP representative suffered a dose of the jitters when Bush’s front man for the Florida voting debacle turned out to be former Secretary of State James Baker.
"The worst thing that happened in the last couple of weeks was James Baker emerging from the crypt," King told "IF."
"It’s vitally important that we keep the James Bakers of this world away from the Northern Ireland issue."
King’s assessment of the possible 43rd president with regard to Irish-American concerns was that Bush had not given Ireland much, if any, consideration.
"But I don’t think he has any hostile feelings toward Ireland," King said. "It’s important that we don’t allow Bush to get boxed in early on. We should simply ask him to implement the words on Ireland in the Republican platform."
King, who secured his fifth House term in the Nov. 7 election, said that he was particularly concerned that should Bush be president, unionists and the British government would quickly move to secure from him a statement on Northern Ireland that would neutralize the GOP platform statement. That statement, among other things, promised the possibility of direct U.S. intervention in the peace process by way of a special envoy.
"They could try to get Bush to say something bland such as expressing support for the RUC and condemning terrorism," King said. "But such is the nature of the situation in Northern Ireland that something apparently bland can have profound meaning."
King pointed to the recent fan letter from fellow Republicans Sens. John McCain and Jesse Helms, to Ulster Unionist Party leader David Trimble.
"There was nothing in that letter that was the least bit offensive. But against the backdrop of Northern Ireland, it was disastrous," King said.
King added that he viewed Condoleezza Rice, Bush’s likely National Security adviser, as the best person for Irish American leaders to do business with in the event of Bush finally securing the Oval Office. Rice has a Masters Degree from Notre Dame, King’s alma mater. That’s a start, if not exactly a touchdown. Either way, between Notre Dame and Bob Jones, the Bushies seem to have all bases covered.
Seems that some locals in the Burren region of County Clare have taken a fancy to the asphalt parking lot that is the sole manifestation of the controversial interpretive center in the heart of one of Ireland’s more unique ecological habitats. So taken by the blacktop paving are these folks that they are prepared to go to prison rather than see it broken up by wicked antidevelopment forces.
By contrast, others in the area have mounted a campaign to repair widespread damage to the naturally formed limestone pavement that is the area’s most striking visual feature. Seems that tourists have been knocking off lumps of the "karst" limestone for construction purposes and most especially garden rockeries. Much of the stone is being shipped to Britain and Europe, where the laws protecting native karst limestone are, surprise-surprise, somewhat stiffer than the wee sod’s.
Other damage to the Burren is being caused by tourists who have taken to constructing miniature dolmens in imitation of people thousands of years ago who built the originals as burial chambers for their dead. Needless to say, the contemporary dolmens don’t house bodies but they are becoming a source of serious concern to those who want to preserve as best as possible an area that covers just one percent of Ireland’s land territory (all 32 counties of it) but is home to 75 percent of the island’s flora species.
"IF," has long held the view that the auld sod is indeed wee and not quite as far flung as a Fianna Fáil-type developer might imagine it to be. You can fall off the edge of the place rather quickly if you drive your bulldozer too fast.
With that in mind, the story in the New York Times a few days ago made for unsettling reading. Headed "In Not-So-Green Ireland, the Dispute Over Litter Gets Bitter," the report, by Dublin-based Times man Brian Lavery, opened thus: "To hear Dubliners tell it — and they do, often — tourists coming to Ireland these days don’t leave with memories of rolling green hills, grazing sheep and craggy coastlines. Instead, thinking back on an Irish vacation conjures up images of squashed soda cans, crumpled newspapers and plastic bags blowing in the wind." Dear oh dear!