Category: Archive

Inside File Pataki’s policy pledge

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Ray O’Hanlon

George W. "I’m No Genius" Bush might be having a hard time naming the leaders of some countries, but someone in his campaign at least had the sense to recently fire off a couple of lines on Northern Ireland. Whether or not Bush is really interested in the wee North, his Democratic rivals, Gore and Bradley, are certain to play the issue up with Irish-American voters should progress toward a lasting peace be maintained in the coming months.

Bush might be helping himself in this regard if he keeps in touch with New York Gov. George Pataki. Pataki played up the importance of Ireland as an issue last week during a press briefing in Manhattan that followed his meeting with Taoiseach Bertie Ahern. Pataki said that his party had to make sure that issues of Irish-American concern remained an important part of U.S. foreign policy. Ireland, he said, was "a very high priority."

Pataki, of course, could end up as George W’s running mate, thus soothing the fears of Irish American that a second Bush presidency would relegate Ireland to the foreign policy bush leagues.

Pledges for Bertie

Given the fact that the Shinners have indeed been going through the town like a plague of locusts, it was brave indeed for the Fianna Fáil crowd to organize a fund-raiser, in fact a couple of them, for Bertie Ahern during his visit to the Big Apple last week.

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Bash number one was in the Liam Neeson Penthouse — yes, there is such a thing — at the new Fitzpatrick’s Hotel near Grand Central. The second, and rather more swanky black-tie affair took place shortly afterward at the 21 Club. The former event was a little more casual than the latter but apparently some Soldiers of Destiny turned up at the hotel dressed like James Bond on his way to a casino, prompting questions from the GAP-clad brigade as to where they might be heading. One or two flushed faces, as you could imagine.

Filthy lucre was not really mentioned amid all this merrymaking, but it was clearly understood by one and all that FF would be needing the few bob down the line to tide themselves over what might be well a long winter. The party has managed to plunge itself into considerable debt despite the fact that the Celtic kitty seems to be drowning in cash. So much for rising tides lifting all boats.

Vanity’s nonsense

No Leprechauns in the latest issue of Vanity Fair, but you can’t go far even in these supposedly politically correct times without someone making a silly, condescending remark on matters Irish. The issue includes a story about the early-days whiz kids in Microsoft, about all the money they made, and what they are doing now. One of them spent time in Ireland working for the company "managing," according to VF, "the ‘localization’ of products [adapting Windows to the needs of publicans and weavers, presumably] and left Microsoft in 1997."

The effect of the microchip on traditional Irish industries and the licensed trade might be an interesting story in itself, but this was not what prompted the gratuitous dig. Still, the Irish are laughing anyway. The wee sod is now the second largest exporter of computer software on the planet — thanks to U.S. companies, of course — and certainly the most successful exporter of pubs. As for Ireland’s weavers? Better yarns from that quarter than what Vanity Fair has to offer at the minute.

And speaking of Vanity Fair. The one man who might have been able to put a stop to trite verbiage on matters Irish is taking flight. Armagh-born Eamon Lynch is heading to a new posting in the Daily News, where he will be given the task of penning astounding features and great ripping, eh, yarns.

Paine talk

Got $27,500 to spare? Well, should you have such a sum tucked under the mattress, you could part with it in return for an historical correspondence that has recently surfaced on the market in New York. It’s a letter of introduction written by Tom Paine in Paris in 1798 on behalf of a member of the United Irishmen, Thomas Orr. The letter is addressed to "Citizen Couttreau," a subordinate of Etienne Bruix, minister of the Navy and Colonial Affairs. Liberty, equality and fraternity clearly didn’t kill the French appetite for global expansion, especially when such adventures held a chance of giving the British a black eye. The Paine letter is brief: "The Citizen Orr one of the United Irishmen has some communications to make to the Minister, be so kind as to give him your friendship." The letter was written about the time that the French landed in Ireland to aid the 1798 Rebellion.

Paine, one of the more prominent American advocates of republican revolution at the time, was a keen observer of events in Ireland, so much so that he was made an honorary United Irishman. At one point he advocated an American-French-Irish invasion of England using small boats that were effectively an early prototype of D-Day landing craft. Paine was a member of the French National Assembly, although he didn’t speak French.

The very high price for his letter is due to the fact that Paine letters are somewhat rare as opposed to letters from, say, Thomas Jefferson. Readers will recall that "IF" made mention a few months back of the sale of a letter from Thomas Jefferson, as president, to another United Irishman, James McNeven, concerning the burden placed on both the fledgling United States and Ireland by soldiers dressed in red coats.

It very much was the case that Irish, American and French republicanism in the late 18th century were all different branches of the same tree. The French, however, were the first to wilt and Tom Paine quit Paris after it became apparent that Napoleon had more on his mind than a musket in one hand and ballot box in the other.

Paine’s letter is on the block at the Kenneth W. Rendell Gallery in Manhattan. "IF" ain’t bidding given the fact that the this column’s current budgetary state is on a par with Fianna Fail’s.

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