By Ray O’Hanlon
You’re up, you’re down, you’re . . .
Not that the Provos were ever social role models for editorial writers in big American dailies, but last week was rougher than most for the lads and lassies in the "RA."
"IF" was almost thinking that the spin had been put by her majesty’s diplomats given the wide geographic spread and near identical tone in editorials penned from sea to oil-slicked sea all in the same week and before the news was firmly set.
But they wouldn’t do that at such a delicate moment in the peace process, would they? What could possibly be achieved by pushing a stubborn lot like the Provos to the wall under the critical gaze of American public opinion? Then again …
"The fault lies squarely with the Irish Republican Army, which has taken no steps toward handing in its arms," opined the Washington Post in one of the more critical editorials.
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The Post didn’t stop with the Provos. Sinn Féin dodged the Post’s bullet, but the Clinton administration and Irish-America’s political leadership was given the lash in no uncertain terms.
"But neither the administration nor the leadership in Congress is willing to denounce the IRA for its intransigence. The silence harms the prospects for a settlement that was once a fine testament to America’s peace-making prowess."
The paper pointed out that the "Irish lobby in Congress" had never missed a chance to denounce Protestant intransigence. But now a deafening silence was coming from the likes of Sen. Edward Kennedy and congressmen such as Pete King and Ben Gilman, chairman of the House of Representatives International Relations Committee.
"The apparent one-sidedness is out of step with Irish popular opinion. . . . Meanwhile, the White House waffles, perhaps believing that private pressure on the IRA is more effective. But the IRA’s leaders need to know that their allies in this country will not indulge them if they break up the peace process. The president should publicly insist that the IRA begin disarmament."
Tough stuff. Nothing to do, of course, with the fact that the editorial was written by a recent hire at the Post who happens to be British and late of one of "IF’s" favorite magazines, The Economist, an organ that doesn’t lose much sleep portraying the Irish as a shower of mucksavages
Anyway, the tone was not very different in the Chicago Tribune: "Trimble’s courage has not faltered; Adams’ assurances as to the IRA’s disarmament plans have rung false." According to the Tribune, the IRA’s position that its guns were silent and that it posed no threat to the peace process was "utter nonsense."
The editorial concluded by stating that the IRA had to begin giving up its "vast arsenal" as a show of good faith, "or it will have to shoulder the responsibility for a return to British rule in Northern Ireland. And if Gerry Adams cannot persuade them to do so, he must admit to having misled not just his political opponents, but also the Catholic people of Northern Ireland, whom he has claimed to represent."
In New York, it wasn’t much better for Adams, his party or the IRA.
"It comes as no surprise, but it’s profoundly disappointing nonetheless, that peace in Northern Ireland seems to be foundering on the refusal of the Irish Republican Army to start turning in its weapons," wrote the New York Post.
The Post also came out with the most hilarious paragraph: "No self-respecting democrat — make that no self-respecting democracy — can function in the face of internal armed threat. It shouldn’t be even asked to try." Guess the last Post editorial writers picnic was not deep in the Michigan woods.
Anyway, onward. The New York Times editorial headline read: "Dangerous Stall by the IRA." The Times accused the IRA of running the risk of "reawakening a conflict that almost all of Northern Ireland’s people want to see ended for good." The paper decided that "Ulster Unionists, quite rightly, are feeling abused."
The Daily News opined – in a column penned by Fintan O’Toole of the Irish Times – that for the last 30 years the IRA had fought a "bloody and vicious campaign" for a united Ireland. "Now, finally, it has managed to unite Ireland — in dismay, despair and disbelief."
The Los Angeles Times was of the view that "decommissioning should begin at once," while The Christian Science Monitor blamed the situation on an "unwillingness by the IRA to punch through a psychological barrier and leave behind a way of life built on the threat of violence."
No, not a good week for the Provos. The Army Council will be canceling a few subscriptions.
N.H. results good for forum
The outcome of the New Hampshire primaries in both parties was good news for the organizers of the upcoming Irish American Presidential Forum.
None of the main candidates were completely knocked from the presidential race. John McCain’s success and his subsequent getting on the ballot throughout New York means that George W. Bush will have to work harder to court Irish Americans in the state. If McCain is lured to the forum, Bush can’t easily stay away.
On the Democratic side, Al Gore’s far narrower win means he is going to have to keep his eye on Bill Bradley. The big man is still in the running and, if well advised, will not miss a chance to compete with Gore’s already strong position on Irish issues. All in all then, a good result for Mssrs. Dearie, King and Crowley, the trio behind the forum.
Krakatoa East Of Belfast
"IF" is really looking forward to that PBS documentary on May 15 in which the Ireland and the Irish are explained by means of a volcanic explosion on the island of Krakatoa back in 535 A.D.
"IF" has long felt that the Irish deserve a big bang theory all of our own, being masters of the universe these days and all. One curious thing about the WNET Channel 13 press release concerning episode one — the Irish episode — of the four-part series "Secrets of the Dead." It states that "Evidence for this totally new model of Irish origins comes from arch’ological and historical material from or related to monasteries in Derry and Bangor, fortifications in south Antrim and Down, island fortresses in County Tyrone and elsewhere, Dark Ages battle sites in Northern Ireland, the annals of Ulster — and academics and laboratories in Queens University, Belfast."
So all the evidence backing up the Krakatoa theory comes from the North. Does this mean the South missed out on the blast in the past and that the Krak is really mightier in the wee North? Tune in!