By Ray O’Hanlon
Ray Flynn is uneasy. The former U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican, mayor of Boston and regular citizen, wed to the Democratic Party at both hip and heart, might, just might, vote Republican in November.
Flynn’s latest career turn as a host on Catholic radio and TV shows has given him the forum he so obviously needed when he landed back in a Beantown that didn’t exactly fling out the green carpet for him. As national president of the group Catholic Alliance, Flynn has expressed fears in recent days that his party is dropping the ball on Ireland even as the presidential election looms. Flynn is disappointed by the vague statement on Ireland unveiled at the recent Democratic Convention in Los Angeles. He is far more impressed by the Republican statement unveiled in Philadelphia.
"If the Democratic Party is going to turn their back on the issues that are so important to the Irish-American community, then maybe Irish-American voters should turn their backs on the Democratic Party until these issues are supported," Flynn said is a statement.
Ray Flynn, GOP voter? He’s the one suggesting the possibility. And he’s not the only one flirting with "Dubya’s" ticket. The Irish American Unity Conference, in a statement signed off by its president, Jim Gallagher, expressed similar disappointment with the Democratic platform statement "drafted by Vice President Gore" and went on to suggest that Irish-American voters should "weigh" the "distinct differences" between the Democratic and Republican platforms in November. This amounted to a pretty transparent call for Irish Americans to vote Republican. The IAUC, officially a non-partisan group, quickly amended its statement and suggested instead that Irish Americans work hard in the next few weeks to persuade the Democrats to continue to build on Bill Clinton’s Irish legacy. Still, even with an amended statement, the suggested consequence of Gore & Co. ignoring such efforts remained: Irish Americans voting for George W. Bush.
The Ancient Order of Hibernians, while making the point that past Republican presidential administrations had been indifferent to the Irish conflict, also took the Democrats to task over the platform. National President Thomas Gilligan saw in it no role for the U.S. in the Irish peace process post-Bill Clinton.
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"There is too much danger in the Irish peace process for the United States to simply play cheerleader," said Gilligan, who went on to portray the Republican statement on Ireland in a far more positive light.
Clearly, such unease could have negative consequences for the Gore campaign, though there is an argument that the Hibernian portion of the Irish-American vote will lean to the GOP anyway. At the same time, some observers would be inclined to suggest that even Bill Clinton has been more inclined to cheerlead than lead on Ireland the last couple of years and that Gore is really picking up directly where Clinton is leaving off. Either way, there is unease in the air and it would seem, at this juncture, that more Irish-American votes are up for grabs than was the case four years ago.
Simply the pits
Take a look at this photograph. A happy lot. Yer man with the forlorn-looking German Shepherd is "Mad Dog" Johnny Adair, lately detained yet again at her majesty’s pleasure. "Rebel," his mutt, doesn’t carry the same sobriquet and perhaps such a presumption of innocence is deserved. Johnny and the boys are seen here wearing "Simply The Best" T-shirts.
The UDA/UFF motto is identical to the title of a Tina Turner song but has nothing to do with what Tina sings about. Rather, it reputedly has to do with the loyalist group’s skill at knocking off Taigs in large numbers. Nevertheless, Tina is involved in this business whether she likes it or not and that is that prompted Friends of Sinn Féin President Larry Downes to spend the last few days attempting to track down Tina’s people in an effort to have the sexy siren condemn the use of her song at rallies during which masked loyalists fire guns and generally try to frighten the bejaysus out of their Catholic neighbors.
Turner, of course, is hugely popular in Ireland and can’t be entirely unaware of events on the island in recent years. What’s love got to do with it indeed!
Meanwhile, at one of those loyalist, eh, cultural rallies, Ulster Democratic Party leader John White told the crowd that he had a message for Gerry Adams. It was nothing if not blunt: "You’ll never see a united Ireland. The Ulster Protestant people will fight tooth and nail to stay British. The UDA won’t let you down."
Yeah, well . . . meanwhile, time was when staying British implied staying richer. But that’s not necessarily the case any longer. The Economist magazine, in a recent report on Ireland, posed the 64,000 euro question: "Richer than the Brits?"
The report began: "Are the Irish really richer, these days, than the British? A couple of decades ago, even to have asked the question would have seemed ludicrous." But not, it seems, any more. The report went on to calculate that the Irish were indeed richer than the Brits when the measuring stick was Gross Domestic Product, this as opposed to Gross National Product. But what was really interesting in the piece related to Northern Ireland, home to ultra-Brits such as John White and his ilk, folk who would yet be inclined to portray Southerners as potato-scratching peasants. Stated the Economist: "But one thing, these days, is undoubted. People in the South are a lot richer than those in the northern, British, bit of the island." Guess it’s a case of the potato scratchers being, well, simply the best.
The Irish papers sometimes lose the run of themselves when it comes to reporting matters American. Everything is "huge," major, "gigantic" and so forth even if, by U.S. standards, it is not. But you can be forgiven for the occasional dollop of hyperbole when the view is of a continent from a small island, 3,000 miles of salty water in between.
In this spirit, "IF" forgives the Sunday World for this dubious gem a few days ago: "The 28-year-old cabbie is being hunted by New York cops after a series of attacks on Irish females in the notorious Queen’s district of the Big Apple." Just how many mammies and daddies back in the auld sod were convulsed with the shivers when they read that line can only be guessed.