By Ray O’Hanlon
Liam Maskey and Jim McCabe were not on the Patten Commission. But they would argue that their street-level perspective is easily the match of any weighty commission report. Maskey and McCabe, who volunteer their time with community-based groups in Belfast, were in Washington, D.C., and New York recently to spread their shared view that if nothing is done to alter the current policing structure, the peace process will be in dire peril.
While in New York, Maskey said the British government’s police bill had the potential to "wreck the whole lot." McCabe, whose wife was killed by an RUC plastic bullet in 1981, said that Northern Secretary Peter Mandelson, "in his arrogance, had refused to listen to the pleas of people who had suffered at the hands of the RUC."
Both men, whose delivery is as determined in tone as it is low key in manner, are deeply fearful that a failure to fully implement the Patten Commission recommendations will spell serious trouble for Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness and allow anti-agreement dissidents to indulge in "we told you so" rhetoric and then some.
"I am frightened of the potential dangers we are facing," Maskey said. "If young [nationalist and republican] people feel they can’t join the new police force, the result could be a nightmare. It could be back to war."
A grim prediction indeed.
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RTE’s Washington, D.C.-based correspondent, Mark Little, is packing his Gucci luggage for a return to the wee sod by year’s end. Little’s replacement in D.C. will be the Irish national network’s current environment and education correspondent, Carole Coleman.
The handing over of the microphone is set for Jan. 1 and the expectation is that this particular transition will be somewhat smoother than the U.S. presidential version.
Coleman is a native of Carrick-on-Shannon, Co. Leitrim. She began working with RTE on a free-lance basis in 1992 and joined the newsroom a year later. She has previous experience working as a journalist in the U.S. In 1988 and ’89 she was a reporter and presenter on a radio station in Lowell, Mass. Coleman was back in the U.S. recently to help with RTE’s presidential election coverage. One way or another, she’s going to have a busy time of it when she returns for the 43rd presidency.
A tough job indeed
Mention was made here last week of President U.S. Grant and his proclamation against the Fenians. Needless to say, there were many who backed presidential sanctions against the Brotherhood as a result of its attacks on neighboring Canada. One such supporter was John Charles Laycock of Philadelphia. He agreed with Grant’s move but was furious that the president had not acted earlier.
Wrote Laycock (his capital letters and punctuation): "As one of your constituents I deem it my privilege to address the executive, to whom his constituents delegated the Executive Power of the United States — When it appears obvious that tardiness, or Weakness has been exhibited by the Government — If the Proclamation issued by The President had been issued one Week earlier, it would have prevented the outrage of the Irish on the Canadians, under the cognomens of a Raid — a fenian Raid — it would have saved numerous lives, and millions of money — Why was it not issued, when for months it was notorious that illegal operations were in active operation to Violate the neutrality laws. . . . "
"IF" was thinking that Mr. Laycock — a clearly unrepentant non-Fenian — should at least be an oratorical inspiration to Irish Americans should the incoming presidential administration let even a day go by before it takes up where Bill Clinton leaves off on Ireland. All hands on e-mails.
U.S. hands off wee sod
While most people in Ireland and the U.S. are delighted that the U.S. has been active on the Irish-British question, not all are. The Irish Republican Socialist Party, by way of its International Department Secretariat, issued a press release in recent days taking issue with any U.S. role.
The release was apparently prompted by a statement from the South Armagh Farmers and Residents group, which itself drew on a statement by California State Sen. Tom Hayden. Hayden stated that the election of George W. Bush to the White House would weaken the peace process in Ireland because the White House would no longer act as a counterweight to the British government.
Stated the IRSP in its response: "That the American White House has ever sought to provide a counterweight to the British government in matters of Irish affairs is laughable to anyone familiar with the history of U.S. government policy toward Ireland.
"The Irish Republican Socialist Party takes this opportunity to reiterate that the United States government has no role to play in efforts to resolve the long conflict in Ireland. As the closest ally of Britain in the world and as the leading imperialist power on the globe, the United States cannot hope to be expected to act as a disinterested neutral party facilitating an exchange between those engaged in the national liberation struggle and those seeking to uphold continued British possession of six Irish counties. . . . "
Funny how it goes. The comrades of the IRSP and King James Baker of Texas both reckon, for differing reasons of course, that the U.S. should avoid the wee North like the plague. They should send each other Christmas cards.
Flags before slogans
Peace comes dropping slow. So does justice and a united Ireland. It didn’t go unnoticed that at the Gerry Adams bash in the Sheraton the other week one thing that was missing from the evening was that famous banner promising "Peace, Justice and a United Ireland."
The banner was prominent back at the Waldorf bash for Gerry in 1997 but has been kept under wraps more or less ever since. The Sheraton affair was adorned, however, by an Irish tricolor.
"IF" made a call and was told that the peace, etc. banner was actually in the hotel — in a box. Seems that the group before the Friends of Sinn Féin dinner only vacated the room 15 minutes before the Shinners gathered for their non-Molotov cocktails. With so little time it was decided that the easiest thing to get up in a hurry was the flag. And who would argue with the flag in question? Certainly not "IF."