By Ray O’Hanlon
Some would see this as merely confirmation of the need for expanded public-school instruction on the Irish role in America’s history. "Banished Children of Eve" author Peter Quinn certainly does.
The Houghton Mifflin history textbook currently being submitted for approval in California public high schools would leave many students wondering if they should throw a dime to the next Irish person they encounter, be it in a ditch, field or wild slum.
After telling the reader that "Ireland lies just west of Great Britain" and "because of poor soil and harsh weather, is a hard place to farm" (note the "is"), the textbook goes on to mention, in a couple of paragraphs, the mass death and emigration spawned by the great Famine. A third paragraph describes what the Irish did once they got here in "swimming coffins." Some Irishmen, the tract concluded, "did hard labor digging the Erie Canal and building roads and railroads." And there the hare firmly sits. Quinn became aware of the book and checked the New York equivalent being studied by his seventh grade daughter. He found a few lines that were "as utterly deficient but not as egregiously insulting."
Cruiser cruiser quite contrary
"IF," for once, doesn’t quite know where to start. Conor Cruise O’Brien is now saying that Northern Ireland’s unionists should cut the best deal possible and enter a united Ireland. Cruiser’s latest take on partition will be detailed in his memoirs, due out in November. In the meantime, he is letting it be known that unionism’s position will become untenable if the British government continues, in his view, to sell out to violent Irish republicanism.
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Suffice it say, "IF" does not see this as a conversion on the road to Damascus. Cruiser has been lodging in Damascus for years. He now seems to be galloping out of the city’s gates again crying, "the Irish are coming, the British are going," or words to that effect.
Pay — and pay again
Richard Clark Johnson, serving a 10-year term arising from the Boston missile technology case, has been billed by the IRS despite his confinement. Johnson, 50, failed in his recent attempt to secure presidential clemency and is not due to be released until this time next year.
According to a reliable source, Johnson cashed in a retirement fund in an effort to subsidize his own defense. He is now being taxed on that transaction, with added interest to the tune of $7,000. Forget about never kicking a man when he is down.
Alliance up in the air
The airline business these days sounds a bit like Europe on the eve of World War I: grand alliances all over the place. Aer Lingus has been desperate to jump into a cockpit with one or two of the giants of the sky. But the Irish carrier might have to wait a bit longer now that the U.S. government is hesitating over granting approval for the proposed link involving British Airways and American Airlines, a combination believed to be heavily favored by A.L.
The airline’s chairman, Bernie Cahill, told the Irish Times that Aer Lingus was very late into the process of searching for an alliance partner. "There will be either a strategic alliance within six months, or there won’t," Cahill said.
Now there’s a man who believes in covering the field.
Cops out of loop
"A mystery American millionaire" is funding a pilot scheme in nationalist areas of Derry and Belfast to develop a system of justice that excludes the RUC, the Belfast Telegraph has reported.
The Community Justice Restorative Group is planning a public meeting in Derry to get the community more involved. According to the report, the meeting will feature Professor Harry Mika, an expert in "restorative justice" at Central Michigan University. Mika will spend three years evaluating the Derry pilot scheme, as well as two similar projects in Belfast.
The report stated that that the scheme is being funded by an American donor who wants to remain anonymous. The Derry group said the RUC would be excluded from its project. The RUC — surprise, surprise — is not pleased and has warned that organizers of the proposed scheme could be breaking the law. "IF" reckons that if Northern Ireland was the Wild West, Bat Masterson would have arrested Wyatt Earp. As for "restorative justice." Could the mystery moneybags really be Oprah? Certainly sounds like her kind of thing.
Augusto y Maggie
Uproar in The Sun newspaper in London over the fact that Maggie Thatcher was not invited to a Falklands/Malvinas War reconciliation service this week at St. Paul’s Cathedral. Argentina’s prez, Carlos Menem, was invited. Chile’s former strongman, Augusto Pinochet, was, eh, close by but unavailable.
It didn’t matter anyway. Old Augusto was also in the invitation wilderness, possibly because he and Maggie were peas in a pod during the 1982 clash with "the Argies."
Maggie and Augusto shared tea together recently. The crumpet was hardly digested when Hammersmith 5-O lifted the aging general with that Spanish extradition warrant.
Meanwhile, the London Independent newspaper reported that Pinochet’s secret police sent a hit man to Northern Ireland in 1975 as part of an operation to embarrass the Labor government of Jim Callaghan. His mission was to collect evidence of British "concentration camps" and present it to the world at the United Nations.
Callaghan was critical of the Pinochet regime and had for a time banned arms sales. British relations with Chile improved after 1979 under Margaret Thatcher, blossoming into close collaboration during the Falklands War and a thriving arms trade, the paper reported.
Details of the Northern Ireland plot are contained in files compiled by the FBI on Michael Townley, a U.S.-Chilean citizen and key figure in Dina, the Chilean secret police. Townley is serving time for the car bomb murder of the former Chilean ambassador to the U.S., Orlando Letelier, in Washington, D.C., a few years back.
According to the Independent report, the hit man sent to Northern Ireland was Virgilio Paz, an anti-Castro Cuban also indicted in the Letelier case. Paz’s mission was to take photographs of internment centers, which, according to the FBI, were to have been displayed at the UN in order to discredit the British government. The operation flopped as the photos arrived too late to be used by Pinochet’s people on the East River.