By Ray O’Hanlon
Prosperity has its price. Time was when Ireland could stand proud with the oppressed and downtrodden nations of the earth. But that’s no longer the case, at least as far as Fidel Castro is concerned.
"IF" was impressed with Bertie Ahern’s speech to the UN Millennium Summit last week, as were a number of others, including the editors of the New York Times.
The Times, in its Thursday edition, drew upon the speeches of 10 of the 150 or so world leaders who had addressed the summit. And lo and behold, Ahern was one of them. Alongside Ahern — whose "Fair World Order" speech was nothing if not oozing with, well, fairness — there were extracts from speeches given by the likes of Jacques Chirac, Tony Blair, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Chinese president Jiang Zemin and yer man in Havana, Fidel.
Castro is clearly not impressed by the Celtic Tiger. In a speech that far exceeded the allotted five minutes, Castro railed against, among other things, the "three dozen developed and wealthy nations that monopolize the economic, political and technological power."
This dirty three dozen, according to his excellissimo, had gathered in New York to merely offer "more of the same recipes that have only served to make us poorer, more exploited and more dependent."
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Could he have been including Ahern and the auld sod in that rogue’s gallery? Well, given Ireland’s current standing in the world economic pecking order, there is no way "IF" can conclude otherwise. It could well indeed be that Castro counts leprechauns in suspenders and power suits when he’s trying to get to sleep under an Havana moon.
And there was poor Ahern trying to be fair to all men and yer man Fidel lumping the taoiseach in with the oppressors and imperialists of the world. It’s a hard old station even when times are soft. Perhaps Brian Cowen, Ireland’s minister in charge of affairs foreign, could put things to right when he arrives at the UN this week to deliver Ireland’s address to the mere opening of the General Assembly.
Cowen is the man to deal with Castro. He could start out by quoting Castro’s summit speech line in which his longwindedness lashed the UN as an institution where no one should "have the irritating and anti-democratic right of veto." After quoting this admonition delivered, apparently, without any hint of irony, Cowen could then fall to the floor and roll around laughing. At this point, Castro would realize that it doesn’t do to mess with Fianna Fáil, never mind the Celtic Moggy, a not insignificant outlet, by the way, for sales of Cuban Cigars.
The other border
The border in Ireland is not an entirely British fixation. Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness recently raised, once again, the suggestion that MPs from the Six Counties be allowed to sit in Dáil Eireann, albeit with limited voting rights.
McGuinness flew his kite in the pages of the Irish Examiner, the Cork-based daily which has been working strenuously in recent times to become a fully national Irish paper in terms of sales and readership. McGuinness might as well have suggested a British invasion of the Rebel County. The Examiner, in an editorial reply, trashed the Derry man’s suggestion as preposterous while stating that Northern nationalists had no right to Dáil representation because they would "inevitably gain the balance of power and this could lead to a very dangerous situation."
Begob, imagine that. Nationalists in power in Dublin and it’s a dangerous situation. The "Here & There" column by Archon (sounds likes a Serbian hitman) in the Waterford weekly, Southern Star, subsequently pointed out that "De Paper" never properly clarified what it meant by dangerous.
Wrote Archon: "The editorial’s main objection was that Northern MPs would be representing people who do not pay taxes in this state, while at the same time they would be deciding how the tax money would be spent. This was power without representation and was, to quote the sexist language of De Paper, the ‘prerogative of the harlot.’ "
McGuinness was suggesting no such thing, as Archon subsequently pointed out. The argument used against Northerners is long familiar to emigrants who have expressed interest in having even limited voting rights in the Republic’s elections. They too have been painted as a potentially dangerous, destabilizing force, barbarians outside the gate and so forth. The funny thing about the no-representation-without- taxation brigade is that for years they have had no problem with being represented in the European Union, paying nothing into the blessed thing, while at the same time sucking billions out of it. Europe, meanwhile, seems to have somehow survived this dangerous example of representation without taxation quite well.
Hammer and socks
No matter how hard he tries, hammer thrower Paddy McGrath can never quite manage to travel light. Something always has to give when he is packing for a trip and the socks won’t quite do it. Nothing quite does it.
The Dublin-born, Bronx-based McGrath, recently profiled by the Echo, has made it across the Pacific to Sydney for the Olympic Games. The journey alone qualified as a form of weight training because when McGrath travels to compete, he packs no fewer than four hammers with chains for training sessions.
"I put two of them in my check-in luggage and two go with me onto the plane," McGrath, who will be throwing the hammer for Ireland in Sydney, told "IF" before flying high to down under.
"I always have to explain to security what the hammers are. They think I’m a terrorist," he added with a laugh.
McGrath, who recently retained the Irish National Championship in the hammer event, said he was ready and really looking forward to the games.
"But I’m trying not to get too excited. I’m just doing a job," he said.
Two jobs when you count the packing.
"The principal danger to the full implementation of the [Good Friday] agreement lies . . . with the mismanagement of police reform. . . . Unless the UK government fully implements Patten, nationalists, republicans and the Catholic Church will not commend the police to their constituents and may boycott all the new boards. That would leave the police without Patten’s ‘new beginning’ and would make it harder for the IRA to go further in confidence-building, with all that entails. This vista must be avoided."
Brendan O’Leary, professor of political science at the London School of Economics, in the Financial Times.