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Inside File The irony of O’Doherty’s exclusion

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Ray O’Hanlon

Shane Paul O’Doherty won few new friends in the Republican Movement back in 1978 when he denounced the armed struggle and quit the IRA while still in prison. The Derry native reckons that he was ahead of the posse in pushing for the peace process, but that’s not how Washington sees it. O’Doherty, who’s 43, made quite a name for himself in recent years as a critic of violence, but as far as the U.S. is concerned, he remains a violent felon with record that includes convictions for a string of letter bombings.

A little under three years ago, O’Doherty married Dr. Michelle Sweeney, an American from the Chicago suburb of Beverly. The couple live in Dublin, where Sweeney lectures in Medieval English. O’Doherty, with a college degree and bestselling autobiography on his CV, runs his own computer business. They live virtually next door to the U.S. Embassy in Ballsbridge. Close, but not close enough. Sweeney, an only child, wants to return to the Chicago area to be close to her elderly parents. Her husband can visit the U.S. for short stays. Both are in the U.S. this week, he being on a 20-day visa. But they can’t live here as a married couple.

The two have been campaigning for the right to live as husband and wife in the U.S. But unlike the deportees, who are already here, O’Doherty is battling from the outside. Ironically, his denunciation of the armed struggle places him in a distinct category to the deportees who have characterized their own actions in Northern Ireland years ago as being politically motivated and non-criminal. O’Doherty, despite his years of advocating peaceful change, has effectively placed his IRA actions outside the political pale.

As far as O’Doherty is concerned, however, the sins of the young man should not haunt mature man. He said he feels that the U.S. is being inconsistent in pressing Northern Ireland Unionists to accept the expected release of republican prisoners while not accepting his claim to a free life in the U.S. But what is causing him particular frustration is the fact that his wife, a U.S. citizen, is effectively banned from living in the U.S. because she is married to him.

Sweeney herself is intent on taking their case to the top. Helped along by Stella O’Leary of the Irish American Democratic Political Action Committee, she and her father are hoping to present their case to President Clinton and George Mitchell this week at a party in Washington hosted by Elizabeth Bagley, the Irish American former U.S. ambassador to Portugal. O’Doherty himself is steering clear of the event because he doesn’t want to cause any embarrassment.

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At the same time, O’Doherty is not at all shy about speaking up for himself. His story has been featured by the Chicago Tribune and People magazine and he has written letters to every member of Congress and, back in Ireland, to every Fianna F_il TD. He is, as they say, awaiting developments.

Stand and be recognized Cruiser!

“IF” hears on the wind that an Irish diplomatic cruise missile has been directed at the New York Times over that recent Conor Cruise O’Brien op-ed. Cruiser’s views on Northern Ireland are his own and he is quite entitled to express them. But what has ruffled Irish feathers is the fact that Cruiser’s affiliation with the United Kingdom Unionist Party is not mentioned in the little blurb below the piece that is supposed to describe who and what the writer is.

What did fill the space was this: “Conor Cruise O’Brien is the author of ‘Ancestral Voices: Religion and nationalism in Ireland.’ ” The op-ed didn’t really deal with this issue. It largely went after another political party, Sinn FTin and its paramilitary flip side, the IRA.

The author guise is of course legitimate for the Cruiser. Sometimes. In June 1996, he wrote a Times op-ed dealing with Isr’li Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and was described underneath as author of “The Siege: The Saga of Isr’l and Zionism.” Cruiser may well be an expert on the Middle East but he’s not exactly campaigning on the streets of Jerusalem. When pontificating on Ireland, his current political allegiances are relevant and should be highlighted.

Big moves at Historical Society

The American Irish Historical Society is like a Noah’s Ark for all manner of important books, publications, documents and so forth and it was no surprise that many eyebrows were raised when the Echo came out with a front page story a few years back pointing to some severe shortfalls in the handling of the library’s precious load. That the Echo wasn’t exactly the society’s favorite organ in the aftermath of the “Library Looted?” splash wasn’t surprising. That the story might have served as a wake up call was of far greater significance.

Either way, things are now afoot at 991 5th Ave. and a “Dear Member” letter has been sent forth by AIHS President-General Kevin Cahill trumpeting recent home improvements and heralding the search for a new librarian and funds for a “Cataloging Project” costing in excess of $100,000. “IF” is delighted to see that “looted” might soon be replaced by “boosted.” Irish America’s documented heritage, and the part of it residing at the society, deserves no less.

To march, but when?

The Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization is angry over a New York City Law Division website page that describes one in a list of quality-of-life “accomplishments” as the securing of a denial of a parade permit to ILGO “to march along Fifth Avenue on St. Patrick’s Day at the same time as the traditional sponsors of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.” ILGO is posing a question: “Is banning freedom of speech a ‘Quality of Life’ achievement for New York City?”

In a statement, ILGO followed up by suggesting that this is why the city reinstated disorderly conduct charges from 1994 in a case that was originally dismissed ‘In the interests of justice.” ILGO has accused City Hall of bullying. Ah go on, go on!

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