By Ray O’Hanlon
The America Online vs. disgruntled Irish websiters story made the front page of the New York Times last Sunday. The Times used the recent pulling of the Irish sites on AOL as the kicking off point for a story in which some voiced fear that AOL — the granddaddy of cyberspace access providers — was also turning into big brother.
The argument rages. Was there so much profanity on the Irish sites that AOL had no choice but to pull the plug for a couple of weeks, as it did before Christmas, or is the provider unnecessarily trampling on the free speech rights of subscribers? "IF" is not getting in the middle of that one but does note one salient fact. For the story to really break out of its initial confines in cyberspace, it had to see the light of day in print. So, despite all the internet hype being thrown at us every day now, there would yet appear to be a role for the quill-scratching, snail mail brigade of the print press, "IF" included.
Indeed, dear old newsprint would appear to be the primary forum that even daily web users see as the sane and sensible arbiter is cases such as this. Those of you reading this on the internet should refrain from a wry laugh, but the irony of it all will not be lost on the sensible, website visitors or newspaper readers.
Meanwhile, "IF" took due note of the fact that the Times story opined that the two sides taking issue with each other on the AOL Irish sites, united Irelanders and unionists, were both Irish. "Like the divided generations of Irish before them, the two opposing camps of contributors to America Online’s discussion group on Ireland rarely agree on anything." Now there’s a line worth posting. Does Paisley’s party have a website.
The Johnson redemption
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Richard Clark Johnson, the last of the original Boston Three still behind bars, is finally seeing the light. He will be set free on May 17, "IF" has learned.
Johnson was sentenced to 10 years arising from the Boston missile technology case. Many felt the sentence to be unduly harsh and that Johnson was being made an example. He is due for full release this fall, and his May walk through the gates will only get him only as far as a halfway house. Still, half way is better than no way.
"IF" heard that Johnson was summoned to a meeting the other day by the prison authorities. He was unsure what it was all about, but the news was ultimately good. It’s funny how bureaucracies sometimes behave, but the prison bosses mostly wanted to know what time of the day on May 17 — it’s a Monday, by the way — Johnson actually wanted to take leave of the place. Apparently, there are several departure times for released prisoners each day. Johnson chose the earliest, 8 a.m. Guess Monday’s lunch menu is worth the pass.
"IF" has been informed that the recent story about Gerry Adams being signed up by a U.S. agency for lectures at $30,000 a pop is old hat. The report was given prominence by the Daily Telegraph in London — no friend of our Gerry, of course — but it seems that Adams has been signed up with the APB agency for four years now. This begs the question: Isn’t it time the Sinn Féin leader considered discounts?
"IF" is unaware of Adams ever being signed up for a speech at the aforementioned price. Perhaps he should do it like they do in movie theaters. Cheap tickets on Tuesdays.
The game that binds
Speaking of Adams, he’s not a frequent sight at rugby grounds, but there he was at Lansdowne Road last weekend cheering on the sons of Ulster to victory in the European rugby championship. Martin McGuinness was there, too, still on crutches after his fall while playing "the Garrison Game," soccer. David Trimble was there, too, as was Seamus Mallon and Bertie Ahern. Rugby is truly a game that binds.
All these politicians might eh, try, to score points off each other most days of the week. Adams, for one, wants to move the situation forward, Trimble wants to move it back, Mallon wants to prop them both up, while Bertie is in a mood these days for kicking just about everything to touch. But there they all were. Fans together, cheering in common cause, although Trimble’s Ulster was a wee bit smaller than everyone else’s.
Meanwhile, was a little history made at a St. John’s University forum on the peace process last week? Sinn Féin’s U.S. representative, Rita O’Hare, shared the platform with a DUP man, Harry "Hap" Barko. It wouldn’t happen quite yet in Ballymena, but as we’ve seen before, U.S. soil seems to soothe the troubled soul a bit.
Both Noraid and the Irish Freedom Committee seem pleased with their recent dinners. Noraid’s event at the Astoria World Manor, which featured Sinn Fein big Pat Doherty as main speaker, pulled a good crowd, while the freedom committee pretty well filled Rory Dolan’s last Saturday. There were a few faces common to both events, the best known being Fr. Pat Moloney.
"Both events were packed," Moloney said. The recently released Limerick-born Melkite priest said he hopes to act as a catalyst for unity between the different strands of Irish-American republicanism.
"We should agree to disagree," he said.
The last time George Mitchell took note of the acronym SAC, he was probably thinking of Strategic Air Command. But down in County Clare, it stands for "Special Area Conservation." Being a man of peace, Mitchell might have little problem with such sentiments, but in this case he is a board member of Irish National Golf Courses Ltd., an entity that is hoping to construct two courses, a hotel, leisure center and 80 holiday homes on a large chunk of the Banner County.
SAC is a European Union idea aimed at curbing rampant development, a not unfamiliar phenomenon in the Celtic Moggy. Suffice it to say, an unholy row has broken out involving various government and conservation agencies and the irony of it all is that Stormont George can’t get stuck in and force an accord between the pro and antidevelopment forces. Which means he’ll have to postpone plans for a Clare holiday. According to the Washington Post, should the development bear fruit, Mitchell will be given a plot of land to build a vacation home. Watch this open space.