By Ray O’Hanlon
When the going gets tough, send in the women. That would appear to have been the case in recent days as Irish Americans heard at feminine firsthand the various views out of Northern Ireland on the April 10 agreement. First up was Bernadette Devlin McAliskey, who gave the thumbs down to the deal in her own inimicable fashion. “To date, the leaders of Sinn Fein have offered no political, ideological, pragmatic or intellectual argument to support their insistence that this is a good deal for republicans,” Devlin McAliskey wrote in an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times.
Before heading for the West Coast, the Coalisland tempest had packed out the Martin Luther King Labor Center in Manhattan to the rafters. The ability to fill rooms to the roof quickly became the benchmark of success as Bernadette Sands McKevitt, of the 32-County Sovereignty Committee, and Bairbre de Brun, director of Sinn FTin’s Office of International Affairs, spoke their pieces to wall-to-wall audiences in O’Lunney’s and O’Neill’s, respectively. The SDLP, meanwhile, sent Brfd Rodgers to Milwaukee to speak at the George F. Kennan Forum on International Affairs. The Ulster Unionists, being a bit short on the women, sent David Trimble to the same event. Rodgers had to cancel plans to visit New York because her husband had to go into the hospital for an operation. She flew back to the North from Chicago over the weekend.
Meanwhile, strings were pulled in high places to secure entry to the U.S. for Sands McKevitt. Her name apparently popped up on a Justice Department “terrorist lookout list” in the hands of U.S. immigration officers at Dublin Airport.
Despite the alert, Sands McKevitt, along with former Sinn FTin member Rory Dougan, managed to make the Atlantic crossing, although a third member of the party, suspended Sinn FTin Councilor Francie Mackey, was turned back by the INS.
The decision to allow Sands McKevitt in was made by the White House National Security Council. The NSC was urged on by the likes of Rep. Peter King. King, of course, is obliged to oppose any visa bans regardless of his own feelings in the current debate.
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The Washington Post, referring to sources, said that the decision to override the lookout alert caused “considerable consternation among INS, FBI and Justice Department officials, because the system showed she (Sands-McKevitt) was associated with ‘a radical splinter group’ that broke away from the IRA and opposed the peace process.”
The Post report added: “One source said officials were ‘outraged’ by the intervention, which they saw as subverting their obligation to enforce the law.”
Ah, one man’s radical splinter group . . .
FREE TYRONE “IF” has been musing on the implications surrounding the replacement of Articles Two and Three with the proposed new versions that redefine Irishness in terms of birthright, diaspora and so forth. The other side of the agreement equation is the rescinding of the 1920 Government of Ireland Act and its claim of British sovereignty over the wee North. Sovereignty is now bad politics and consent is good politics. On that basis, wouldn’t it be interesting if, say, County Tyrone, were to declare itself independent of Northern Ireland by virtue of the consent of the majority of its citizens. All the British could do would be to say no and wouldn’t they be fierce red in the face as a result. This exercise in consent politics could be repeated in a couple of other counties where there is a definite Nationalist majority. The only problem might be getting Nationalists/Republicans to agree on this particular political exercise, so “IF” is not holding its breadth.
DAN MAN AGAIN Not that “IF” is rooting for a Christmas card from Daniel Patrick Moynihan, but in further reaction to the Daily News story suggesting that Moynihan is out in the political cold because of his antipathy toward Gerry Adams et al in recent years, the record of history will show that Moynihan joined Ted Kennedy and 34 other members of Congress in signing a letter to President Clinton back in early 1994 urging a visa for the Sinn FTin leader so that he could attend the conference on Northern Ireland organized at that time by the National Committee on American Foreign Policy. Still, one wonders what got into Moynihan two years later when he sat down with the Daily News editorial board to discuss, among other things, another visa for Adams. “I despise those people. I think they are murderers. I think they’re everything that is contemptible,” the DN reported Moynihan as saying at the meeting in its recent story headlined, “N. Ireland peace passed Pat by.” Hey, we’re all entitled to our moods.
LAST CHANCE There might not be an exhibition quite like this again if matters proceed as they are currently proceeding. “Culture and Conflict: British Architecture in Ireland” has been running at the Puffin Room, 435 Broome St., Manhattan for several weeks now. It concludes this Sunday, May 3. The exhibition features the work of 14 artists who see culture as “an intrinsic part of the low-intensity conflict between the British and the Irish.” Artists represented vary from Robert Ballagh, chairman of the Irish National Congress, to Colin Pennock, a former RUC officer. For details call (212)285-9202.
THEY SAID “This is the biggest back flip in Republican history. It’s the most audacious thing I’ve ever seen. And they’re going to pull it off.” Former senior Irish government official” in a New York Times report on the recent Sinn FTin _rd fheis.”