By Ray O’Hanlon
Ulster Unionist Jeffrey Donaldson, a man who takes particular interest in the prevailing attitudes of U.S. politicians to Northern Ireland, wrote a policy and discussion document for his party a few years back entitled "The USA Effect." The document makes fascinating reading and "IF" will return to it in more detail soon.
One thing that the reader from Mars quickly grasps when casting a third eye over the document is that when it comes to the two main political parties in the U.S. system, Unionists, while clearly aware that they must deal with both, do see the Republican Party as the more sympathetic shoulder to cry on.
"The recent election of a Republican majority in both houses of Congress presents new opportunities for Unionists as many of these Republicans come from Southern States with an ethos and political beliefs not dissimilar to Ulster Unionism," wrote Donaldson.
With that as the starting point it must have been comforting indeed for the UUP to see the GOP presidential race in recent months boil down to George Bush from Texas and John McCain, of Ulster-Scots heritage, from Arizona. Comforting, that is, until the last few weeks.
Now Bush has come out with a Clinton-like statement on Ireland that has turned decades of GOP habit, instinct and inclination seemingly on its head, while McCain is holding hands with Peter King, described in "The USA Effect" as a "green" Republican "who is a big buddy of Gerry Adams."
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All is changing, changing utterly.
And in 3000?
Those generous folks at the American Ireland Fund are tripping the light fantastic on a global scale these days. Their latest "Events Update" lists balls, dinners and parties from Tokyo to Paris with several U.S. cities thrown in for good measure.
On March 16, the AIF’s National Gala in Washington, D.C., will be honoring President Clinton for his peace efforts in the North. It being Clinton’s last St. Patrick’s Day in office, "IF" has no doubt that a tear or two will be shed, for the soon-to-be-retiring president himself, the wounded dove of peace in the wee North, the price of tickets to the bash and so forth.
George Mitchell will be presenting Clinton with the AIF’s Millennium Peace Award for his ongoing work on the peace process. Wonder who’ll get the next millennium prize? President Darth Vader of the United Planetary Federation?
Al Gore’s people
A recent item in the New York Post headed "Al’s Irish roots gored by critics" caught the "IF" eye — first and second ones only. The piece pointed out that Gore, who has family roots in Ireland, is, naturally enough, looking to Irish Americans for votes now that he is running for the Irish-designed White House. Drawing on a story in the British magazine The Spectator written by John Dodd, the Post piece highlights a contrast between Gore’s somewhat upper-crust Irish roots and those of Ted Kennedy, "whose ancestors left Ireland as paupers."
Wrote Dodd: "Mr. Kennedy is the representative of those Irishmen who fled the Irish potato famine of the 1840s. Mr. Gore’s lineage, though very distant, is from those whom popular historians actually blame for it."
Dodd goes on to recount a tale delivered by Al Gore’s second cousin, the writer Gore Vidal. Vidal, no fan of his cousin, it turns out, states: "The first Gore in British history captured two Irish chieftains and presented them to James I. In return he was given lands in Ireland [in 1597].
"Sir Paul Gore’s six sons spread the family in County Donegal, County Sligo and County Mayo, picking up several titles and castles."
Dodd goes on to have a word with a present-day distant cousin of Al in Ireland, Sir Josslyn Gore-Booth, of the well known Sligo branch of the family. Gore-Booth reckons that it’s "a splendid irony" that his "kinsman" Al might become president at a time when there is a consensus "that Anglo-Irish landowners like the Gores were responsible for the famine and enforced migration to the U.S.A."
Irony apart, one member of the Gore-Booth clan not mentioned in all this was Constance Gore-Booth, Countess Markievicz of 1916 fame. If Al can trace a family line to that lady, he’ll have no problem with Irish Americans. And just one more thing, as Colombo might say: Gore Vidal had James I handing over land in Ireland in 1597. Not possible. Queen Elizabeth I was on the throne in 1597. James did not ascend to the throne of England until 1603. But, hey, what’s a few years between bluebloods.
Brendan Behan was right. The first item on the agenda of any Irish organization is the split. In this case, though, it was first item on the menu. Seems that the First Friday Club — that famed gathering of literary winers and diners thrown so unceremoniously onto the streets of Manhattan after the demise of Eamonn Doran’s on Second Avenue — are now in sharp disagreement as to where they should gather, as is their custom, on the first Friday of every month to discuss the state of the world over lunch and a few jars.
Indeed, the club appears to have done an Officials and Provisionals job. The Officials, under Chief of Staff Terry Moran, of the NYU Active Service Unit, were camped out in Langan’s on 47th Street last Friday, according to an informer — er, sorry, informed source. At the same time, the Provisionals, under the joint command of the brothers McCourt, Frank and Malachy, were farther up the West Side of Manhattan in another saloon altogether. Dear oh dear but this might require a peace process. Anyone got George Mitchell’s number?
"Stooped as though bearing a confession, and with his hands folded over his groin like a defender expecting a vicious free kick, Martin McGuinness spoke softly. ‘I would like to get back to my job dealing with children,’ he said.
"Northern Ireland’s suspended education minister was speaking on the cloud-wreathed 35th floor of the headquarters of Mutual of America, a financial services company on Park Avenue. All around him were the back-slapping hombres of New York’s Irish-American elite: politicians, monsignors, and bankers, even the odd relic from President Kennedy’s administration."
Philip Delves Broughton, writing in the British magazine The Spectator.