By Ray O’Hanlon
David Trimble might want to quickly forget the past week. The man is clearly under pressure. What could he say about Rosemary Nelson, his former constituent? Not much. He’d never met her, despite requests for discussions by the late solicitor for the Garvaghy Road residents. What could he say about the Executive when Irish America points to him as the man blocking progress — or as a Cincinnati Enquirer editorial put it, "shamelessly stalling creation" of it.
Trimble’s cool really blew at the American Ireland Fund dinner on St. Patrick’s Eve. He lashed into Jack Van Zandt, CEO of Roberts Rinehart publishers, in the bar after din dins. Trimble must have run out of Tums because he became rather red in the face while proceeding to jab Van Zandt repeatedly in the chest. Trimble’s temper was apparently showing because R/R are publishers of the controversial book "The Committee." Trimble is described as an "associate" of the alleged committee in the book written by Sean McPhilemy. Trimble, not surprisingly, has taken umbrage at the allegation.
According to one eyewitness, Trimble’s beef with Van Zandt reached the point where the first minister’s Nobel Peace Prize was wobbling on the mantelpiece. The eyewitness described Trimble’s poking at Van Zandt as "near physical assault."
Trimble was eventually reminded of his recently exalted stature by an onlooker who stepped between the two while diplomatically congratulating the UUP leader on his Nobel win, if not his ignoble behavior.
The more understanding in the world, saints and the like, would probably cut Trimble some slack. Like C’sar, he must deal with enemies within and without the walls of his own Rome, pre-Catholic version of course. But losing it in public definitely doesn’t do the old constitution any good.
Follow us on social media
Keep up to date with the latest news with The Irish Echo
And speaking of constitution, Trimble apparently had to suffer a bit of a lecture on the first amendment from Van Zandt. It was at this point, "IF" hears, that Trimble took a verbal swipe at the United States, suggesting that it lacked integrity. Good thing he wasn’t the man on that midnight ride. The British would have had the road to themselves.
Trimble, meanwhile, was still jumpy the following night in the White House. He left at the point where George Mitchell stood up to make a speech. It may have had something to do with dinner reservations and indeed the reception did drag on a bit. But when you essentially owe your job, your peace prize and your invitation to a guy, the least you can do is sit on your hands and listen to him for a few minutes. Either way, Trimble must have been glad to get back to Northern Ireland, that bastion of civility, free speech and, as his colleague John Taylor would have it, "democratic norms."
Camelot it wasn’t
Trimble was not the only one with ants in his pants at the White House. Seems that a number of reception veterans were left comparing the March 17 bash unfavorably with those in previous years. First of all, there turned out to be two receptions, one for the inner circle types and another for the outer circle leftovers. The outsiders, feeling unwanted — and worse, left largely unfed — were allowed into the South Lawn for the ceremonials along with a promise of refreshments later in the evening. But by the time the ceremonies ended, the trays were gone and the bar closed. Some of the parched and starving were seen stumbling into the night desperate for a slice of pizza, anything to remember, or forget, this St. Patrick’s day by.
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern completed his shamrock delivery with his usual aplomb last week. The wee plant and its prime ministerial carrier were the object of much fuss in the nation’s capital during the festivities. Seems that Bertie’s vehicular convoy might have established a record for a taoiseach. At least six vehicles long Bertie’s caravan cut quite a dash around the D.C. streets. As leader of the Celtic Tiger, Bertie is, of course, quite entitled to more wheels, so long as they stay on. And the security imperative of having a long convoy is well understood. After all, you couldn’t let the bad guys know which car the shamrock was in.
St. Patrick’s Day is a political bunfight of mammoth proportions and sometimes it’s hard to sort the wheat from the chaff. But some things stand out. First, the annual statement from the Friends of Ireland in Congress, signed by Sens. Ted. Kennedy, Chris Dodd, Daniel Moynihan and Connie Mack. These lines stand out: "We are concerned by evidence of the lack of protection for lawyers active on human rights cases in Northern Ireland, as described by the Special Rapporteur of the UN Commission on Human Rights, and urge an early response to calls for an independent inquiry into the murder of Belfast lawyer Pat Finucane."
It seems the statement, actually dated March 16, might have been drawn up before the Rosemary Nelson’s murder on the 15th. But Moynihan managed to enter a statement on the assassination into the Congressional Record on the 16th. Said Moynihan: "She was murdered because she represented nationalists in high profile cases, including the Roman Catholic residents of the Garvaghy Road area in Portadown who asked, simply, that Protestant unionists pick some other place to march." Moynihan also mentioned Nelson’s own accusations that she had been threatened by the RUC.
€ Joe Crowley has succeeded Tom Manton as co-chair of the Ad Hoc Committee for Irish Affairs. No great surprise.
€ Ben Gilman wrote to Stella O’Leary of the Irish American Democrats rejecting her suggestion that the Ad Hoc Committee undergo a name change and be granted permanent status within the House International Relations Committee.
Gilman, chair of the IRC and a co-chair of Ad Hoc, was polite but stated at one point: "I might note that in all those many years, I do not believe you and I have ever met, nor attended any meetings together on this important struggle for lasting peace and justice in the North." Ouch!
€ Ray Flynn has a platform again. He is new president of the of the Washington D.C.-based "Catholic Alliance." One of Flynn’s first moves was to offer $100,000 reward for evidence resulting in the conviction of all responsible for the Rosemary Nelson murder.