By Ray O’Hanlon
While there’s trouble brewing over plans to beatify Pope Pius IX stemming from his excommunication of the Fenians, the story of Pius and the Irish does have another twist. Pius stepped into the shoes of St. Peter in 1846, just as the worst effects of Famine in Ireland began to take hold. In fairness to the man, he didn’t sit on his hands.
Here’s how Christine Kinealy describes events in her book "A Death-Dealing Famine": "Although it possessed no formal committee or fund-raising structure at all, the role of the Catholic Church was extremely important in raising money in Ireland. Pope Pius IX, a great admirer of Daniel O’Connell, became involved in Irish relief on an unprecedented scale. In January 1847, Pius sent 1,000 Roman dollars to the country and organized three days of prayers on behalf of the starving Irish. The prayers, preached in Italian, English and French, reinforced the idea of a Famine requiring international assistance. In March of the same year, the pope took the unusual step of issuing an encyclical to the Catholic community worldwide requesting them to set aside three days of prayer for Ireland and to make further charitable donations. The early involvement of the pope helped give prominence to the need for international help in Ireland."
Clearly, Pius was moved one way by starving Irish but quite another by the fighting kind. But when it came to the battle over the future of the Papal States, the basis for Pius’s temporal power, more than 1,400 Irishmen joined the Papal army — to fight. One of them was Myles Keogh, the Carlow man who died with Custer at the Little Bighorn in 1876 and whose papal medal, a gift from Pius, ended up around the neck of Sitting Bull.
Beware the ides of . . . July
July must be nothing short of a four-letter word for many living in Northern Ireland. With the weather finally warming up, so too does all the tension associated with the peak of the marching season. One can only imagine what life would be like in the North if the Battle of the Boyne had been fought in January. As in recent years, observers from the U.S. will be traveling to the North to monitor various parades, not least in hotspots such as Drumcree. Rep. Ben Gilman, chairman of the House International Relations Committee, is all for international observers monitoring the dubious highlights of the marching season.
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"These sectarian marches are corrosive to peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland," Gilman said in a recent statement.
"These marches should be eliminated in their entirety since they undermine the intentions of the Good Friday agreement by insulting Catholics and inciting civil unrest. If this goal cannot be met at the present moment then the marches should be closely monitored by the international community in order to deter the possibility of any violence."
And so it goes: March, monitor, march, monitor. Fishing anyone?
More on Rick Lazio’s Irish Mrs. courtesy of the Roscommon Herald and Western People newspapers. Mrs. L, the former Pat Moriarty, traces her Irish roots to the Ballinlough area of County Roscommon and has little trouble in doing so because that’s where her mother, Mary Murphy, hails from. Mary, as did so many others, made landfall in the U.S. in the 1950s and settled in New York. Seems that Rep. Lazio, Pat, and their two daughters, have been back to the old Irish homestead on more than one occasion. So, with the New York Senate election against Hillary Clinton in November, will the Lazios be making an Irish trip this summer with the New York press in tow? We’ll see.
The other Dem
Meanwhile, a possible Lazio family campaign-related trip to Ireland is not the only Irish angle in Hillary Clinton’s campaign’s sights. The first candidate is facing an Irish-American rival for the Democratic nomination to actually compete against Lazio on election day.
Dr. Mark McMahon, a Jericho, Long Island native with roots in County Clare, is the "other Democrat" in the Senate race. McMahon has the backing of the McManus Democratic Club on the west side of Manhattan and brings to the contest a formidable resume, if not in politics, then at least in the medical field.
McMahon, 39, is a surgeon at Lenox Hill and Beth Isr’l North hospitals in Manhattan. His academic background is impressive, with studies completed at Georgetown University, the London School of Economics and Harvard. Daniel Patrick Moynihan would doubtless approve, although he is backing Hillary to succeed him.
But back to McMahon, who is expected to formally announce his bid in a few days. In a recent statement headed "Not so fast, Hillary," McMahon threw down his surgical glove in a challenge to the First Lady. "We the people of the Democratic Party should decide who will represent us in the November election," he said. "Our being told, over a year before the primary, who our party’s nominee will be is an abridgment of our Democratic rights."
That’s "Democratic" with a capital D, so McMahon is presumably referring to rights both within and without his party. Anyway, the Democratic primary is on Sept. 12. That gives McMahon a couple of months more to make an impression on registered Dems. It’s a formidable challenge, especially given the fact that the press is sticking to Hillary like glue and seems to have little time for anyone else. But you can only try and competition is never a bad thing.
The finger lengthens
The Dáil is off on its summer holidays amid rumors of an autumn election. Whether or not Bertie and Mary go to the country in October or November may well depend on the state of the summer weather in Ireland. If the sun shines, everyone will be in a good mood and might forget all the corruption and scandal which threatens to open the Leinster House sluice gates to all sorts of riffraff: independents, greens, Shinners and the like. Of course, what’s been lost in the deluge of sleaze, real and imagined, is the issue of votes for emigrants, people who, some would argue, remain as pure and innocent as the day they quit the auld sod.
The reluctance to grant votes to emigrants — despite a promise from Fianna Fáil in 1997 — is really quite understandable when you think about it. Sure they might go completely mad and vote for weird stuff — like integrity in Irish political life and the like.