By Ray O’Hanlon
With unemployment plunging in Ireland, the Celtic Tiger is beginning to suffer the pangs felt by all booming economies — a shortage of skilled labor. As a result, the Irish government is now eager to get the message out to emigrants that’s it’s time to come "home" and ride the tiger’s back. Some emigrant groups are not impressed.
Glór an Deoraí — Irish Emigrants Voice, and the U.S.-based Irish Emigrant Vote Campaign have long been warning successive Irish governments that the warm, fuzzy feelings of many of "Ireland’s best educated" generation of exiles toward the auld sod are being severely curtailed due to the refusal of successive administrations to grant full voting rights to them. Ireland is alone in the EU in shutting emigrants out from all elections.
Glór an Deoraí believes that the Irish government will come to regret the fact that the minds of Irish citizens living abroad have not been regularly exercised in the context of the vote.
"We advocated that granting voting rights created an instant, invaluable database, a huge skilled and educated resource of people vital to Ireland’s future," Dave Reynolds of GnaD said.
"It’s about time Irish politicians had a bit of foresight. . . . For various reasons over the years, Irish governments have neglected to give the Irish Abroad a voice, a participation in Irish life, and it looks like Ireland’s future might pay an unfortunate price for this lack of judgment."
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"IF" wouldn’t want to be a politician knocking on this guy’s door looking for a first preference.
Anyway, the battle for emigrant votes is far from over, Celtic Moggy or no. The Emigrant Vote Campaign recently submitted a detailed document to the All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution arguing for votes now. The IEVC argues that there is nothing in the Irish Constitution preventing Irish citizens abroad from voting in Irish elections. The impediment, the group says, is the Electoral Act and that can be changed by the Dáil and Senate.
Fianna Fáil agrees in principle. The party’s 1997 election manifesto, "People Before Politics," states that FF is "Committed to working out the necessary arrangements to give emigrants the right to vote in Dáil, presidential and European Parliament elections, and in referendums. This can be done without amending the Constitution. Initially, those who have lived abroad for up to 10 years will be eligible. Our target is to have a voting systems for emigrants in place by the years 2000."
Even back in ’97, the year 2000 still sounded like science fiction. Not any more.
Poor David Trimble. He can’t pick on an auld degree in Boston without uproar. He’s having to fork out for a lawsuit the London Sunday Times reports he is bringing against Amazon.com over the Sean McPhilemy book "The Committee" — there goes the Nobel loot. One wrong turn this summer and the barbarians at the gates of Garvaghy Road will be doing a Brutus and Cassius job on him and now yet another group of Irish Americans with money, Irish Americans against Bigotry and Racism, are calling him to account over his membership of the same Orange Order that is battering way at fortress Garvaghy. And all because membership of the loyal order entails a l’il ol’ anti-Catholic oath. To think.
The Irish Americans took out an ad in the Boston Herald Monday asking Trimble to explain why he took such an oath, which goes on the lines of members pledging to "strenuously oppose the fatal errors and doctrines of the church of Rome, and scrupulously avoid countenancing [by his presence or otherwise] any act of ceremony of Popish worship . . . and resist the ascendancy of that church, its encroachment and the extension of its power."
The ad further informs Herald readers that by joining the loyal ranks of the order, Trimble pledged that he would never marry a Catholic.
The ad tackles the valid question concerning the all-Protestant Orange Order and the exclusively Catholic Ancient Order of Hibernians. The ad states however that "the AOH does not pledge against any religion, and does not inspire hatred or assert superiority." The ad asks Trimble to more or less grab the Orange Order by the scruff of the neck and lead it into the 18th, er, 21st century "as a kinder, gentler lot."
New twist on Tuskar
Irish and British aviation experts huddled together in London this week to look afresh at the 1968 crash of an Aer Lingus Viscount plane, the St. Phelim, which resulted in the deaths of all 61 passengers and crew. As the experts conferred, relatives of the victims were claiming to have uncovered new evidence pointing to a stray British missile as the cause of the crash near the Tuskar Rock lighthouse off the County Wexford coast.
According to a report in the Cork-published daily The Examiner, a former Irish naval officer has told the Tuskar Relatives Action Group that he boarded a trawler after the crash and took possession of a missile part. A British officer was also present and under instructions from his captain, the Irish officer handed over the component to his British counterpart.
The relatives group says that the still unidentified Irish officer has made a full statement. They also claim that some ex-Royal Navy divers want to back up the missile theory but are unable to speak for fear of prosecution under Britain’s highly stringent Official Secrets Act.
Ballbreakers spared ball
The hedonists and heathens who frequent the legendary Eamonn Doran’s on Second Avenue on the first Friday of every month have cause to, well, celebrate hedonistically and heathenishly once again. As if they need much encouragement.
According to the New York Post, hardball developer Harry Macklowe has become so embroiled in a development battle elsewhere that he seems to have clean forgotten his plans to demolish Doran’s and much of the rest of the block along with it. Now that the ball of Damocles has been raised, the craic will roll on for the time being. And to think that the heathens didn’t even have to throw their bodies in front of the swinging sphere. At this rate they might just be up to sprawling on the street in front of the dreaded machine should it ever eventually trundle to a halt outside the Doran door.
May 26-June 1, 1999