By Ray O’Hanlon
All ears will be tuned to Tony Blair when he stands before the Dáil and Seanad this week to deliver the first-ever such address by a British prime minister. Blair, of course, will not be lost for words. He never is. But "IF" will be keeping a particular eye on our boy Tony to see if he touches on the always sensitive issue of fair employment in Northern Ireland.
The PM might be guarded in his comments should the issue arise because his government — it of the lovey-dovey approach to the Oirish question — takes much the same position on the MacBride Principles as the Tories. This will certainly surprise some. "IF" managed to secure the text of a recent parliamentary question posed by former Labor Party Northern Ireland spokesman Kevin McNamara on the matter of MacBride, which, readers will recall, recently became federal law as a result of a congressional bill and President Clinton’s signature attached to same.
McNamara asked British Northern Secretary Mo Mowlam if she would list the names of U.S. cities and states that passed MacBride legislation after the British government asked them to take a pass on the fair-employment guidelines. Also, which cities and states listened to British advice and rejected MacBride.
The reply, from the North’s economic minister, Adam Ingram, stated that such information was not available and could only be provided at disproportionate cost.
McNamara then followed up by asking if "it is currently the policy of her majesty’s government to advise states and cities in the United States against legislating to implement the MacBride Principles."
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Came the reply from Ingram: "Yes, where possible and appropriate. The government’s view is that fair employment legislation in Northern Ireland renders unnecessary any reference to the MacBride Principles in legislation in the USA. Furthermore, the way in which the campaign in support of MacBride Principles is conducted could be a disincentive to the investment from the United States needed to reduce unemployment in both communities in Northern Ireland."
New government, same old MacBride song.
Provos deliver Nobel
The Provos are stuck into more than just the peace process. They are also responsible for dishing out the Nobel Peace Prize to Hume and Trimble. No, "IF" is not losing its marbles — or marble as some of you might have it. "IF" happened to glance over the New York Times crossword of Nov. 19. Clue 14 across read: "Grp behind the 1998 Nobel Peace Prize." The answer was three letters and the correct one was "IRA."
Once more with feeling
Golfers talk about the 19th hole. Mick Jagger sang about a 19th nervous breakdown. Well, Rep. Pete King is this week talking up his 19th trip to Northern Ireland. Yes, he does keep count. The first one was back in 1980 with Sen. Al D’Amato. King is traveling on a mission to inject new life into a peace process that is itself suffering something of a nervous breakdown. Nineteen North visits in 18 years is far ahead of what most people in the wee Republic — with the possible exception of smugglers — can claim in a lifetime. It’s a wonder at all that King still speaks with any trace at all of his Lawunge Oyland brogue.
Move over, Peter Arnett
"IF" recently reported on the travails of Irish hack Patrick Farrelly on behalf of rebel-with-many-causes and Cork-rooted film director Michael Moore. Now Farrelly’s comrade in video, bare-knuckled Bronx hack-turned-Teletubbie, Brian Rohan, has landed himself in the middle of a legal fracas generated by an attempt to film on the estate of Ira Rennert, the guy who has his Southampton, L.I., neighbors up in arms over his plans to build a 25-bedroom, 39-bathroom personal Versailles atop the sand dunes. Rohan was apparently part of the Moore crew that has been doing a film piece on Rennert’s grandiose project for an upcoming TV series, "The Awful Truth," which is set for the Bravo cable channel next year.
Does Rennert, who has initiated a suit against Moore & Co., really know what he’s tangling with here? "IF" was thinking of giving him a call, but word has it he has 300 phone lines. Perhaps better to leave him to big Brian’s sometimes tender mercies and see what happens.
Albert takes charge
"IF" reported last week that former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds had put himself in the way of Desert Storm II by assuring both Washington and Baghdad that there was a way out of the current standoff other than a gunfight. More has come to light since. According to a report in The Examiner newspaper, Reynolds played a "pivotal role" in averting another Baghdad blitz.
"Deputy Reynolds was involved in shuttle diplomacy as he flew to the UN headquarters in New York to advise the Iraqi delegation there, having spent the previous weekend in Baghdad. He broke the deadlock by providing the Baghdad regime with the crucial timetable for the ending of sanctions, if it complied with the UN inspectors."
There you are now. No wonder the Iraqis are in such deep s-s-sand. Did they never here of a phone. Albert, of course, was his usual cool self.
"I found there was a total lack of trust on both sides. They were poles apart," Reynolds told the Ex. He can say that again. Word has it that Albert headed for Mexico in recent days. He should stay close to a plane in case Saddam and the lads get confused again.
Meanwhile, a Sunday Business Post editorial suggested that Reynolds could carve out a Jimmy Carter-like niche for himself in helping to resolve world conflicts. However, the paper expressed its unease with the fact that Reynolds was in Baghdad primarily on a mission for the Irish beef industry before he took the turn into peacemaking. "The beef of Baghdad," was the editorial headline.
Of course there are quite legitimate reasons for Albert to be talking tenderloins by the Tigris. The, eh, steaks, are very high indeed given that the Iraqis still owe well over $200 million to Larry Goodman and his Anglo-Irish beef processors group. If Albert managed to secure repayment, it would go a long way toward a process of personal self-redemption in this area. After all, it was the generous insurance coverage provided to Goodman by the Reynolds government that led to the beef tribunal and all that followed. All that followed including the collapse of that very same Reynolds government.