In a letter outlining their shared view, reps. Henry Hyde, who chairs the House International Relations Committee, and Chris Smith, who heads its subcommittee covering human rights, stated that the IFI continued to play a vital role in bringing together the communities in Northern Ireland.
The two congressman stressed in their letter their panel’s bipartisan support for the IFI.
Their letter is addressed to rep. Jim Kolbe who heads the House Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee on international operations.
Hyde’s international committee recently approved its Foreign Relations Authorization Act for the fiscal years 2006 and ’07.
This bill proposes $20 million for the IFI in each of these fiscal years. Smith and Hyde now want to secure matching figures in the equivalent appropriations bill, now before Kolbe’s subcommittee.
The IFI’s economic work helped diminish the unemployment vacuum that leads to paramilitary violence, Smith and Hyde stated in their letter to Kolbe.
“As you begin consideration of the Foreign Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2006, we urge you to as least match the authorization bill’s level for the Fund.
“We believe this would send a needed positive message from the U.S. at an extremely important juncture in the peace process,” they wrote.
DEATH OF BRIAN POHANKA
Historian Brian Pohanka died last week at his home in Alexandria, Virginia. He was 50 and the cause was cancer.
Pohanka was one of the leading chroniclers of the role of Irish soldiers in the Civil War and was a charter member of the Irish Brigade Association.
A familiar face on television documentaries dealing with the Civil War, the story of the American west and most notably the Battle of the Little Bighorn, Pohanka was a frequent contributor to the Wild Geese Today website for which he penned stories on notable Irish American military figures such as Myles Keogh, John Joseph Coppinger and James McKay Rorty.
Pohanka was also a key figure in the Irish Brigade Association’s ultimately successful campaign to erect a gravestone in honor of brigade commander Richard Byrnes in New York’s First Calvary Cemetery.
PROBATION IN TRUCK CASE
A County Galway man has been sentenced to probation after pleading guilty to charges linked to a scandal-plagued city trucking program in Chicago.
Martin McDonagh, 36 and from Connemara, was one of a number of individuals charged in a federal investigation of the city’s Hired Truck Program, a program launched by Chicago mayor Richard Daley.
The investigation, spearheaded by the office of U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald, has been probing Chicago’s $38 million-a-year Hired Truck Program, which gives out city contracts to private truckers.
Federal prosecutors have charged that companies have been given business under the program in return for kickbacks and campaign contributions to unnamed political candidates.
McDonagh was charged with making false statements to FBI investigators. He had been running the day-to-day operations of Elliott Inc., a trucking company that operates in the northern Illinois area. He was facing up to a year in prison.
However, McDonagh was given probation instead because he ultimately cooperated with investigators. He will serve three years probation and six months home detention.
According to the Chicago Tribune, U.S. District Judge James Holderman also fined McDonagh $16,000, a sum that matched bribes paid by McDonagh to secure entry for his trucking company to the city program.
WEINER ROWS IN
Rep. Anthony Weiner has joined fellow members of Congress in urging passage of a bill that would secure legal residence for Belfast man Malachy McAllister and two of his dependent children.
“As a member of the House Judiciary Committee I believe the McAllsiters should be granted political asylum and I urge Homeland Security Secretary Michel Chertoff to act on Mr. McAllister’s behalf and ensure that he and his family can stay in America,” the Brooklyn/Queens Democrat said in a statement.
McAllister, a onetime member of the Irish National Liberation Army, is awaiting a decision from a federal appeals court even as the bill advocating his remaining in the U.S. is gathering signatures on Capitol Hill. Meanwhile, oral argument in the McAllister case is now set for Wed. 29, 10:30 a.m., 3rd Floor, courtroom 2, Frank Lautenberg Courthouse in Newark, NJ.