By Ray O’Hanlon
Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams is due in the U.S. this weekend to deliver the commencement address at the University of Massachusetts in Lowell.
The commencement speech is a longstanding commitment given by Adams to the university’s president, William Bolger. His visit will coincide with the Ulster Unionist Party’s verdict on the IRA’s arms inspection plan and Adams is planning to deliver his response to this at a press conference in Manhattan Saturday morning.
The Lowell speech is on Sunday. Adams is also being awarded an honorary degree at the event. He will return to Belfast Sunday night.
Irish ‘Venus’ guilty
A jury in Las Vegas last week returned a verdict of guilty against Sandra "Sandy" Murphy, the so-called "Irish Venus," who was accused, along with an accomplice, of murdering her wealthy Casino-owning boyfriend with a lethal drug cocktail.
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Murphy, together with another boyfriend, Rick Tabish, was accused of poisoning and suffocating Ted Binion. The trial attracted strong media attention in Ireland because at one point Murphy was bailed to the tune of $300,000 and given luxury accommodation by wealthy Irish-born showbiz impresario Bill Fuller.
Fuller, a County Kerry native who first brought Irish showband legend Brendan Boyer to America, lives in Las Vegas. He also covered Murphy’s legal expenses, which, according to reports, have exceeded $150,000 to date.
The penalty phase of the trial opened this week. An appeal against the verdict is planned by attorneys for Murphy and Tabish.
See you in . . .
Assuming final regulatory approval, Aer Lingus plans to begin transAtlantic service from Baltimore/Washington International Airport on Sept. 6. The airline, which was given approval by the U.S. Department of Transportation last week to service the new route, is planning to start up with three flights a week out of BWI to Ireland. The intention is to expand this to a daily service next summer.
Aer Lingus Executive Vice President North America Jack Foley expressed thanks to a number of individuals who supported the Irish carrier’s bid for the new route. He expressed particular thanks to Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening, Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and Sen. Paul Sarbanes.
Reps. write Bertie
Six members of Congress have written to Taoiseach Bertie Ahern stating that they will be monitoring closely the new commission of inquiry into the Dublin-Monaghan bombings of May 1974. The letter, signed by Reps. Chris Smith, Donald Payne, Peter King, Ben Gilman, Richard Neal and Joe Crowley, coincided with last week’s 26th anniversary of the bombings, the most deadly of the last thirty years on either side of the border in Ireland.
New York City Council member Katherine Freed is introducing a resolution this week before the council that urges political asylum for the McAllister family from Belfast. A public hearing in support of the resolution is set for Thursday, May 25, at 1 p.m. in the second floor council chambers in City Hall. The McAllister Family Justice Campaign is urging people to attend. The group can be reached at (718)436-4770.
A group of district attorneys and law school deans recently marked "Law Day" by calling for an independent judicial inquiry into the assassination of Northern Ireland human rights lawyer Rosemary Nelson.
"Rosemary Nelson’s murder seriously undermines the rule of law in Northern Ireland since the British government and the RUC so tragically failed to protect her, or to deal with the intimidation of other defense lawyers by RUC officers," said Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes.
Mitchell funding sought
The U.S.-Ireland Alliance, a non-profit organization dedicated to educating Americans about Ireland and Northern Ireland, has asked Sen. Arlen Specter, the Pennsylvania Republican and chairman of the Senate subcommittee for education appropriations, and Sen. Tom Harkin, the Iowa Democrat and ranking member, to include a $3 million appropriation for the George J. Mitchell Scholarships program in a bill currently before Congress.
The Mitchell scholarships allow Americans to pursue a year of post-graduate study at universities in Ireland, North and South.
The first batch of 12 Americans have already been selected and will begin their studies in the fall. At least one student will attend each of Ireland’s seven universities and Northern Ireland’s two universities.
The U.S.-Ireland Alliance is asking Irish Americans to communicate their support for the Mitchell program to Sens. Specter and Harkin.
Sen. Specter’s office is at (202) 224-4254; Sen. Harkin’s is at (202) 224-7429.