By Ray O’Hanlon
Veteran republican activist Martin Galvin has claimed that his life was openly threatened last weekend as he attended a fund-raising event in a Bronx restaurant.
Galvin was one of the prime organizers of the fund-raiser, held last Saturday evening at Characters, a popular Irish venue at 242nd Street and Broadway.
According to the Galvin, a private practice lawyer who is also a former Bronx assistant district attorney, two men entered the bar at the early stages of the event organized by the Republican Prisoners Welfare Group, a newly founded organization that aims to raise money for prisoners in Ireland who are connected to the 32 County Sovereignty Movement.
"Two men, one I know, came into the bar. One of them, the guy I did not know, approached me," Galvin said.
Galvin said he interpreted the man’s subsequent words as a threat to his physical safety and even his life.
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"He said something like, ‘What do you think you are doing? You’re walking a white line and it would be very easy for us to run you down,’ " Galvin said.
Galvin said that the other man stood in the background while the threat was being uttered. He knew the other man because he had once defended him in a DWI case.
Galvin said that both men were Irish. The man who had confronted him was from somewhere in the North. Both men left immediately after the threat was delivered. Several others witnessed the incident.
Galvin said his reaction was one of stunned disbelief.
"It was obvious to me that this was pre-planned," he said. "But if you told me that this sort of thing was going to happen in the U.S., I would not have believed it."
Galvin, a former top Irish Northern Aid official who has openly opposed Sinn Féin’s position on the Good Friday accords, said that people had approached him in recent days suggesting retaliation for the threat.
"I don’t want any retaliation," Galvin said. "That would be a disaster for everybody if republicans attack republicans in the U.S. Let’s hope it was some people acting on their own.
"Retaliation would be an open invitation to the FBI to investigate and that would potentially affect everybody’s fund-raising efforts. It would only serve British interests, not Irish interests."
Galvin said he would not be intimidated by the incident. At the same time, he had not reported it to the police.
"As a former ADA I could easily do so," he said. "But I hope any further problem can be headed off and resolved before it goes any farther."
With that in mind, Galvin said he was speaking this week with "some people."
Clinton urges greater effort
President Clinton urged Northern Ireland’s political leaders to break the political logjam in the peace process as eight of them were being honored in Washington last week for their support of the Good Friday accord.
Clinton said that all should think carefully about how to resurrect the progress that was lost when a tentative deal over North-South bodies collapsed.
"I hope the parties will move quickly to resolve the remaining differences, keeping an open mind, acting in good faith, remembering how much all have gained by the hard work that has already been done," Clinton said.
"Not only the letter, but the spirit, of the Good Friday accord must prevail for those that worked hard," he added.
Following the presentation of Averell Harriman awards, by peacebroker George Mitchell, to the eight — including Nobel laureates John Hume and David Trimble — Clinton had a long meeting with Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams.
"We are heading toward missing another deadline," said Adams. "President Clinton has a role to play now and that role is to keep pressure on the parties to conform to what was outlined in the accord."
First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton stayed for the discussion between her husband and Adams. "She had input in our discussions," Adams confirmed.
Minister of State Liz O’Donnell, who represented the Irish government, held meetings with White House staff the morning after the awards. She told the Echo she was disappointed over the stalling of progress but added that she agreed with White House officials that it was not the end of the world.
"The U.S. will be with us for the long haul and it will be up to everyone to dig, dig, dig to reach agreement," she said.
"Now is not the time for complacency," said the deputy assistant to the president for national security affairs, Jim Steinberg. "We hope the events of the last 24 hours will push things forward," he said of the private meetings the president held with some of the political leaders on the sidelines.
— Susan Falvella Garraty in Washington, D.C.
€ Four members of Congress, Reps. Jim Walsh, Richard Neal, Tom Manton and Pete King, have written British Prime Minister Tony Blair expressing concern over rising tensions in the Garvaghy Road area of Portadown.
"We hope that your government shares this concern and we wanted to voice our support for your and the Northern Irish authorities’ decision not to permit this provocative march at this critical moment in the peace process," the four stated.
€ North peacebroker George Mitchell is to preside over a conference on the Northern Ireland peace accord at Queens College, New York, next spring. Mitchell is joining the faculty at the college where he will be senior fellow at the Michael Harrington Center for Democratic Values and Social Change, and visiting professor in international studies.
€ Clare native Bishop Anthony J. O’Connell, who heads the diocese of Knoxville, Tenn., has been named the new Bishop of Palm Beach in Florida.
€ University College Cork historian J.J. Lee has been named Glucksman Professor in Irish Studies at New York University. The announcement was made by Robert Scally, academic director at NYU Glucksman Ireland House.