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Powell’s Colombia comments spark questions

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

In a recent interview published in the Chicago Tribune, Powell, who had just returned from a trip to Colombia, appeared to single out the IRA as a threat to democracy in the Western Hemisphere.
Three Irish nationals with alleged ties to the IRA are currently facing trial in Colombia on charges of aiding the FARC left wing guerrilla group.
The trial opened last week but was quickly suspended after prosecution witnesses failed to show up in court.
Powell indicated his concern about possible IRA activities in the hemisphere in his remarks to the Tribune, which were published on Dec. 5.
“But after 9/11, as we looked at terrorist activities around the world — and maybe the [factions fighting in Colombia] do not have global reach in the sense that Al Qaeda has global reach — but when you start to see members of the IRA in Colombia sharing experiences, sharing knowledge, doing heaven only knows what, it suggests that these kinds of organizations are committed to destroying democracy in our hemisphere. Should that not be a concern of ours?” the secretary of state was quoted as saying.
In an e-mail prompted by Powell’s statement, IAUC member Bill Denney said he believed that Powell was saying that the IRA was committed to destroying democracy in the Western Hemisphere.
“Not only is Powell revising U.S. policy on a volatile Colombia, as the headline says, it looks like he is revising U.S. policy on the IRA as well,” Denny said. “I would like to know if it is the official State Department position that the IRA is committed to destroying democracy in our hemisphere.”
In the Tribune report, Powell emphasized that the attention to combating rebels and drug cartels in Colombia would be directed through “an anti-terrorism prism.”

The British government has responded to a letter from a group of Congressmen expressing concern that it was failing to protect Catholics in Northern Ireland from loyalist attacks.
The letter, sent in late September to the then Northern Ireland secretary of state, Dr. John Reid, expressed particular concern over loyalist attacks directed at Catholics in the Short Strand area of East Belfast.
The letter was signed by the four co-chairs of the congressional Ad Hoc Committee, Reps. Ben Gilman, Richard Neal, Joe Crowley and Peter King, along with the chairman of Friends of Ireland group in Congress, Rep. Jim Walsh.
In a reply, British Minister of State at the Northern Ireland Office Jane Kennedy said that the violence in Short Strand was “totally unacceptable” and that the British government had been working “tirelessly” to deal with it.
She said that security forces had established a “high profile presence” on both sides of the community in the area.
Responding to the charge made by the congressmen that local authorities appeared to be “abetting such attacks rather than putting an end to them,” Kennedy said that the security forces had in fact borne the brunt of the violence, with 613 members injured in the last year.
“The security forces should be congratulated on their professionalism in managing a very difficult situation and effecting arrests,” Kennedy wrote.
Kennedy stated that between May 1 and Oct. 15, 39 people — 11 republicans and 28 loyalists — had been charged with public order offenses resulting from incidents of violence in East Belfast.
“Let me assure you that the government has complete confidence in the security forces and we believe that they have acted even-handedly in often difficult and life threatening circumstances,” Kennedy said.

The Emerald Isle Immigration Center in Queens is getting a technology boost this week.
Queens Borough President Helen Marshall will perform a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the center on Thursday.
Marshall is officially relaunching the technology center at the EIIC’s Woodside office.
The upgrade of the facility was made possible by a grant of $10,000 from the Verizon Foundation.
“We are delighted to welcome the borough president to our office,” said EIIC executive director A.M. Scanlon. “This is a resource not just for immigrants but for everybody in the community.”

Only two of the five are still alive but they will gather in spirit and body next week at a Manhattan law firm office to remember one of the more remarkable trials in the annals of Irish-American involvement in the armed struggle in Ireland.
Twenty years ago, the “Freedom Five” were acquitted in a Brooklyn courtroom of supplying arms to the IRA.
The acquittal came in the face of what seemed to be an open-and-shut case compiled by federal investigators against George Harrison, Michael Flannery, Paddy Mullins, Danny Gormley and Tom Falvey.
In the end, however, a daring defense strategy by lawyers representing the five accused men managed to convince the jury that the gun smuggling had been carried out with the full knowledge and at least tacit approval of the CIA.
Flannery, Falvey and Mullins are since deceased. The other two have been invited to a reunion Dec. 18 at the offices of O’Dwyer and Bernstien. Harrison, now 87, said he planned to attend.

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