The event will be hosted by Ireland in June, with more than 7,000 athletes and coaches from around world arriving at the end of June.
Trimble, in Washington last week for the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, was about to take part in a radio interview when he made his comments.
“The Zimbabweans coming can cause real trouble,” he said. “That Mugabe is a problem.”
Trimble’s entourage, including Sir Reg Empey, spokesperson Anne Smith, and his wife, Daphne Trimble, nodded their heads in agreement.
“It’s far too soon to say what’s going to happen, but we really can’t see this impacting the games,” a Special Olympics spokesperson said. Two Zimbabwean athletes will compete in Ireland.
On Friday, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, a patron of the games, took questions from a dozen Washington, D.C.-area athletes who said they were overjoyed at the prospect of participating in cycling, swimming, and basketball events.
Trimble’s concerns stem from the unrest in Zimbabwe that spilled over into the World Cup cricket matches held there earlier this month. At least 100 people were arrested during the Zimbabwe leg of that event for allegedly staging illegal demonstrations.
The Special Olympics spokesperson said that Trimble has not made any formal note of concern to the organization.
TRIMBLE SEES BOMB LINK
The leader of the currently suspended Northern Ireland Assembly said at a news conference here on Friday that there is a chance that the Provisional IRA may have broken its ceasefire.
Speaking to reporters at the National Press Club after his meetings the previous day at the White House and on Capitol Hill, David Trimble referred to the recent bomb found outside the courthouse in Belfast that was detonated by the British army.
Trimble said he understood that the bomb could have been planted by the “main IRA that Gerry Adams is associated with.”
He said the incident was a good example as to why a monitor should be put in place in addition to the decommissioning work by General de Chastelain.
He said the most significant element during the round of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in Washington was President Bush’s invitation to the White House of the Northern Ireland Police Commissioner Hugh Orde.
He said it was an endorsement of the Northern Ireland police administration, which is still unaccepted by Sinn Fein.
Trimble warned that the window of opportunity to solve the North’s political future would be limited because of a possible U.S.-British war with Iraq.
He said it would difficult to engage British Prime Minister Tony Blair in profound negotiations to restart the Northern Assembly if the prime minister is absorbed in conducting a war along with the U.S. administration.
SPECIAL OLYMPICS CONCERN
CHENEY FILLS IN
The taoiseach’s annual luncheon with U.S. congressional leadership had a last-minute change on Thursday in Washington.
Vice President Dick Cheney filled in for President Bush at the St. Patrick’s Day Speaker’s Luncheon on Capitol Hill. President Bush was detained at the Oval Office, making what the White House termed “diplomatic efforts” with various world leaders. House Speaker Dennis Hastert was the host of the luncheon.
The usually well-choreographed visit of the taoiseach for St. Patrick’s Day ceremonies were very different than those in years past. Normally, the conflict receiving the greatest scrutiny would be the Troubles in the North. This year talk of war with Iraq dominated the discussions.
Even as the taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, left the White House on his way to Capitol Hill, he noted that the president had told him while in the Oval Office of his urgent discussions with world leaders.
“I’m not at liberty to say who he’s talking to, but I know he’s making a number of phone calls this afternoon,” the taoiseach said.
UUP leader David Trimble and Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams were also at the luncheon. The band the Saw Doctors were the afternoon’s entertainment.
The press, normally given a quick peek at the luncheon’s proceedings, were barred from entry to the program. Officials cited increased security as the reason no one was allowed into the room off of Statuary Hall in the Capitol.
RELATIVES WANT SPECIAL UNIT
Even as the family of Elizabeth Smart, the Utah girl abducted from her bedroom window 9 months ago, rejoiced at her return last week, an Irish group walked the halls of Congress asking for help in forming a special unit to find those that have gone missing in Ireland.
“It’s a tragedy that all the police in Ireland have to do is ask, and American authorities stand ready to help,” said John McGuinness, TD, who is working to highlight the plight of those whose family or friends remain unaccounted for in Ireland.
McGuinness was in Washington last week with Mary Phelan, whose sister Jojo Dullard is missing. They also stopped in New York to ask U.S. authorities if they would be willing to help the gardai set up a special unit.
In an interview while the group awaited their meeting with Rep. James Walsh, a New York Republican, McGuinness spoke angrily of the reticence of Irish police to form such a unit.
McGuinness and Phelan visited the Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the facility that helped the Smart family find their daughter. “What we’ve been told both here and by people in New York is that the police in Ireland could put this together with a lot of help from willing U.S. authorities — all they have to do is ask,” McGuinness said.