Many believe that issue had been resolved with the Belfast Agreement of 1998 and they would be correct to a point.
To this day, most Americans are unaware that in 1918 the Irish people as a whole rejected British rule in a general election in which nationalist candidates, most in British jails, received nearly 80 percent of the vote.
The British unilateral partition of Ireland two years later prompted not only a civil war but decades of armed and constitutional struggles to restore that sovereignty denied the Irish people.
Unfortunately, that struggle effectively ended with that accord. There was to be no do-over of the democratic vote of 1918 that parliament rejected. Instead there was a “partitioned plebiscite” on the Treaty itself with its oblique references to Ireland’s re-unification.
As much as it pains me to say so, Ireland’s unity remains as firmly in the hands of a British parliament today as it did in 1918. So as far as putting Ireland’s national self-determination on the American foreign policy agenda, that train has left the station.
The good news is that the agreement did end London’s corrupt version of democracy and the murderous rampages of her majesty’s terrorists, uniformed and otherwise. The decades of sacrifice by the brave nationalist community and the resistance of men and women in arms had at last born fruit.
While the Good Friday Agreement is now the major factor limiting any American role in ending partition, there are other impediments. There is firstly the matter of scale. Tiny Ireland barely shows up on the foreign affairs radar screen of our Department of State, long under British dictation.
Only the huge Irish-American presence in the electorate counter-balances this.
There has also been the issue of Americans’ interest in democracy and justice in the North far exceeding that of the Irish government of the day.
This prompted the late House Speaker Tip O’Neil to chastise his constituents once saying, “What do you want me to do, be more Irish than the Irish government?”
It is worth noting that the Irish government is not hosting these forums or, for that matter, ever hosted any discussion in America about national self-determination and unity.
Finally, there is the small matter of pervasive British influence in two areas important to the conduct of foreign affairs: academia and the media.
These fields of play have long been ignored by activists. As a consequence, what influential Americans read or hear about Ireland and the conflict is often fed to them by British sycophants. On campuses across the nation, apostles of the mythical “special relationship,” particularly those enthralled with all things royal and imperial, teach unchallenged the English version of Irish history.
It is, therefore, a daunting task to heed the call of Sinn F