Progress in Northern Ireland?

Progress in Northern Ireland?
Michael J. Cummings, Member
National Board
IRISH AMERICAN UNITY CONFERENCE
WASHINGTON, D. C.

The approach of St Patrick’s Day was for me, as Public Relations Director of the National Board of the AOH, a time of anxiety. There were the attempts to hijack the religious and heritage themes of the parades to promote some political correctness. Then there were the greeting cards and Saint Patrick’s Day paraphernalia mocking all things Irish. However the greatest concern …certainly before the Clinton era… was the “shamrock shenanigans” unfolding in Washington. A bowl of shamrocks would be bestowed by the Irish President, pints would be lifted, platitudinous statements would be issued and a conflict that cost over 3000 lives drew condemnation of violence with little reference to justice and the rule of law. Today it seems the bad old days have returned. Barely 15 years since the 1998 Irish peace pact was signed, the British are ignoring the law, obstructing justice and inhibiting peace. The only thing missing is the outrage.

For fifty years after WWII, the British held a choke hold on the Department of State and the U. S. position on the six county conflict. But they had a willing partner in the Irish government whose elite diplomatic staff rarely ventured beyond the cocktail circuit and the tourism portfolio. In 1978 as Taoiseach Lynch prepared for a U. S. visit, the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs described the concerned and activist Irish-American community this way in a briefing memo: “They cling closely to familiar myths of British repression which provides them with a history, an identity and a cause.” Bloody Sunday, Dublin Monaghan bombings, internment, RUC lawlessness … were, according to the dandys of the Irish diplomatic corps, all ‘myths’ of British repression. How bad was this mindset? Talking once with Angela Carter, of the Keshcarrigan Bookshop in NYC, she spoke of trying to interest the Consulate staff in doing more to promote the Irish language here. “We must not be seen doing anything to help the enemy” was the response; a veiled reference to Sinn Fein’s promotion of the national language of Ireland.

For years House Speaker O’Neil would dismiss the pleas of many Americans concerned about the garrison rule of the British because the Irish government would rarely speak and take little action on the abuses and lawlessness. “What do you want me to do, be more Irish than the Irish government?” would be his derisive reply. Speaker Foley, who never met a royal he didn’t like, once claimed at a hearing that “there was no such thing as British oppression.” Breathtaking but unfortunately true. Irish National Caucus spokesman Fr. Sean McManus gives a fair accounting of all this in his book My American Struggle for Justice in Northern Ireland. Given the spineless Speaker’s, British lobbying and Ireland’s silence throughout the 70’s and 80’s, the voices of Members of Congress like Ben Gilman, Ham Fish, Don Payne, Eliot Engel, Joe Kennedy, and Chris Smith on behalf of the victim of British oppression were all the more remarkable.

St Patrick’s Day 2012 might well have been a turning point for Her Majesty’s Government plans for Ireland. Who would have thought it would have taken only 14 years from the Good Friday Agreement to restore a White House officially indifferent to UK violation of the terms and spirit of the Pact? Consider these developments:

  • President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron meet March 14th and not a word is mentioned of holding those accountable for the Bloody Sunday murders or the failure of the UK to disclose the British Army role in the Dublin-Monaghan bombings.
  • In Irish Heritage month, Secretary of State Clinton’s pleas help release 1000 political prisoners in Myanamar but not a word is uttered for two political prisoners in N. I. Gerry McGeough and Marian Price.
  • The U. S. says nothing when the British announce there will be no public inquiry into their murdering of human rights lawyer Patrick Finucane as promised. At least when Egypt arrested a pro-democracy activist, Secretary of State Rice showed displeasure by canceling a planned trip to Egypt. The Obama administration remains mute to this day on the Finucane slaying!!
  • The powers of N. I. Police Ombudsman Office, established as part of the Agreement to review police action, are being curtailed by the British and 300 ex-police officers, richly pensioned off, have been re-hired to accelerate the cover up of police lawlessness and corruption. They call it ‘records management.’
  • The Irish Tanaiste (Foreign Minister) Eamon Gilmore returns from the St Patrick’s Day festivities in America to publicly express concern that Josef Kony, the Ugandan mass murderer remains at large and urges the International Criminal Court to act upon the 33 counts of crimes against humanity against him. Ironically 33 is the number of deaths from the Dublin-Monaghan bombings but not one word was uttered in America by any Irish government official demanding the British Army be held accountable for the conflict’s largest loss of life.

Not alone is the U. S. silent on the core conflict issues but it now collaborates in the bias and political chicanery of the British.  Appeasement of the British encouraged a spiteful former MI-5 operative to use a US-UK a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty to request records from Boston College’s Irish Oral History project.  The treaty was intended to aid prosecution of money laundering by drug cartels but the British believe it is better used to investigate 40 year old crimes particularly if there is a chance it can give a political black eye to Sinn Fein. By contrast, Britain’s efforts to exculpate every British soldier and police officer from criminal culpability of their killing of Catholics continues unabated. Does the fact that British banks hold a large portion of Irish debt explain why Ireland has not used the MLAT to demand records of the British Ministry of Defense relating to the 1974 Dublin-Monaghan massacre?

Some will think unwarranted our concern for these developments on the Irish peace process. Dr. Paul Nolan, author of the recently released N. I. Peace Monitoring Report, fears for the future. There are, he notes, 26 more ‘peace’ walls than when the Belfast Agreement was signed. Housing and schools are still seriously segregated. A high percentage of Catholic police recruits drop out. He believes we may now be enjoying simply a pause in the conflict, a sort of “generational” truce in Ireland. Director of Public Prosecutions Barra McGrory and others have called for a mechanism to deal with the past. But if Britain continues its corruption of the GFA, we need not worry about a mechanism for dealing with the past. Ireland’s silence and U. S. indifference will insure that the past is merely repeated.