Okay, Obama can't hop across the border despite Jesse Jackson's urgings, though in the context of the peace process it would be an event of significant symbolism. Alas, though, protocol rules and Obama would have to head north via London. No such problems presumably for her majesty who is expected to land in the wee Republic next month. If she was to include an all-Ireland dimension to her visit she would, of course, be simply returning to London via the wee North, which is yet in her United Kingdom. So the North will have to wait for an Obama visit, though IF is sure that virtually everyone in Ireland agrees that the wait need not be endless. The president should visit the North, if not in his first term then in his second - assuming he wins one of course. Meanwhile, the competition down south for Obama's attention is nothing less than ferocious. This isn't surprising given the man and his august office - not to mention the never ending parochial nature of Irish political and social life. Obama will set foot in Offaly and also Dublin; that we know for sure. He might also set foot in Tipperary because if his helicopter lands, as many expect, on the GAA field in Moneygall, he will have notched up a landing in Ronald Reagan's Irish county, The pitch is in Tipperary, not Offaly. Who knows, the club might be renamed if Obama lands in it. How does Pairc Barra Obama sound? Either way, a landing on the Tipp. sward will make the Tipp. crowd very happy indeed as they will also be entertaining Queen Elizabeth, who is to make a stop in Cashel. Meantime, there has been talk of efforts to lure Obama to other counties, Mayo and Sligo (see report in this issue) included. But the county that might stand the strongest chance of adding itself to Obama's itinerary appears to be Cork, this due to the Frederick Douglass connection. As reported, and in the context of a Cork memorial to Douglass, Maryland governor Martin O'Malley has urged Obama to add the Rebel County to his time in Ireland, a stay that is expected to include a night's stay, perhaps at Aras an Uachtarain, or the nearby U.S. ambassador's residence. Of course, Cork City is also rolling out the red carpet for the queen so a visit by the American president would make May an absolute standout in Cork history, perhaps even a month devoid of a "Cork snubbed" headline! We shall see soon enough.
DIVERSITY IN DANGERAs things stand it is all but impossible for the Irish to gain entry to the U.S. in any numbers and the prospects for the kind of immigration reform that will change this situation any time soon remain remote. So no change. Well, that might not be quite the case though the kind of change that some legislators are looking at is not what the Irish would want. The diversity visa scheme, which annually allocates 50,000 visa to countries with low levels of U.S. immigration, is one way that an Irish person can gain entry to the U.S. without necessarily holding highly specialized qualifications. Given that the visas, widely known as the Schumer Visas, are distributed to a worldwide pool of applicants, the Irish tend to get elbowed out. The result is only a handful of Schumers in a given year. Nevertheless, some is better than none. But if some members of the House Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement have their way there will be none.The diversity visa scheme has, according to reports, come under fire from subcommittee members. The program has been in place since 1990 and if diversity is indeed a core value behind U.S. immigration policy Ranking Member Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), a supporter of the visa, said during a recent hearing that the program was created to encourage continued immigration opportunities for people from Italy or Ireland, but today plays an important role in helping people from African nations immigrate to the U.S., and contributes about 4.8 percent of the total permanent immigration to the U.S. Which is not a lot in the greater scheme of things, but given that the Irish share of this 4.8 percent is only a tiny fraction it underlines the fact that the Irish are facing an almost locked door. Get rid of the Schumers and that sound you hear is the dead lock bolt.
SAY WHAT?Hopefully his old geography teacher wasn't watching Sunday's coverage of the Masters from Augusta. Commentator David Feherty is never less than the man with the pertinent word, but he wandered off the reservation at one point during the CBS telecast when he noted that every continent was represented on the leader board other than the Arctic and Antarctic. Being only half right is not the most egregious of sins, but Feherty gets paid enough not to be confusing viewers in a country where geography is already a subject that us too low on the academic totem pole. Nick Faldo agreed with Feherty on the matter of the Arctic being a continent. It's a good thing he had a decent caddy to navigate him around the course when he himself was winning the Masters.
KAINE DECLARESFormer Virginia governor Tim Kaine was a prominent face in the room at the White House St. Patrick's Day bash. The then head of the Democratic National Committee was proudly introducing his parents to all and sundry. Mom and dad, in turn, were eagerly outlining their Irish roots to sundry and all. The proud son, in the meantime, has declared that he wants to put down new political roots on Capitol Hill. He is a declared candidate for the U.S. Senate in his home state. Mom and dad's votes are assured, so that's a start.
FOR THE RECORDIF is always eager to set the record straight, or help others do so. Here below is a letter to the New York Times recently penned by former AOH National President, Ned McGinley. "Scott Shane in his recent front page article deriding the Hearing on Radical Islam convened by Congressman Peter King describes King as a supporter of a 'terrorist organization' the Irish Republican Army reestablished in 1969. "First a fact, the Provisional Irish Republican Army was never designated as a Terrorist Organization by the U.S. State Department. The British Government on several occasions negotiated with Irish Republican leaders during the period after 1969 sought agreement. The IRA entered eagerly and honorably into the Peace Process, chaired by former U.S. Senator George Mitchell in 1994, produced the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 and after years of politics a devolved government. "Nationalist citizens could expect neither justice nor protection from the police in the cities and towns of Northern (sic) Ireland. The Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) beat peaceful Civil Rights protesters off the streets of NI many times; a peaceful Civil Rights March in January 1969 at Burntollet was attacked by Loyalist aided by the RUC. The RUC was described by Unionists as, 'A Protestant police force for a Protestant people.' "The new Provisional IRA rose from a need to protect Nationalist Communities from Loyalist paramilitary pogroms, collaborating with British Security Services that sired them, in 1969. The British government has admitted that their Army Paratroopers slaughtered innocent unarmed civilians protesting in Derry Ireland on January 30, 1972 on Bloody Sunday, in June 2010 and apologized after lying about it for almost 40 years. These atrocities were carried out in other Nationalists Communities as well and the attacks were the greatest recruiter for the Nationalist defenders, the IRA. "The Irish American Community in the USA insists on a retraction of your description of the Irish Republican Army as a 'Terrorist Organization," it is obvious they were never declared as such by the U.S. State Department. A phrase used during the Reagan Administration regarding Nicaragua, 'One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter.' would seem much more apt when describing the IRA. "A more accurate comparison would be the Spear of the Nation in South Africa, the military arm of the ANC. Once the ANC was recognized the violence ceased. In 1994 the Sinn Fein was allowed into the Peace Process there was an IRA Ceasefire, in 1998 the Belfast Agreement ended the violence. In 2005 the IRA decommissioned their weapons and dedicated itself to use "purely political and democratic programs using exclusively peaceful means." to attain a United Ireland. "In 1981 Ten Men died on Hunger Strike, starving themselves to death to prevent being called 'Criminals' or 'Terrorists' and the Irish American Community would be seriously remiss if we did not defend these men who gave their lives in a peaceful protest against British rule. "I personally do not agree with Congressman King's Hearing on the radicalization of Islam, it provides propaganda for radical Muslims, but comparing Al Qaeda to King's support for the IRA is ridiculous. The Irish Republicans are now members of the devolved government in Belfast, the Irish Government in Dublin, and the British Parliament for most this is an interim step for their goal, a democratic transition to a United Ireland by peaceful, political means. Al Qaeda has never made this offer."
THEY SAIDThe panic decision to give a blanket guarantee to the banks on September 29th, 2008, will be remembered as the greatest piece of social vandalism here, probably since Cromwell. What is so staggering about that is that they were advised from at least the previous January that a crisis was looming, they had nine months to prepare options and to take advice and then they did the worst thing possible, in a panicked deference to the lords of high finance." Columnist Vincent Browne in the Irish Times.