IRISH-AMERICAN CONNECTIONS PUT THE WIND UP THE BRITS by Donal Kennedy


Over the past fifty-plus years I’ve read many books and articles by Tim Pat Coogan. I like his style, although Tim Pat sometimes prefers a smart anecdote or Smart-Alec sneer to serious analysis.

His book on Dev was a few years old before I read it. By chance I opened the chapter headed “The War From the Waldorf” on a day that that  “THE TIMES” and like-minded media were frothing at the mouth at the prospect of an Irish holder of an Irish passport being issued with a United States visa.

One would think the British had never heard of Yorktown, which had it been a British triumph,would have seen George Washington dangling from a British rope, rather than giving his name to the capital of a powerful Republic. And that they had forgotten also that, in the teeth of their  opposition, Ireland  had also established a Republic. 

The Irishman seeking the Visa was Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams, When Eamon de Valera  had first stayed at the Waldorf Astoria, he too, was President of Sinn Fein. And, like Adams he had contested West Belfast Parliamentary Constituency, but with less success! (My little joke!). Tim Pat Coogan’s jibe -“The War From The Waldorf” imputed cowardice to Dev, whose passages across the Atlantic as a stowaway involved serious risks, as did many more of his activities in those turbulent times. In Dev’s time, as in those of Parnell, and earlier, the British sought to move Heaven and Earth and invoked their infernal cronies to sabotage Irish-American relations.

The FINANCIAL TIMES published an informative piece on this year’s St Patrick’s week visit of Irish leaders to Washington and New York and reckoned that the Irish lobby was second in influence only to the Israeli lobby. The Taoiseach is apparently the only head of Government who is guaranteed a yearly visit to the White House, where Republican and Democrat Senators and Congressmen put aside their partisan divisions to engage with the visitors.

Tip O’Neill, thirty-four years a member of the House of Representatives and ten years its Speaker, recalled how, in his youth, each Easter in Boston his family and their neigbours collected for “THE ARMY.” For them in the aftermath of the Irish Civil War, “THE ARMY” was the IRA. Many on the losing side were in the States, because the vengeful winners ensured they could get no employment in Ireland, and in some cases would murder them. One of the losers, a friend of my father, betook himself to California, returning in the 1930s when Fianna Fail were elected, and took his ten-year-old son to the Phoenix Park, where, on seeing the 1800 green acres, the boy asked -“But Dad, who waters it all?”

Irish Presbyterians, suffering discrimination from the Church of Ireland (Protestant) rulers had betaken themselves to America in the eighteenth century and took part in the Revolutionary War. Mainly Catholic waves of Irish people followed for various reasons – after failed revolts and the results of the enforced Great Starvation. It was the fitter people who had the means to get to the ports and buy their passage, as destitute masses died, uncounted, unregistered, unknown and  unmourned  by “the Authorities.” THE TIMES” thanked Divine Providence for that Holocaust.

Anyhow from militant republicans to John Hume various Irish people engaged with people in the United States, and forged influential networks. And business networks profited both Ireland and the United States

When Bill Clinton was running for the Presidency,  the CIA or the FBI or the State Department persuaded Britain’s Home Office to report on his behaviour when a student at Oxford. And the British were happy to search their files. Clinton, fully aware of Irish-American influence had calculated that getting their votes would do him no harm

. When Albert Reynolds asked him to over-rule the State-Department and grant Adams a visa, ex-TIMES Editor Simon Jenkins told White House Staff a gigantic fib. Is there such a thing as a MORAL FIBBER? The FIB didn’t work, Adams got his visa, the peace process continued. So much did this rankle with Jenkins that he boasted of his FIBBING in THE TIMES many years later.

But Jenkins was not the only TIMES staffer up to no good in the States at the time. Another guy, with a less balanced view than the FINANCIAL TIMES report on the recent St Patrick’s Festival in the States, recalled the other day how he had told Americans how ignorant Irish-Americans, particularly in Boston, were of Anglo-Irish (political) relations, historically and currently.

I was five days in Manhattan fifteen years ago over the St Patrick’s Festival. Watching the parade I found myself beside a plain-clothes Lieutenant of Connecticut Police, who apparently knew the words of Roddy McCorley and Sean South of Garryowen, and a helluva lot about the land of his fathers which he had been to more than once. I went to an hotel where American-born young people danced jigs and reels, played Irish airs on various instruments, sang real Irish traditional songs and were fully integrated New Yorkers. Two weekly Irish themed newspapers were on sale. And I got the impression over the week that go-ahead, forward looking,, urban Americans of Irish ancestry were better informed, balanced,and less deferential to THE TIMES of London. and its ilk than many Dubliners.

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