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August 04, 2005

Agenda for Irish-Americans

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To: Irish Echo

Agenda For Irish-Americans;
Challenge Editorials

Sinn Fein leader Martin McGuinness recently explained to
your readers the importance - indeed the necessity - of
continued American support for the full implementation of
the Belfast Agreement. A review of the editorial responses
to the IRA's announcement ending the armed struggle in
favor of political means, suggests that a good place to
focus Irish-Americans concerns for the conflict and its
aftermath would be the opinion writers of major newspapers.
The best that could be said about the content of the
editorials was their restraint. Some like that of the New
York Post are worthy only of fish wrap. But on the whole
there was a remarkable uniformity from such diverse papers
as the San Jose Mercury News in sunny California, the
gritty Daily News tabloid in the Big Apple, or the
Christian Science Monitor. Their opinions varied so little
as to suggest they were all singing from the same songbook.
This is not necessarily a bad thing except when it is a
British song book and all the songs are the same.
Addressing the misinformation and omissions in this
newspaper commentary may be precisely the type of support
McGuinness is seeking from U. S. supporters.

Editorials about the conflict are to be welcomed. These
views may differ from those of the Irish American Unity
Conference or the Ancient Order of Hibernians but it is
hoped that the opinions will be reasoned, rational and
supported with some facts.

The major daily newspapers that commented on the IRA action
contained references to one or more of the five issues
noted herein. They did so in a way that embraced
inaccuracies which were not without purpose. The writers
invariably placed Sinn Fein, the IRA or the Nationalist
view in a negative light and/or related the British view of
Irish history.

CRIME/CRIMINALITY Every editorial claimed the IRA is
engaged in criminal activities. There were either vague
references to "racketeering" or a specific note linking
them to the largest bank robbery ever in the United Kingdom
last December in Belfast. The Washington Post simply
stated that the IRA did it. So did the San Francisco
Chronicle and the San Jose Mercury News. The difficulty is
that seven months after the fact no one has told the
Director of Prosecution for N. I. who is still awaiting an
arrest. Apparently it doesn't strike anyone as odd that
there are plenty of political statements convicting the IRA
from mental pygmies like Irish Justice Minister McDonnell
but no arrests. This heist that took place over 4 hours in
a bank repository with more cameras than are in your
average London tube station. Still it became a staple for
those newspapers that penned commentary.

PROMISES Many papers like the Cleveland Plain Dealer and
the Christian Science Monitor made a distinction between
the words of the IRA and the requisite follow through with
deeds. Fair enough. But the short history of the Irish
conflict is replete with the British breaking their word
not the IRA. The documentation of their deceit fills
volumes and continues to today as Britain re- writes or
ignores provisions of the Belfast Agreement. The breaking
of the 1994 ceasefire, the continuation of the Hunger
Strike and arms disposal disputes under the Good Friday
accord all were all the result of the British government
changing the rules after a presumed deal.

TERRORISTS This is a popular term reserved for the IRA
even though it was the British who brought car bomb
techniques to Ireland in 1974 killing 33 -mostly women and
children-in Dublin and Monaghan. Most could not credit the
IRA for this peace initiative claiming instead it was the
result of "9/11" or the London bombings. Since the IRA has
held to a unilaterally declared ceasefire that began in
1997, well before both, this argument didn't make any
sense. The Boston Globe used a popular British canard by
claiming that Sinn Fein is the only political party to have
a 'private army.' Not so. Most loyalists convicted for
killings and bombings were members of the Ulster Defense
Regiment of the British Army. It is the only regiment of
the British Army that does not rotate its service. It was
intended to be the 'private army' of loyalism and has
served the cause of murder and mayhem well for over 30
years. .

VICTIMS The death toll of the conflict was frequently
cited as 3600 as in the Chicago Sun Times, but invariably
the reader was left with the impression that those were all
attributable to the IRA. This, too, is no mistake. Were
the average reader to understand that fully half of those
deaths are the responsibility of British and loyalist
forces and most of those were Catholic civilians, the
portrait of violence changes dramatically. The violence
becomes not one of mindless slaughter but of self-defense.
The Washington Post noted that the IRA statement gave no
indication of regrets for the armed campaign. While this
particular statement may have had no such reference, the
IRA has always publicly taken responsibility for its
actions and regretted the loss of any civilian life. Small
comfort for those who lost loved ones, we understand, but
it is a recognition of suffering. Thirty years after the
largest single act of carnage in the conflict, the no
warning Dublin-Monaghan bombings, the Irish people and the
families of the 33 victims are waiting for an apology from
the British government.

ARMS DISPOSAL Every editorial failed to recognize that the
there had been two previous IRA disposals of "substantial"
weaponry under the observation of the British and Irish
government monitor Canadian General de Chastelain. This
was done pursuant to the Belfast Agreement provisions for
demilitarization, which terms Britain has ignored when it
came to their removal of military bases and troops. Could
this possibly be a simple oversight or error?

How did a major Irish peace initiative such as this give
cause for editorial staff to disparage the terms, doubt the
advocates, mock the sincerity, and ignore supportive
evidence? Many years ago, Joseph Lleyveld then Foreign
Editor of the New York Times, told Professor Bob Linnon ,
National President of the IAUC and I that he was hearing
points we made for the first time. He continued: "Jewish
organizations and British representatives are in here all
the time.." leaving their literature and advocating their
cause. If the content of the editorials on this IRA stand
down order are any indication of the impact of our
advocacy, there is much work to be done. All to often when
advocates of Irish-American groups did approach editorial
writers or news reporters, they started to educate them
beginning with the Penal Laws. It must be remembered these
are people who are just trying to get yesterdays news
right. There is plenty of documentation to advance our
arguments---some of it includes Parliamentary reports. The
British love reports. The challenge is to convince those
representing editorial boards or news reporters that the
British rarely implement the recommendations of reports
involving six counties in Ireland.

On the other hand, there is the "800 pound gorilla" in the
room that no editorial writer will talk about. It is the
presence of a publisher like Rupert Murdoch of the New York
Post or Arthur Sulzberger of the New York Times who are not
interested in truth, fact or justice in Northern Ireland.
These men view their interests and those of Her Majesty's
Government as one and the same. Advocacy here is a dead
loss of time and scarce resources might best be applied

McGuinness observed that the IRA announcement was
"..universally well received" in Congress and elsewhere.
Unfortunately elsewhere did not include these editorials.
Their underlying mendacity should be the focus of some
sorely needed advocacy by those individuals and groups
working for a peace with justice in Ireland.

Michael J. Cummings

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