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Irish Role In Australia Changes

By Bill O'Donnell, November 2, 2012

Almost a century and a half has passed since those early convict ships filled with the Irish sailed from English prisons like Dartmoor and Portsmouth bound for Australia. The Fenians constituted the first wave in the 1860s of a British solution to a British problem: What to do with the overcrowded prisons filled with minor criminals, many of whom were Irish convicted of petty crimes amidst the anti-Irish fervor of the day? The answer was to create a prison colony in distant Australia to accommodate the criminal Irish, in a phrase: to “export” the problems at home. And they did it with a vengeance.

The Irish of today in Australia are no longer in chains, no longer part of a dubious and unjust criminal class. They have emerged as top government officials, prime ministers, and leaders in developing the social and economic dynamic of the country. Adding to the success story of the land down under is a new ingredient direct from Ireland: emigrants freshly arrived with extensive expertise and sophisticated street experience, i.e., former members of the Irish Garda Siochana.

These ex-Garda are fleeing depression-hit Ireland and using their police experience and Aussie good will to join the local police departments. Long decades after their beginnings in the prison colony the Irish are now highly sought after as police officers ready to serve in a growing and healthy economy. Their service time in the garda is recognized with extra pay and swift promotions.

Generally speaking, Australian police pay is better than it is in Ireland and the Irish who sign up and stay in Australia report that the quality of life is equal to or better than that in Ireland. Recruiting for the Aussie police stopped last month but a new drive is expected to start in the new year. Not a bad deal for the descendants of the former prison colony and the people of Australia.

Top Utah Paper Opts For Obama –
In a stunning announcement ten days ago, Utah’s largest paper, the Salt Lake Tribune, blasted fellow Mormon Willard Romney and endorsed President Obama for reelection. The paper said, “We have watched [Romney] morph into a friend of the far right, then tack toward the center with breathtaking aplomb ... through a pair of presidential debates, Romney’s domestic agenda remains bereft of detail and worthy of mistrust.” Summing up its endorsement of the president, the Tribune focused on the concerns about Romney that they share with millions of voters in asking: “Who is this guy, really, and what in the world does he truly believe?”

Utah is not only a state that knows Romney well, but it is a red state, a Republican state, and its leading newspaper doesn’t like what it sees of the bug-out former governor of Massachusetts.

Newest Irish Famine Museum Opens in Connecticut –
Quinnipiac University in Hamden is the site of the latest Great Hunger Museum. University President John Lahey opened the museum on October 11 and claims that the campus addition has the world’s largest collection of artifacts, visual art, and printed materials related to the famine. The museum focuses on the 1845-1852 famine years when one million Irish died and some two million more left Ireland for America and other countries.
No Surprise Here – Mary McAleese got into a heated argument after being insulted by then Boston Cardinal Bernard Law when she visited the US on an official visit as Irish President in 1998. Some 14 years after the Irish president’s confrontation with the arrogant, imperious archbishop, Mrs. McAleese recounts the clash in a newly published book she has written on Catholic canon law.

It seems that the cardinal, then the pope’s consigliere in the US, was unhappy about some of the statements made by President McAlese and proceeded to chastise the Irish leader like some erring seminarian. Law told McAleese that he was “sorry for Catholic Ireland to have you as president,” and McAleese responded that she was “the president of Ireland and not just of Catholic Ireland.” McAleese, a lawyer and canon scholar, noted that the cardinal’s language and attitude that day was arrogant and nasty. Law then demanded that McAleese and her party sit down to listen to the orthodox view on women’s ordination by a conservative Catholic, the Republican Mary Ann Glendon.

On her return to Ireland, McAleese confronted the Irish church hierarchy about Law’s actions and was assured they had not been briefing the US cardinal. Several years after the Law-McAleese rumble, in December 2002, Law, after blaming the Boston Globe and other media for the clerical abuse scandal, resigned, apologizing for “shortcomings” and “mistakes” he had made.

The Best Free Show In Town – It doesn’t cost you anything except a phone call and a reservation and you can be part of the audience at the Kennedy Library Forums, hosted periodically by the Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum at Columbia Point in Dorchester. Since the forums began, the JFK Museum has hosted fascinating discussions by authors, journalists, government officials, Kennedy family members, and newsmakers on the events of today and in the past.

Coming up this fall and winter are discussions by experts on the Supreme Court (Nov. 18); a look at the life and times of the late Speaker Tip O’Neill (Dec. 9); a discussion with US Attorney General Eric Holder (Dec. 11); and the Life of Joe Kennedy (Dec. 12) with Chris Lydon. Reservations (necessary) by phone at 617-514-1643.

Correction –
The name of the award to former Irish President Mary Robinson by President Obama in 2009 was given in error in this space last month. In a White House ceremony, the president presented Mrs. Robinson with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award.

Federal Court Hold On BC Tapes Handover – Up front the news that should put a smile on the face of journalist Ed Moloney and his project colleague Anthony McIntyre is the temporary stay of the order to hand over Boston College interview tapes to the British government. The stay preventing the handover of the tapes is in effect until November 16.

Aside from whatever the federal court in Boston (which has the tapes) decides later this month, there is a growing consensus that it is doubtful if the US Supreme Court will choose to hear the tapes case. Another experienced observer, former Congressman Bruce Morrison, believes that even if the high court opts to consider the case, it would not decide it. That is an odd position for the Yale-trained lawyer to take, or so it seems to me.

Morrison says the BC tapes controversy “requires a political solution: At the end of the day, I’d be surprised if any court in this country stops [the surrender of the tapes to Britain].” I think he has that right.

The former Connecticut Congressman believes that since the BC tapes are not sworn testimony, they won’t amount to a “hill of beans in court.” But he noted that the US-UK assistance treaty that underpins the British request for the tapes has been opportunistically exploited by law enforcement officials in Northern Ireland. “It’s wrong to enlist the US government under a treaty that was entered into to catch a terrorist threat in real time, not to prosecute 40-year-old cases,” Morrison concluded. Amen!
Things Looking Up For Ireland – Ireland Has a ‘Time’-induced glow these days and the confident stride of the Irish punter might be, to begin with, related to the recent Time Magazine cover story (European edition) on Taoiseach (prime minister) Enda Kenny with the cover headline “The Irish Comeback.” Some believe that the magazine might be a bit premature, but the glow persists.
Another positive sign is the upbeat attitude of Irish Finance Minister Michael Noonan, who announced that the country will leave the bailout program next year. The EU and the IMF, following a look at the Irish books, have concluded that the economy is “on track” re this year’s budget targets. Yet another piece of good news is the latest shout-out from Barclay’s Bank that the reforms are working and that exports reached $12 billion in August, up a lofty 16 percent. This, says Barclay’s, has boosted Ireland’s standing on the global stage.

Bridge To Link Counties Louth & Down – The bridge proposal had been mooted about for decades but until last month there had been little to show for the effort to build a bridge over the Newry River to link County Louth in the Irish Republic with County Down in the North. However that’s history now with Dublin and Belfast agreeing to construction of the span and with the European Union pledging major funding from its border development fund for the $35 million project.

The Omeath-Warrenpoint bridge will be the first cross-border span since partition. Can you imagine! No small miracle in these times of austerity both north and south. And a grand positive step forward that slashes the distance (in Kilometers and history) between the twenty-six and the six. And don’t even begin to talk of its impact on the region’s economy and an uptick in social interaction and good will.

I have not been to tiny Omeath nor its neighbor just across the river in too many years, but I remember with a lingering warmth being with my family along the narrow River in Omeath, our then young daughter atop a donkey and looking across to Warrenpoint in the North, and laughing with lovely friends, the Reillys, Minnie, Julia, Karen, and Ronan, and their kin. The custom stations for Ireland and the British are long gone now and with them the security men who checked our car for contraband as we crossed the border into Omeath and the wee county.

My wife Jean and I spent several superb early days of our Irish honeymoon in a simple, mountainside home in Omeath with our loving Aunt Minnie, a hot water bottle, and a view from the kitchen window that the years cannot erase. It was glorious and in all the rich, atrium-surrounded splendor of luxe hotels we have stopped in around the world since then, nothing, absolutely nothing, has ever come close to the wonder of that time in our lives.

God speed and good luck on the bridge! I’m looking forward to at least one spin across the river. I’d really like that.
Big Bucks and Bad Behavior – In his GE Czar days they referred to the UMass Amherst graduate as “”Neutron” Jack Welch. He had a story book career at the helm of General Electric. He fired employees by the thousands and he made several fortunes for the corporation. When he retired, GE’s board and his successor couldn’t give him enough riches, but they tried. His estimated platinum parachute was put at $420 million; his net worth six years ago topped $700 million. Quite a success story. Now he writes ‘how to’ books to ensure that the public doesn’t forget him.

Welch is an avowed enemy of Barack Obama. It is likely that like a great many of his less-educated friends, he thinks that the president is a socialist or a Muslim. When the September jobless numbers came out early last month Neutron Jack tweeted his world and the media that the jobless number that dropped under 8 percent had gone down by some Obama or White House cooking of the books. Jack called the number “unbelieveable” and added “these Chicago guys will do anything. Can’t debate so change numbers.”

Without a fact to his name or even a hint that somebody had played with the jobless number, Welch insulted the president of the United States and his campaign staff in Chicago. He denigrated the federal officials and the civil servants who provide security and safety for federal job statistics. For a UMass grad with a PhD from the University of Illinois we should expect more.
Neutron Jack, who knows a great deal about the jobless (he created thousands) is no better, despite his education and corporate parachutes, than South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson, who called President Obama a liar while he was making his State of the Union speech in 2009. There is not an ounce of daylight between that hapless moron Wilson and our better educated and richer Mr. Welch. Welch is ignorant and self-absorbed, and he and Donald “Look at Me” Trump deserve each other. Two big jerks in search of solace and a photo op to burnish their aging egos.


In a last-ditch effort to clean up the scandal in Ireland’s Catholic Church, the Vatican has canned Cardinal Sean Brady and will award his seat to someone yet to be tapped, but it will not be Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, who is too principled for Benedict XVI. … The Abbey Theatre is going all digital and in 3 years will have the largest theatrical archive in the world. … The tax folk in the North are said to be making “real progress” on lowering the corporate tax rate there. … Derry has been picked by the lonely Planet guide people as one of the top 4 best cities to visit. … The Kylemore Abbey, which closed its girls school, has a $300,000 grant to open an education center in the under-utilized former school. … Bill Cullen, of “Penny Apples” book fame and the Irish Apprentice, lost his Renault dealership and is hurting. … Sean FitzPatrick and two other Anglo Irish Bank big shots are going to trial. About time.

Sinn Fein has fallen in the polls and its second-place spot has been taken over by a slowly resurgent Fianna Fail. Fine Gael, under Kenny and his labour pals, still leads the pack. … The GAA and the British Defense Department will share a pitch together in Lizburn. Good stuff. … It’s beginning to look as if Elizabeth Warren has withstood the Scott Brown low blows and could be peaking at the right time. … Aer Lingus announced in October that if its employee pension fund were redeemed this year, members would only receive 4 per cent of what they expected their pensions to be. … Two new upgraded restaurants to think about in Belfast: the Shu and Mourne Seafood. … Is Northern Ireland gradually becoming the “gay cure” capital of the world Nut Wing? First Iris Robinson and her recommended therapist, and now a consultant promising cures for gays in Banbridge.

Enda Kenny is saying aloud that not only is Gerry Adams a former IRA member but that he was also a member of the IRA Army Council. I wonder how those Dail sessions work out between the two? … Filming will begin early in 2013 on a three-part television drama that will be ready for the TV public next year on the Charlie Haughey saga. … An unnamed security source is telling the Irish Post that British intelligence overplayed the IRA Olympic threat and it was much ado about not so much. … News from Ireland on the Obama-Romney battle: Polls are showing Obama leading Romney if they could vote: 98 percent and 79 percent up for the president. … Galway Airport, once a key regional airport, has lost $8 million since the Irish government stopped its subsidy. There are only five employees there now, and no commercial air service. Very sad!