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Robinson & McGuiness: Some bumps, less chuckles, but few public brawls.

By Bill O'Donnell, August 2, 2012

By Bill O’Donnell
Not Chuckling At Stormont These Days – The earlier relationship between Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness was one of the soft-landing wonders of the western world. So much so that they were often referred to as the Chuckle Brothers as they fulfilled their roles as First Minister and Deputy First Minister. To have the hardline “No Surrender” anti-papist Paisley and McGuinness, the former Derry IRA commander, working in tandem as northern political leaders was the stuff of fantasy.

Then came Paisley’s successor, Peter Robinson, and people held their breath. Would the equally hard -nosed Robinson work with McGuinness to lead the six counties on the ground? The answer is that  in the first year of the partnership there were some bumps and less chuckles, but few public brawls.
But the de facto detente between Robinson and McGuinness has apparently fallen on difficult days to the point that Robinson is demanding that any murder probe into the Bloody Sunday actions of the British Army Paras must include a closer look at McGuinness’s actions that day. As Robinson says, “The Deputy First Minister has openly admitted that he was in charge. If that was the case then there has to be an investigation [of McGuinness] if you’re investigating the Army.”
In rebuttal, McGuinness cites the Saville Report that clearly says the IRA had no responsibility for what happened on Bloody Sunday. The one-on-one meetings between the two leaders could be a trifle frosty these days, but the ambitions of each should preclude any serious long-term fractures in the alliance.
Ireland To Remember JFK on Visit’s 50th Anniversary – Next year will be a banner year for Ireland, especially in County Wexford, which has a celebratory year planned to commemorate President Kennedy’s visit in the summer of 1963.  The special events will begin in early 2013 and run through the July 4 Independence Day festivities on to November when JFK’s death will be marked by a wreath-laying ceremony at the Kennedy statue in New Ross and a Mass later honoring the late president. Other activities associated with the anniversary of his visit will include the unveiling of a new visitor center at the Kennedy homestead in Dunganstown where he was reunited with his cousins, led by Annie Ryan.
In 1970 my wife and I visited the original homesite in Dunganstown, which was so small and unpretentious it was hard to recall the joyous smiles of the president and his cousins just seven years earlier as he lined up with them  for photographs a few yards from his grandfather’s original home. 
There was not another soul in sight that summer day in Dunganstown and as we walked back to where our rental car was parked, we glanced back to see Mrs. Ryan with a basket full of laundry heading back inside of her home. We left her with her memories as we drove away.
Long Kesh Agreement Ensures Museum – After months of  intense partisan debate, the politicians at Stormont have finally agreed that Long Kesh Prison (the Maze) will be a museum and peace center featuring what is being called “a conflict transformation center.” Not everyone is happy, but the former home to Republican combatants and the hunger strikers will go forward and be built on the 360-acre site near Lisburn outside Belfast. Some of the unionist victims of the Troubles are outraged, claiming the new museum will be a “shrine to terrorists.” Northern politicians,
however, are looking at the site as a “mecca for  tourists” and a boost for the troubled economy. First Minister Robinson described the project as “a really exciting development.”  Both Robinson and McGuinness have supported the project.
Eagles, Gone A Century, Return to Connemara – There have been no eagles flying overhead in Connemara for a full century. Nobody is quite sure why, but just recently two white-tailed eagles have made the territory along the mountains and the coastline between Roundstone and Ballyconneely their home. For how long they’ll stay, nobody knows. In 2007, a program was begun by the National Parks and Wildlife service to restore the majestic species to Ireland. There is a possibility that the newly arrived eagles have come northward from the coast. The NPWS first began the restoration program in Kerry. Thus far ,100 eagles have been released in Killarney and returned to their natural habitats. The program to increase the number of eagles has been done quietly with the safety of the birds a major concern. They are waiting now to see if the new arrivals nest. With in-flight wingspans of ten feet, the eagles are a stunning sight to behold. May their tribe increase!
Hey, Galway Leaders Put A stake in It – The seemingly endless dispute over the question of honoring Che Guevara with a large statue in Salthill has obsessed members of the Galway city council. What the Cuban revolutionary, a descendant of the Lynch & Blake families, would bring in its larger-than-life visage to strolling Salthill promenaders is anyone’s guess. Maybe a key to the interest on the city council, or to some of its members, is the proposal to accept the statue as a joint “gift” to the people of Galway from the governments of Argentina and Cuba. Maybe it’s the council’s hope that Guevara, on the cheap, might attract some Latin American tourists to the city. Whatever the rationale, it’s long past time to put a stake in this daffy proposal and find someone to honor, if they must, who has a less checkered past —and who won’t scare the good people on the Salthill Promenade.
Chuck Feeney Will Close The “Shop” In 2016 – Irish American billionaire and generous giver extraordinare Chuck Feeney will close out his amazing life of charity when he discontinues grant-making at his Atlantic Philanthropies at the end of 2016, with total closure in 2020. Feeney, reclusive founder of the duty free shops, has donated $1.25 billion to projects, many of them in Ireland, on both sides of the border. Founded in 1982 by a man who concedes that he would like to depart this earth without his wealth, Atlantic has more than $1 billion left that Feeney can allocate to new projects and innovative ideas to help humanity. Bill Gates and Warren Buffet have well-earned reputations for giving, but nobody has committed a larger percentage of his personal wealth to charity than has Chuck Feeney. Good man.
A Tale Of Two Priests – The two men I am about to write about are talented, competent, extremely able administrators. They would likely both make productive employees in private industry, but neither man was involved or employed in the private sector. They are Catholic priests and were obedient servants of leaders far superior in rank than they were at the penultimate time in their lives, a time in the seasons of living when an important decision would dictate how they would live the remainder of their lives. And for what they would be answerable, then and later.
Monsignor William Lynn served as secretary for clergy for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia from 1992 to 2004. For a dozen years he was in charge of recommending priest assignments and investigating abuse complaints. He was, in essence, the personnel director for a corporation called the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Monsignor Lynn’s boss and the man he reported to on a regular basis was a prince of the Church, Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua.
The second person of interest here is Father, later Bishop, John McCormack. For over a decade, he labored for the Archdiocese of Boston as the personnel director, reporting to his boss, also a prince of the Church, Cardinal Bernard Law. For a decade or more in the 1980s and 1990s, Bishop McCormack was the director of clergy placement responsible to the cardinal for appointing, shifting, and transferring priests in the archdiocese as directed or confirmed by Cardinal Law.
Both Cardinals mentioned above are/were strong individuals with somewhat imperious personalities who brooked little interference with their behavior or their decisions. Cardinal Bevilacqua died in January of this year and Cardinal Law is rector of one of the four major churches in Rome where he sits on two very important decision-making Vatican boards that, in one instance, vets and recommends to the pope priests seen as candidates for bishoprics in the United States.
Monsignor William Lynn of Philadelphia was recently indicted and convicted of endangering children by allowing a known pedophile priest to continuing ministering to archdiocesan youth. The highest ranking Catholic clergyman to be tried and convicted in the priest-abuse scandal, he was sentenced to three-to-six years in state prison on July 25.
Father John McCormack, who worked with priests in the Boston archdiocese in essentially the same job as Lynn and with the same accusations, was not indicted and will in all likelihood never face a trial. Despite his responsibility for shifting and transferring and disciplining priests, many identified as known abusers, he faces no court proceedings. His has been a charmed life. He was elevated to bishop and given the diocese of Manchester, New Hampshire, to lead, a strange, grossly inappropriate reward for a man whom one respected religious publication called the “chief enabler of priest abusers in the United States.”
Note: The toughened child safety policy enacted in 2002 after the horrific revelations re offending priests in Boston contains a discipline plan for abusive priests, but not for the bishops who failed to report them to police.  (Emphasis added)
Correction:  In an item in the July issue about the Catholic Church, I referred to a “Ministry of Christ” in listing non-conforming, cult-like organizations that enjoy the support of Pope Benedict.  The group that I was referencing is the Legion of Christ.
Busker Plays For Stricken Girl – Her name is Lily-Mae Morrison; she’s 4 years old and lives with her family in Claregalway. She has cancer, stage 4 neuroblastoma. She needs all the help she can get. Maybe that’s why Jamie Harrison, 21, a guitar-playing busker who usually works Galway’s Shop Street, decided to take himself out of business for a week and go into business exclusively for Lily-Mae.  Jamie didn’t just want to give her a piece of his busking action, he wanted to go all in for the wee Claregalway girl.
After a week on the streets with a smile, a shoeshine , and his guitar he had raised an astonishing $7,000 for Lily-Mae. He got it all together, put it into a fat check, and presented it to the ailing girl’s parents. Buskers don’t make a lot of money but Jamie Harrison has some things money can’t buy: a big heart and the gratitude of a family with big trouble. God bless the mark.
Maureen O’Hara Clears The Air – The enduringly beautiful redhead has passed her 90th birthday and she’s had some problems with a close employee but it seems that Ms. O’Hara was, as she put it, “damn upset” at all the hullabaloo.
Update: Ms. O’Hara’s longtime personal assistant no longer is employed by the retired actress and she no longer has power of attorney for Ms. O’Hara. All’s well...
We Are All God’s Children – Lt. Neal Turkington, Sandhurst-educated, of the Royal Gurkha Rifles was serving with the British Army in Afghanistan in 2010 when he was killed in action at aeg 26. He was a member of the Church of Ireland’s St. Mark’s Church in Portadown. He died in uniform fighting for the coalition forces in that region. Neal got to know the people he met far from Portadown through his military service and he was keen to learn the languages of the area: Afghan and a country that he knew and loved, Nepal. He had told his family and friends that he wanted to “make a difference” and return to Nepal to help the children there, specifically to build a school.
Lt. Turkington never lived to fulfil his peacetime mission but his family did not forget. The result was six new classrooms at a Nepal school in memory of Neal dedicated by his father, financed by $150,000 in donations from former schoolmates, Army buddies, friends, and family.
A small story about a soldier who died fighting in the desert alongside American GIs in a war that is finally, mercifully, winding down. Neal Turkington is gone but his legacy in Nepal endures and his spirit endures for the rest of us.
John Hume has a brand new Papal Knighthood to add to his Nobel Prize. … The National Press Club in DC held a reception for the London Olympics with an All- British menu, except the beer. That was Guinness. … They left Castleisland for jobs in Australia but they sent home a check for $1,600 to help out their troubled GAA club, Desmonds . … Donald Trump was dissing President Obama and saying that the US could become a large-scale Greece or Spain. Donald would know, he’s had more Trump, Inc. re-orgs and bankrupt rulings than trips to his hairdresser.... Dublin ranks in the upper echelon of the most congested Euro cities along with Rome, Paris, and Brussels.. … You can’t make this stuff up. The Vatican, desperate to improve its image, has hired a former Fox Network newsman to help with the blunders. … A Brit tabloid ran an ugly piece on the Brits’ anti-Irish actions only to have its Irish readers overwhelmingly tell the paper the British treat them just fine. Who’s watching the store? There have been 26,000 hoax calls to NI’s emergency phone line with only 13 convictions. … Aer Lingus is looking strong in its fight to keep Ryanair away from its shares, charging Ryanair is looking to get in on the cheap.
What would a year be without the latest favorite Irish baby names. Jack and Emily lead the list. Sean is still up there with Sophie, Conor, and Emma. … The cost of living in Ireland is now at a 17-month low and the gurus expect prices to continue south for a while yet. … Who’s watching the store, Part 2?  Some 124,000 garda arrest warrants, many going back years, have gone unserved. … The drums & bowler set had one Orange marching band stop outside a Belfast Catholic Church to sing anti-Irish songs and do some dancing. Precious! … The turf cutters vs. the Irish governmen continues red hot & unresolved . … John McCain and the Republican House speaker both stood up for Hillary Clinton’s Muslin top aide whom that mind-damaged wannabe Michele Bachman had savaged. … The next time someone from the bogus National Caregiving Foundation calls you for a donation, call the law. A huge scam. … The citrus lads (Orange men) were rebuffed for the 17th time as they tried to walk Drumcree. It’s a “dead duck,” say the Garvaghy residents. … October is expected to be the month that the Euro honchos provide bank debt relief to Ireland . … It amounts to less than $500,000, but the US State Dept. is defunding the Mitchell Scholarship Program. George & Trina Vargo deserve better. … Irish whiskey is so popular it has now become the world’s fastest growing drinks brand. Jameson sales have soared 750% in the last 25 years. … A good tip for off-beat tourist spots: the Beatty Library behind Dublin Castle ......Belfast City Council is the first local authority in Ireland to pass a motion in support of gay marriage.
RIP – I knew John Curran for quite a few years. He had the beat of the Irish community nestled deep in his heart and he would do anything for you. I was out of country when his death was announced so forgive a belated few lines for a Boston institution, a man difficult not to like. I never believed that I was attending an Irish event if John wasn’t behind the mic entertaining us.
Around the same time that I had multi-artery heart bypass surgery, John outdid me by a couple of extra bypasses on his big heart. I just wish his time on the table gave him more years then he had. I’ll miss him. My condolences to Kitty and their four children.