Irish Government Seeks Steady Footing – After a couple of months of negotiations, bargaining, offers spurned, and offers finally taken, the two major parties in Ireland have settled on an accommodation. In actuality, it is something called a “minority government,” and it offers a way forward to both Fine Gael and Fianna Fail.
During the weeks that preceded the agreement to form a minority governing structure, it became clear that what the two parties wanted were gateway agreements. With Fine Gael haunted by the water charges and the austerity program and stumbling about and uncertain, Enda Kenny was looking for a second chance, a shot at broadened popular support, and a Fine Gael return to government.
Fianna Fail, after the Cowan/Ahern fiasco, once buried and trailing in the polls, had made a miraculous rise from the ashes to new electoral popularity. That meant getting together with Fine Gael, but not too close. Thus a cooperative accommodation that would for a time stand by Fine Gael in government but was not an official partner with Kenny and his party. It was for Fianna Fail and its leader, Micheal Martin, a “hands free” step forward to full redemption and restoration of the party’s reputation and the trust of the faithful.
There are brigades of Irish voters who believe that the new minority government led by Enda Kenny is flawed and lacking political leadership. They are looking to salve their wounds by calling for a new election and, lacking a swift turn-around, they could get their wish.
Noel Whelan of the Irish Times cited the “current lack of productivity and instability” in Irish politics, and the “dangerous lack of political leadership.” The Times column notes the inactivity at the highest level with the new Cabinet meeting only twice since their appointment and the reality that “half a year of government has been lost.”
Kenny has a formidable challenge in the immediate days ahead. He has to convince the voters that he has what it takes to breathe life into a minority government that for the moment looks weak, incoherent, and not quite ready for prime time.
Bell Family Does God’s Work – In June 2013 Colin Bell and his wife Eithne, of Newry, Co. Down, received the phone call that no parent ever wants to receive: their son Kevin, 26, had been killed in a hit-and-run in New York. Friends of Kevin in New York, Ireland, and Australia (where Kevin had worked) held fundraisers and collected an amazing $200,000 for the Bell family.
After expenses for bringing Kevin home, the family had another idea. They decided to spend that money to repatriate Irish sons and daughters, who, like Kevin, had died tragically far from home and to financially help the bereaved families. This notion, agreed to by all the Bell family members – Colin, Eithne, and their six sons and daughters – helped to create the Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust to work with airlines, funeral homes, hospitals, and Irish welfare organizations in situations like Kevin’s. To date, the trust, which is run out of the family’s Newry home, has helped to repatriate some 170 Irish people back home to every Irish county, north and south. This help, without government aid, reaches out to the United States, Australia, Europe.
The Bells were recently honored in Australia by Irish organizations there for the work the family has done to assist families of Irish people killed while traveling or working abroad.
Bobby Sands book raises hackles – The recent publication of “Bobby Sands, Freedom Fighter” has brought to light several controversies surrounding the late hunger striker. The book, written by Gerry Hunt, has been a target of criticism by unionists as well as the Sands family. The unionists fault the largely sympathetic light in which Sands is portrayed, while the Sands family says the book did not have its input and contends that the author has “hijacked their history.”
Another aspect of the charges raised by the Sands family is that the Bobby Sands Trust played a central role in creating the book . They have demanded that the Trust be dissolved and that there be a prohibition against using Sands’s writing for commercial gain while apparently not sharing the proceeds with the family.
Critics of the Trust allege that Gerry Adams and his Sinn Fein/IRA confidants control the Trust and that they operate secretly and have never published a report on the royalties paid since it was established.
The Irish journalist Ed Moloney, now resident in the US, has been keeping tabs on the Trust and the Sands family and reports on their activities in his Broken Elbow blog.
BFD Honors Father Dan Mahoney – His ties to the Boston Fire Department stretch back some 52 years to October 1964 when Cardinal Richard Cushing named Father Mahoney assistant chaplain for the BFD. It has been a long and loving relationship between Father Dan and the Jakes, and he has been at their side as senior chaplain, comforting and consoling firefighters and their families for devoted decades.
Early last month in honor of his longtime service as chaplain, the Department named their new 32-foot fireboat “Father Dan”; it will be berthed at Battery Wharf and used for water rescue and firefighting. A great and humble servant and a beloved Bostonian. God bless the mark.
New Government Regains A-Grade Credit Rating – Amidst some of the fury and fire of the election that returned Enda Kenny and his Fine Gael party to office, there was an encouraging sign from the top credit agencies that Ireland has regained its coveted A-grade rating. The rating agency Moody’s was the last of the three credit agencies to announce the raised rating on Irish debt. The improved number is Ireland’s first at that level in five years by all three credit rating agencies.
The Moody’s news came just a week after Enda Kenny was returned to office and is a positive sign by key financial agencies toward the new administration and its economic plans.
Ireland still has a large post-crash debt (23 billion euros) that imposes heavy costs on the public finances. However, investors in Irish debt have been encouraged by the order in public finances and the healthy outlook on economic growth.
Marty Walsh’s City Hall Under Scrutiny – After weeks of rumors about alleged union strongarm tactics, federal authorities in Boston arrested a top aide to Mayor Martin Walsh last month on union-related extortion charges. “I take this job very seriously and the integrity of this job very seriously,” said Walsh, a longtime union official before his election, to Boston Globe reporters.
Walsh also was quoted after the charges were made public saying “I don’t condone any of this type of behavior or anything like this in my administration. I tell everyone to be honest and up front and very open.”
I don’t know the mayor but I am an unabashed fan, a believer, a person who admires this strong, empathetic Connemara-rooted personality. I have commented on occasion about his activities and the way he handles himself and the tough job of mayor. He is familiar with hardship and struggles and he will overcome this newest challenge.
I will say one final thing: I believe Marty Walsh. I believe it when he says he takes the integrity of his job as mayor very seriously. I believe him and what he has said about the aide’s charges. Everyone, including the aide who was arrested, is entitled to a presumption of innocence.
Yes, even in that building where I once worked in years ago.
J1 Student Visa Delay Threatens Irish-to-US Travel – An unexplained delay in approving J1 visas for students heading to the states this summer is causing widespread concern among program recipients. The concern is intensified by the fact that many students have already paid sums up to $900 each to travel to the US. In addition, others have paid deposits,
The two agencies organizing the J1 program out of Ireland are Travel Bug in Castlebar, Co. Mayo, and American Work adventures (AWA) as registered sponsor. Travel Bug Ltd. has said that it has had problems contacting AWA. This delay in issuing J1 work documents is critical because students cannot attend a US embassy interview, which is mandatory prior to departure, without their work papers.
Having worked in the past with a number of agencies here and in Ireland on J1 visa programs, I found the overwhelming majority to be competent, time-oriented, and caring. However, some agencies, a tiny handful, were often more interested in the fees these programs generate. I hope these youngsters are taken care of and they make it to the US.
Irish Jesuit Headed For Beatification – John Sullivan, a Dublin native born in 1861, was a member of the Church of Ireland and remained a Protestant until his mid-thirties when he took up studies to be a Roman Catholic priest. At 46, he was ordained a Jesuit. His father, a successful barrister and a Protestant, later became Lord Chancellor of Ireland. His mother, Elizabeth Bailey, was a Catholic from Co. Cork.
John had earlier studied at Trinity College, a university proscribed for Catholics in those days, and had thoughts about the law, but he also began to look at the priesthood. His ministry took Father John to Clane, Co. Kildare, and later to the rectorship at the Retreat House at Rathfarnham on the outskirts of Dublin. During his life, Father Sullivan was known far and wide for helping the poor, the ill ,and the homeless. In his later years, he taught at Clongowes Wood College in Kildare.
On Nov. 7, 2014, Father Sullivan was declared as Venerable by the church. His beatification received the approval of Pope Francis in April 2016 after a single miracle attributed to him was recognized. A date for his beatification must now be set.
Breakaway IRA Dissident Threat Grows – British security service warnings from MI5 and others are out and they have upgraded the threat level from so-called dissident republicans to mainland Britain from “moderate” to “severe.” The uptick in threat level to severe is usually meant an attack is a “strong possibility.” Early analysis of the current threat strongly suggests that the possibility of a Northern Ireland-related terror attack has increased, but also notes that the threat level to UK locales such as England, Scotland and Wales “reflects the continuing threat from dissident republican activity.”
UK security agencies also suggest that the threat level from international terrorism remains unchanged at severe, meaning that an attack is highly likely.
Old Friend Has Warm Words For Ted Kennedy - The celebrated broker of the Good Friday Agreement, former US Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, had glowing words of praise for his former friend and colleague at a discussion in Washington last month. The event was hosted by the Edward M. Kennedy Institute. Mitchell remembered Ted Kennedy as “one of the truly great architects” of the Northern Ireland peace process. He went on to recall a private hour-long discussion with Kennedy off the floor of the Senate in 1994 that was “my baptism into the issue.” Mitchell recalled that Kennedy “instinctively understood the attitudes of Ulster Unionists” and made them “feel at home here so they could see that the country was not monolithic in its views of Northern Ireland.”
Nancy Soderberg, a key foreign policy adviser to President Bill Clinton, said that everyone in the White House at the time “looked to Ted Kennedy as the bellwether on which way to go on Northern Ireland.”
The Kennedy Institute, in partnership with the Miller Centre at the University of Virginia, has been conducting interviews with people who worked and knew Kennedy to build an oral history of his life and times.
The Lord Mayor of Dublin has urged the government not to file an appeal to a court ruling that allows for expansion and preservation of the Moore Street battlefield site. … US House Speaker Paul Ryan seems to be getting some religion, or at least hints of Catholic social justice, in saying that he was wrong in his earlier criticism of recipients of government benefits. … Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders didn’t seem so liberal defending his partisan thugs throwing chairs at the Democratic state convention in Nevada. … It’s overdue and exciting to look forward to $20 bills with Harriet Tubman’s image on face of the currency. … Pope Francis is scheduled to add Armagh to his itinerary in Ireland when he visits there in 2018. Francis was last in Ireland last 37 years ago. … With the addition of the SDLP, and with Ulster Unionists already joining the Stormont opposition, there might be some actual debates and ideas percolating in that sleeping body. … Global demand for commercial property in the UK has heavily declined ahead of the EU voting on UK status.
The latest Irish Tourism numbers of visitors in the 2016 first quarter are the best in years; North American visitors alone were up 25 percent. … The Mourne Mountains will likely be seeing a gondola ferrying passengers up and down those glorious heights. … The new movie on Bobby Sands is in some theatres already, mostly in Canada. It’s directed by Brendan Byrne and co-funded by the BBC, the Irish Film Board, and NI Screen. … It was good to see the Hub’s legendary ad man and philanthropist Jack Connors out defending Mayor Walsh before the City Hall aide’s arrest. Good man, Jack. … Father Dan Berrigan deserved to be lionized a lot more than he was. … Did I already say that the Southie lockout of Starbucks is right, if not PC. … The Fenway Park charity Fantasy Day is a fun way to boost the Jimmy Fund; the event is June 11.
Glancing at Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s Twitter comebacks suggests that opponents should not underestimate the gentle lady. … If Donald Trump is successful in not releasing his tax returns, America should hang its head in shame. … Rupert Murdoch all in for Trump? Is anyone surprised? … Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has appealed for info on the disappeared victims. Don’t hold your breath waiting for the TD from Louth to help with that. … Fox “anchorless” Neil Cavuto allowed Florida AG Pam Bondi to praise Donald Trump on air without telling viewers she got a $25,000 campaign donation from the realtor candidate while also refusing to follow NY and indict the fraudulent Trump and his fake university. No surprise there, either. … One of the huge losses in Northern Politics is the defeat of Alasdair McDonnell as SDLP party leader. A good man, a good friend in a no-win situation. … The NI secretary of state is urging a $3.7 billion package to deal with terrorists, republican and loyalist gangs, and the so-called paramilitary dissidents . … Ashford Castle in Mayo, where John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara once gamboled, is opening its grounds for tea and other munchies for hotel non-residents. It’s a favorite spot of mine for tea or a pint or whatever in late afternoon time-outs.
Memories Of A Remarkable Man – Christy Brown, author, poet, and painter died in his Somerset, England, home 35 years ago. He was 49 years old and he died from choking on a piece of lamb when his wife Mary briefly left the dining area. One of the enduring regrets of those who knew the Dublin-born writer is that he never had the chance to see the film of his riotous, rollicking life. Christy would have loved the movie they made, a film that won Oscars in Hollywood, and cheering fans in theaters across the globe.
Christy was born with cerebral palsy. He had little independent movement of his limbs, but he had something magical that gave a title to his life, his autobiography, and the wondrous movie they made of his life: “My Left Foot.” His sole functioning limb, his left foot allowed him to write (barely), use an IBM Selectric typewriter (expertly), but it as worthless in hoisting a pint, a ritual that friends and family gladly saw to.
Christy, like most CP victims, had difficulty speaking clearly but whether it was a holler for another brandy or a loud disagreement on a esoteric point in an argument, he rarely if ever failed to make his needs manifest. His rough, difficult-to-decipher speech fooled some who thought he was mentally disabled. Big mistake. Christy had a measurable IQ around 150, and he was always on his game. He was grand company, a stubborn debater, a proud Dubliner, and my friend.
Christy would have been 84 this month of June and I miss him still.