Saturday, June 30, 2012

Sinn Féin Councillor blasts McGuinness handshake

The infamous handshake.

Published on Friday 29 June 2012 11:27
One of the most vocal proponents of Sinn Féin in South Donegal yesterday morning slammed the meeting between Martin McGuinness, the Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland and Queen Elizabeth at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast yesterday.
Former Mayor of Bundoran Sinn Fein councillor Michael McMahon has blasted the handshake between McGuinness and the Queen saying that it was “simply a step too far”
Cllr. McMahon’s views are in stark contrast with the official stance taken by Sinn Féin and may well have endangered his future in the party. Putting this to the councillor, Cllr. McMahon said that “he didn’t care and that he couldn’t hide behind his views or the views of many other republicans.”
The media both national and worldwide have hailed McGuinness as a statesman praising his transition from a self confessed commander of the IRA to a statesman.
Mr. McGuinness met with Queen Elizabeth who was dressed in green early yesterday morning at Belfast’s Lyric Theatre along with First Minister Peter Robinson and the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Phillip.
Cllr. McMahon yesterday told the Donegal Democrat, “I am not in favour of this meeting by a long head - I think it is wrong, it is premature and a step too far.
“I feel that I have a responsibility to remind people that this is the very person that decorated the paratroopers that killed innocent victims on Bloody Sunday.
“She is also responsible as Commander in Chief of the armed forces for the continued occupation of the six counties. Martin McGuinness should be asking the British Government and the Queen what is the real position in relation to the Six Counties. By meeting with the Queen he is acknowledging her as Head of State in Northern Ireland and giving legitimacy to the situation.”
McMahon also said that McGuinness had claimed that there was normalisation in the Six Counties but that he disputed this.
“The army are still there and the Good Friday agreement has never been fully implemented - we still have a long way to go and this meeting has sent out the wrong message to many republicans who have worked so hard to bring peace to this country.
“It leaves republicans confused - they do not know what direction the party is taking”.
McMahon added that a lot had been achieved over the last number of years through the democratic process and he welcomed this progress.
“I am part of the democratic process and feel it is my right to express my views even if they are at odds with the party.
“We have achieved a lot over the last number of years and I would call on all Republican groups to cease all military activities. The armed struggle is over and there is no going back.
“We must continue along the road of democracy to achieve the goal we set out as a party.”
This is but one example that there is not universal approval among republicans or even among Sinn Fein members for the Deputy First Minister’s handshake with the British “monarch”. I have been told that there is as much opposition as there is approval. Graffiti abounds in Derry. But, as usual, you don’t hear about those things when they are not in agreement with the party line.
Jack Meehan, Past National President
Ancient Order of Hibernians

Saturday, June 23, 2012

McGuinness to shake queen's hand behind closed doors

President Michael D Higgins will play a vital role in ensuring Sinn Fein comes in from the cold and meets the queen next week.

Queen Elizabeth II will shake hands with Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, the IRA commander when the queen's cousin Lord Louis Mountbatten was killed by a bomb in Mullaghmore, Co Sligo in 1979.

But the historic handshake -- a year after the queen's historic and very successful state visit to this country -- will take place behind closed doors.
Sinn Fein was viewed as botching their response to the queen's visit last year, and was under pressure this time to meet the monarch.

After months of prevarication, Sinn Fein finally agreed to Mr McGuinness meeting the queen during her visit to the North for her to mark the diamond jubilee celebrations of her 60 years on the throne.

Government ministers were critical of Sinn Fein's delay in agreeing to the meeting.
The meeting will take place at a cross-border event organised by the leading peace charity Co-operation Ireland. The event for the President and the queen will celebrate the arts and culture across the island at Belfast's Lyric Theatre on Wednesday.

Mr Higgins and the queen are patrons of the organisation and the President was involved in the arrangements for the event.

Mr Higgins' role in the occasion ensures there is an All-Ireland element and allows the claim it is not part of the jubilee celebrations, which Sinn Fein object to.

The initial meeting and handshake between the queen and Mr McGuinness is expected to take place in a private room at the beginning of the engagement.
The meeting is being seen as a major milestone in efforts to normalise relations between nationalists and unionists in Northern Ireland.

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams confirmed his party's ruling executive had backed the planned meeting. "This will understandably cause difficulties for some republicans and nationalists, especially for those folks who suffered at the hands of British forces," he said. The ard comhairle decision was not unanimous but was a clear majority, the party confirmed. Sinn Fein has stressed the meeting is not a celebration of the jubilee.

Mr Adams said of the party's decision: "We don't have to do it. We're doing it because it's the right thing to do, despite the fact that it will cause difficulties for our own folk.

"But it's good for Ireland. It's good for this process we're trying to develop. It's the right time and the right reason."

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said a refusal to shake hands would have been a very retrograde step.

Speaking in Scotland at the British-Irish Council summit today, which was also attended by Mr McGuinness, Mr Kenny said he had been confident the handshake would be agreed to.

"The queen herself, when she spoke in Dublin Castle, said in hindsight if we could do things again there are some things that we might do differently, and some things that we wouldn't do at all," he said.
"We're in a very different space in 2012. We're in a modern era."

Transport Minister Leo Varadkar said if the queen was willing to shake Mr McGuinness' hand, then he should be willing to do the same.

Has anybody in this very poorly orchestrated fiasco ever heard of the term “transparency”? If the parties involved are willing to come together and shake hands, that simple gesture in itself is an indication that they do, in fact, recognize that they should have some form of working relationship albiet a tenuous one. It serves no purpose, whatsoever, for this grossly overplayed scenario to take place behind closed doors. Inevitably, there will be those who will invoke the “doubting Thomas” theory and question whether such a meeting ever took place. Would it not be far better for all parties to have the meeting take place in the open for all the world to see and thereby silence the flood of negative press coverage that is certain to follow a “secret meeting”?

Jack Meehan, 
Past National President
Ancient Order of Hibernians in America

Thursday, June 21, 2012

One sided call

Editorial – Irish Echo -  June 21st, 2012

Father Sean McManus (“Silence on North a grave moral lapse”) seems to have a very one sided call for justice. He forgets the IRA victims (civilians, children, mothers, foreign businessmen, tourists as well as Irish, Ulster and British security forces) blown up, kidnapped, tortured, shot and knee-capped.

He forgets the IRA bank robberies. He forgets the suspected Protestant/Loyalist paramilitaries interned. He forgets that the Irish Republic was deemed a “Catholic State for a Catholic people” by Irish Prime Minister Eamon de Valera. He forgets that Northern Ireland was self-governing for the majority of its existence and will remain so for the foreseeable future.

His claims of anti-Catholicism and anti-Irishness are baseless. As someone from Northern Ireland, I can tell readers that the same situation would have arisen in Northern Ireland regardless of Britain. It was in fact the British army and the RUC that kept a lid on what would have been civil war in Northern Ireland.
The shrieks of “shoot to kill” policies seem hypocritical when said victims were out to kill via acts of terrorism. I highly doubt that U.S. troops or police officers would act any differently and would take action to resolve the situation safely and quickly with least risk to themselves.

Fortunately, Northern Ireland has moved on, but it seems Father McManus has not. If he is calling for justice for victims, then let him stop calling for the release of dissident terrorists who kill Catholic cops; let him seek the release of the Boston College tapes which will help solve the IRA murder of mother of ten, Jean McConville, kidnapped, tortured, shot in the head and buried on a remote beach.
Let him call for all terrorist prisoners (loyalist and republican) to be returned to jail (they were all released early under the Good Friday Agreement). Let him call for justice for the massacre at Kingsmills where ten Protestant workmen were taken from their work van and shot (the sole Catholic workman told to run away).
Let him call for justice for the Darkley Gospel Hall massacre where the terrorists strafed the church during a service. There were victims on all sides, the Loughinisland massacre and the awful Shankill butchers being prime example of loyalist atrocities.

Yet the warped sense of victimhood currently has IRA members blown up by their own bombs defined as a victim rather than a victim maker. So warped is this definition that Sinn Féin are now calling the monsters that were the Shankill Butchers victims.

If he is not going to move on, or if he is not going to support justice for all victims, he (Fr. McManus) is a hypocrite.

Alan Day,
Cookstown, County Tyrone

Every person’s story relative to the period of armed conflict in the North of Ireland deserves to be told. Congratulations to the Irish Echo and it’s editorial staff for stepping up to the plate and printing this man’s story.
Jack Meehan, Past National President
Ancient Order of Hibernians in America

Monday, June 18, 2012

A Sinn Féin tease

A Sinn Féin tease

Fri, Jun 15, 2012

AT STORMONT this week Sinn Féin called a press conference where some reporters expected to hear a definitive statement on whether the Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness would meet Queen Elizabeth when she visits Northern Ireland on June 26th and 27th.

Instead the Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams detailed how the party was ending its Stormont/House of Commons dual mandate in the coming weeks with Mr McGuinness shortly to stand down as MP for Mid-Ulster. Its four other MPs – Pat Doherty, Conor Murphy, Michelle Gildernew and Paul Maskey – will resign from the Northern Assembly to concentrate, as Mr Adams put it, on areas such as lobbying in Britain and promoting the case for Irish unity.
Not surprisingly this caused some raised eyebrows. These are senior party figures – Ms Gildernew and Mr Murphy are former ministers in the Executive – prompting some renewed speculation that Sinn Féin may be considering ending its Westminster abstentionist policy. Mr Adams, however, said they would not be taking their seats in the Commons but one imagines he will be happy that he has left the public wondering about Sinn Féin’s ultimate intentions over Westminster.
More importantly, however, Mr Adams and Mr McGuinness also left people guessing as to whether the latter will meet Queen Elizabeth when she visits the North as part of her jubilee celebrations. The two said such an encounter was a “big ask” for republicans and not “doable” at the moment. Mr Adams would not say what would make it “doable”. It did not sound like Sinn Féin’s final pronouncement on the matter.

In recent months senior figures have been making much play about reaching out to unionists and respecting their traditions. All the signals seemed to point to Mr McGuinness meeting Queen Elizabeth.

Sinn Féin, of course, will garner as much propaganda from the issue as is possible but it would be wise not to overplay its hand. Shaking hands with Queen Elizabeth, possibly in a private of semi-private setting, would involve some political risk for Mr McGuinness and Sinn Féin, but risk it is well capable of managing.

In the spirit of further improving relationships within the North and between the islands – as the queen did when she visited the Republic – Mr McGuinness should cut out the posturing and procrastination, quickly and boldly state he will meet Queen Elizabeth at the end of this month. And then do the deed with good grace.

Some Facts to Ponder
In July, 2007, the Deputy First Minister of the Stormont government defiantly stood on the same stage with his sworn enemies from the Orange Order on the National Mall in Washington, DC, something that he wouldn’t dream of doing in his own country. To add insult to injury, this event took place during the week of the Fourth of July, a holiday when we Americans celebrate our revolution against all forms of religious prejudice.
The vilest forms of religious prejudice, such as the demonstrations against innocent Catholic schoolchildren at the Holy Cross School in Ardoyne, North Belfast in 2001, are still practiced against Catholics in the North of Ireland on a daily basis by Orange Order bigots and their supporters.
He condemns young Irish republicans whose beliefs regarding British influence in the politics of the North do not agree with his since he had his epiphany some years ago. He continues to verbally vilify the Brits but has no problem accepting a paycheck and all the perks that go with his office from them every month.
What will the outcome of all of this be? After “keeping the world on the edge of their seats” for several weeks, Deputy First Minister McGuinness will most likely end up shaking hands with Lizzy Windsor at some clandestine meeting place far  from the probing eyes of the press. Realistically, in the final analysis, does anybody really give a damn?

Jack Meehan, 
Past National President

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Our Flag is Passing By

Our Flag is Passing By

by H.H. Bennett

Hats off!
Along the street there comes
A blare of bugles, a ruffle of drums,
A flash of color beneath the sky:
Hats off!
Our flag is passing by!

Blue and crimson and white it shines,
Over the steel-tipped, ordered lines.
Hats off!
The colors before us fly;
But more than the flag is passing by.

Sea-fights and land-fights, grim and great,
Fought to make and to save the State;
Weary marches and sinking ships;
Cheers of victory on dying lips;

Days of plenty and years of peace,
March of a strong land's swift increase:
Equal justice, right and law,
Stately honor and reverent awe;

Sign of a nation, great and strong,
To ward her people from foreign wrong;
Pride and glory and honor, all
Live in the colors to stand or fall.

Hats off!
Along the street there comes
A blare of bugles, a ruffle of drums,
And loyal hearts are beating high:

Hats off!
Our flag is passing by!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Ireland’s ‘brain drain’ uses up their quota of US, Canadian and Australian visas

Mass exodus of the Irish continues but many will have to wait for 2013

KATE HICKEY, IrishCentral Editor - Friday, June 8, 2012

Ireland’s “brain drain” is quickly using up the annual working visa quotas for the United States, Canada and Australia.
Those hopeful Irish emigrants thinking of traveling to Canada to work will have to wait until next year to apply for visas. In March Canada made 5,350 visas available to Irish and UK residents under the International Experience Canada (IEC) programme but they’ve all been used. Now applicants will have to hold their plans until 2013.
A record number of Irish have also being emigrating to Australia. It seems that as Australia increases the number of work visas available the Irish fill the gap. The Irish Times reported that in the first six months of 2011 a record 21,753 Irish nationals got working visas for Australia. The year the figures will be even higher.
As for the United States, where working visa status is more difficult to achieve, the Irish have already almost used up their quota for the H1B visas (a sponsorship visa for degree holders).
According to New York’s O’Brien & Associates, attorneys at law, “As of June 5, 2012, approximately 55,600 H-1B cap-subject petitions were receipted. USCIS has receipted 18,700 H-1B petitions for advanced degree holders.
Once again the caps are 65,000 for bachelor’s degree holders and 20,000 for advanced degree holders, so the countdown to exhaustion of the quota is really on.”
Those Irish students wishing to come to the US directly after college have the option to apply for a “J” visa which lasts for one year while the J1 or J2 visa allows student to work just for three months during the summer season. In New York at least the evidence of J1 students arriving for the summer is everywhere. Job applications at local bars and construction sites are on the up and the GAA teams in the Bronx are stocked for the season.
Despite the outflow of people according to the CSO unemployment in Ireland is 14.8 percent (or 309,000 people of work).
Unemployment has dropped by one percent since the same period last year. However with an estimated 111 Irish people emigrating every week it’s hard to trust the bare statistics.
The most revealing facts among the statistics were the number of long term unemployed. This figure has risen from 7.8 percent to 8.9 percent in the last year. These are people who have been unemployed for one year or more.
These very alarming figures are a testimonial to the gross incompetence of a succession of bumbling Irish political administrations. It seems that no matter which party is in power the incompetence is merely passed on from one to another with no viable solution in sight other than exporting their youth on the “emigrant ship”. They don’t seem to give a “tinker’s damn” about anything other than lining their pockets with the obscene golden handshakes and lifetime pensions that they have carved out for themselves at the expense of the long suffering Irish taxpayer. Their insatiable greed is a classic example of the old addage, “On any given day there is more money stolen with a pencil than with a gun”. Shame on them!!
Jack Meehan, Past National President
Ancient Order of Hibernians in America