About that ‘endless debate’..

The American Ireland Fund dinner in Washington last night proved an uncomfortable meal for some. The former (and future?) Presidential candidate Senator John McCain was scathing in his speech – “There is an endless debate about Sinn Fein and its ties to the IRA but what we all know for years is that there is no place in a democracy for a private army engaged in criminal activity.” – Sean O’Driscoll tried, but failed, to get an instant reaction from Gerry Adams and Rita O’Hare as they left. The Washington Post rounds up yesterday’s events and other quotes from the dinner guests. UpdatedSome quotes from John McCain’s speech via UTV’s report

“Anyone, Irish, American or British who desires and works for the success of peace, freedom and justice must denounce in the strongest possible terms not only the cowards who murdered Robert McCartney but the IRA itself and any political organisation that would associate with them,” he said.

Nor should they tolerate the veiled threat to the McCartney sisters or to anyone else with the courage and decency to speak the truth about the IRA.“[emphasis added]

Who could he mean?

In the Belfast Telegraph, Sean O’Driscoll also has a report on John McCain’s speech including some of the strongest comments to date from the US –

There is an endless debate about Sinn Fein and its ties to the IRA but what we all know for years is that there is no place in a democracy for a private army engaged in criminal activity. It is not enough for the Sinn Fein leadership to cut its ties to the IRA, the political leadership should call for the IRA to disarm, demobilise and disband once and for all,” he said, to loud applause from the over 2,000 guests at the black-tie event.

The Sinn Fein table remained motionless as Senator McCain said the IRA was hurting the very people it claimed to protect.

“Stealing from banks and slaying men on the streets to settle personal grievances are not the acts of freedom fighters, they are the work of a small minority trying to hold back the forces of history and democracy and they hurt the very people for whom they claim to fight,” he said. “Nobody can honestly claim today that the IRA are any better than an organised crime syndicate that steals and murders for its own members’ personal interests. There is nothing republican about the Irish Republican Army.”[emphasis added]

If, as the Washington Post reports, the American Ireland Fund president, Kingsley Aikins, is correct and This dinner, has become an “interesting barometer” of Irish American relations. “America’s giving a hugely strong signal that this won’t go on, can’t be tolerated.”.. there may be an even bigger storm ahead if that signal is not heeded.

Update – A transcript of Senator McCain’s speech is available online here. (Thanks to our regular commenter Jimmy Sands)
And the quote I highlighted in the original post is more pointed than had been reported –

“Sinn Fein is faced today with a historic choice. There has been endless debate about Sinn Fein and its ties to the Irish Republican Party. I say let’s end the debate, the charges and countercharges, and recognize what we have known for years – that there is simply no place in a democracy for a private army engaged in illegal activity.