Once upon a time in America

The part played by the United States and Irish America in particular in the long turmoil of Irish politics is a whole literature in itself. Their role in our own time is unlikely to reduce the flood. Niall Dowd’s role alone as lobbyist and propagandist is worth a lot of attention. Every assertion in his Easter message is worth a PhD or two, not to mention quite a few loud pub conversations. Examples below the fold:

“Simply put without Senator Mitchell and President Clinton the peace deal would never have happened. Without Irish America neither man would ever have become involved.”

The latter may well be true, but the former? Dowd appears substantially to write out the British governments of Major and Blair.

And then there’s this one:

“Eamon De Valera’s decision to spend 1919 and 1920 in the United States was eloquent testimony to how important the rebellion’s leaders thought the American connection was.”

Might this not have been something to do with the Long Fellow’s desire to get offside, while all the nasty rough business was been carried on by Collins etc in Ireland, as he nursed a growing rivalry and jealousy that contributed so much to the tensions that begat Civil War?

More up to date, the analysis of the role of Washington envoy Richard Haas by Pete in 2007 reads quite ominously now.

Slugger also drew attention to the reversal of the traditional roles of the British and US governments towards the end. It was Mitchell Reiss the American who insisted on widening the definitions of IRA compliance to include criminality, causing tensions with the more amenable British, like Jonathan Powell. Contemporary historians may record that the US role became all the more effective for being even handed as the final deal was reached.

  • Padraig

    [b] “Eamon De Valera’s decision to spend 1919 and 1920 in the United States was eloquent testimony to how important the rebellion’s leaders thought the American connection was.”

    Might this not have been something to do with the Long Fellow’s desire to get offside, while all the nasty rough business was been carried on by Collins etc in Ireland, as he nursed a growing rivalry and jealousy that contributed so much to the tensions that begat Civil War?[/b]

    But is this so? I suspect you are drawing this conclusion from the very historically suspect film, ‘Michael Collins’.

    Without any hard historical evidence to support this assertion, its less historical than psychic as the only way it could be supported is through mind reading and/or raising the dead.

  • kensei

    Even if you accept the premise, there were other p;laces he could have went. Would he have went to the US if there wasn’t a big Irish presence?

    As for the other argument, a US visa for Adams was an important milestone of the process. Things might have happened anyway, but I would say almost certainly later and not as smooth.

    Irish America was also important in the revival of traditional Irish music, as were the diaspora in England during the Folk revival there. If anything, the influence of the diaspora is overlooked rtaher than overegged.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    The perceived benefit of Yankee involvement in the Peace Process, from a Nationalist perspective, was in their keeping the Englezes honest – i.e. ensuring that they did not renege on their deal with the Provos.

    From a Unionist perspective there is no discernible political benefit (though inverstment is obviously welcomed) and has the disadvantage of preventing the playing of the Orange card by the Englezes either for ideological or electoral purposes.

    Yankee involvment, helps to remind everyone that the GFA is an international agreement and the territory of Norn Iron although retaining the status of its citizens as British is a political and constitutional settlement which deeply involves the ROI.

    With the OUs(Overseas Unionists)/Tories now making funny noises and publically at least appearing to undermine the spirit of the GFA the Yankees may be called upon again, post general election in Britain, to keep them honest.

  • TAFKABO

    there were other places he could have went.

    Could have gone.

    ffs.

    Sorry, bad grammar ails me, even though I’m as guilty of it as the next.

  • Comrade Stalin

    With the OUs(Overseas Unionists)/Tories now making funny noises and publically at least appearing to undermine the spirit of the GFA the Yankees may be called upon again, post general election in Britain, to keep them honest.

    And how do you think they will do that ?

  • JUU

    “there were other places he could have went.”

    “Could have gone.”

    It is in Ulster-Scots you insensitive clod!

  • Rory Carr

    Is “bad grammar ails me” also Ulster-Scots by any chance? It is not an English construct of which I am aware.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I wonder if Irish-America, having lionized their role in the peace process, are so keen to talk about their role in the war process that preceded it which included finance, arms and support for organizations which were, at that time, killing police officers, soldiers and civilians, and operating outside of the democratic process in Irish politics.

    I’m reminded of the tendancy among middle class white Americans, bored with their white-picket-fence suburban lives, feel the need to find some international cause to latch onto and to believe that – yes – they really are on the planet for a reason, and that reason is to save mankind. I do appreciate the roles played by President Clinton and George Mitchell, they were part of the reason that the political process has succeeded, but they were by no means the sole reason.

  • latcheeco

    Jaysus Comrade! “cause to latch onto” As patronizingly inane stereotypes go, that’s a cracker. So young yet so cynical; or is it just jealousy? White picket fences versus red white and blue cribstone. Yanks are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Your obviously still pissed over the Berlin airlift, move on and have an Easter egg.

  • latcheeco

    Many nationalists will agree that a key reason they weren’t systematically wiped out (or at least forced south)in the early years of the troubles was because the Brits feared the international reaction, especially in America

  • Joe

    Latcheeco….Such a load of nonsense you wrote at #10….the facts are that, since 1921, Roman Catholic Nationalists/Republicans have moved from Southern Ireland in droves….hence the reason why they are over 40% of the population, when at the time of partition, they were approximately 30%.

    There was never any chance of RCs being driven South nor ‘systematically wiped out’ by anyone. Over the past 40 years, it is so RCs within Republicanism who have systematically sought to wipe out Protestants. especially along the border areas, particularly in East Tyrone and in Fermanagh. The eldest son, the usual inheritor of a farm being prime targets for the Roman Catholic death squads and many died. As an example, 24 Protestants lie in graveyards in Castlederg…no one has being made ameniable for these deaths….perhaps their deaths was the reason for Charlie McHugh, a Sinn Fein/IRA Councillor in Strabane, committing suicide some months ago. No doubt Charlie had a hand in the deaths, either by giving information to the terrorists about his neighbours or maybe even pulling the trigger.

  • ArchiePurple

    Joe….

    Republican’s tend to forget that they killed more of their co-religionists than all the loyalist paramilitaries, Police and Army casualties put together.

    Source: ‘Lost Lives’ Updated edition

  • latcheeco

    Beg to differ joefis,
    It was even mooted at cabinet level by maggie around the time of the stikes. Dublin and the rc hierarchy were believed to have contingencies drawn up for such a scenario.
    So your theory is that in actuality southern catholics moved up into the warmth of the Stormont regime in droves? Really?

  • McGrath

    Both George Mitchell and Bill Clinton will be quite alarmed to find out they are Yankees!

    The (usually grossly uninformed) sentimental value of Irish Americans is often under estimated. I’m not talking about the usual bar flys that threw loose change into the hat being passed around for the “cause” in some pub in Boston or New York, I’m speaking of white middle, upper middle class Americans. They are everywhere and place strong valve in their ancestry and they do not like to have it dismissed. They are catered to because they vote, and they donate to political campaigns. Most are in the upper income bracket and they have influence. Bill Clinton and George Mitchell where motivated by the political favor and windfall they would receive by backing a peace agreement in Ireland, its still getting them mileage, even in this thread.

  • Michael

    Where else could DeValera had gone in 1919 but to America?

    He had just escaped from Lincoln prison in Britain, where he had been jailed for nine months for allegedly conspiring in a ‘German Plot’ during WWI. DeValera biographer M.J. McManus suggests that Dev couldn’t have stayed in Dublin long because the British were spoiling for a physical confrontation in that city as a way of undermining Dev’s authority and popularity.

    By coming to America, Dev followed in the footsteps of numerous nationalists – Parnell, Gonne, Redmond, Dillon, Davitt — who came to raise money, gain political support, and generate media publicity – a familiar recipe still used today.

    Brian, as to the role of Major/Blair in the current phase, I certainly accept Blair’s contributions to the peace process but am confused about the reference to John Major .

    Major’s Dowling Street Declaration in early 94 was 14 months too late and only came about because of the spectre of an American special envoy. He espoused the British traditions of procrastination, evasion and ultimatums that kept the quagmire going so many decades. Ian Paisley himself referred to Major as ‘the emperor with no clothes.’

    Clinton/Mitchell eclipsed that well-worn British approach to Northern Ireland by direct engagement with the opposing sides, stressing commonalities over differences, and of course with economic incentives. This approach put a very public spotlight on the shortcomings of British diplomacy up to that point.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Jaysus Comrade! “cause to latch onto” As patronizingly inane stereotypes go, that’s a cracker.

    You wouldn’t find it patronizing if it wasn’t true. I’ve seen the INAC tour buses, the prisoner pen-pal arrangements, the shrinkwrapped presentation of Irish history that they are served up and eagerly, and usually unquestioningly, swallow. I’ve read the bulletin-board contributions of the near-obsessed I-Ams who devote significant amounts of their time to the cause of Irish freedom, as if their own country was so perfect that there were no causes they could think of to devote themselves to there. Somehow taking up an international cause seems more, I don’t know, sexy ?

    So young yet so cynical; or is it just jealousy?

    Go on, tell me what I’m jealous of.

    White picket fences versus red white and blue cribstone.

    I’m not sure what you’re getting at with this. If I had to guess, it would be that you’re trying to come up with what you think is an insult that corresponds to my criticism. Try again.

    Yanks are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

    Dunno what that means.

    Your obviously still pissed over the Berlin airlift, move on and have an Easter egg.

    It surely must be some sort of quasi-Godwinism for a yank to mention WW2 in response to any supposed slight on his fellow countrymen.

    Many nationalists will agree that a key reason they weren’t systematically wiped out (or at least forced south)in the early years of the troubles was because the Brits feared the international reaction, especially in America

    This is so bizarre I don’t know where to start.

    There are plenty of people (I don’t know whether or not people who are not nationalists count in your book) who think that a certain section of the populace in the US hindered the development of peace here. Paddy Devlin’s autobiography recounts how, on a tour of the USA, the leading Irish Americans he met wouldn’t provide money or support to help people unless it was to be used to buy guns to use on the British.

    BTW the weird, obsessed types are a small subset of Irish-America, who in turn are a small subset of America. I like the USA and Americans, I’ve visited the place six or seven times since 1998. I think the USA should be justly proud of the role that it played in events like the Irish peace process or WW2, but these political and military victories were the result of partnerships and political expediency at home – not some sort of unqualified altruism.

    Michael,

    Brian, as to the role of Major/Blair in the current phase, I certainly accept Blair’s contributions to the peace process but am confused about the reference to John Major .

    Major helped to start the peace process as we now know it, knowing the right time to compromise and the right time to talk – Thatcher would have strangled the political process at birth. I often wonder how far he would have gone had he not been constrained by parliamentary arithmetic. Blair’s huge majority, and his determination to make a clean sweep and stand up to the unionists, is what won the day. Rightly or wrongly, Blair in many cases was a leader who, once he made a decision, took the determination to see it through.

    Nobody, of course, American, British, Irish or anyone else, would have been able to get far had the IRA not made the strategic decision to effectively surrender.

  • latcheecoo

    Happy Easter Comrade!
    My point was that people who live in paper houses shouldn’t throw petrol bombs. You generalize about middle-class Americans because apparently you’ve seen a noraid tour bus or two and read some blogs. You assume to know vast swathes of the American population based on your experience of what you youself call a weird subset.Really? I am reminded of a tendancy among middle-class pseudo-leftist sophistocats to make smug generalizations.

    It’s a big country mucker. A population of over three hundred million is a lot to psycho-analyze and pigeonhole, even by you, despite your six visits.

    The reference to the Berlin airlift was more a shot at your monicker than a trumpet of successful American interventionism. But I wouldn’t imagine someone with your nom de plume would be casting stones with other people’s historical/ww2 obsessions.

    Americans are called insular if they are isolationist and do-gooders with simplistic understanding if the stick their noses abroad. They can’t win.

    As for the authority and integrity of your Republican clubs source… dodgy, very dodgy… but the man’s dead, so as Iago said, what you know you know.

    Your cliche about suburbia and white picket fences might be easier to take if your own house was in order. If it’s a choice between that and murals celebrating sectarian slaughter I know which one I’m going for. That’s only a slightly more eloquent translation of UMH’s classic: “Americans are thick compared to Norn Irn men.”

    As regards money jars passed around Irish bars, your analysis is typically unionist in that you focus on a symptom in your search for victimhood but ignore the problem that caused it.Bizarre it may be to you but I doubt there are too many families in places like Ardoyne, the Bone, the Strand, and the Springfield Rd. who share your opinion that the pesky Americans and their armalites spoiled everything.Especially when thousands of UDA men in uniform (oxfords, flairs, combat jacket, bush hat, and national health glasses etc.)were legally and under MI5 direction, marching by their districts and up and down Royal Avenue, especially in the years immediately after ’69 and through all the summer months thereafter. Or that the British government’s strategies, especially after Bloody Sunday, weren’t governed by the fact that they had to keep an eye over their shoulders to the States.

    Perhaps the opinion of many Americans is simplistic, especially if you disagree, but perhaps the problem seen from afar appears so. Problems are sometimes clearer from an outside perspective.In the north one third is pro-brit, one third anti-brit, and one third is open to persuasion/coercion; just like the American Revoltion. It’s really not more complicated than that.

  • latcheeco

    Comrade,
    I’m not sure it was a surrender as much as Gerry and co. opting for the long game. They perhaps opted to play good cop in a transformation from partition scenario because they knew, given their knowledge of Irish republican history and their own people, that the bad cop was always coming behind them sooner or later. That both parties in this game are estranged and not officially co-operating does not make the strategy less effective