Unionists spark heated debate at IAUC convention

 

Unionists spark heated debate at IAUC convention
By Irish Echo Staff

(Pictured from the left are: republican ex-prisoner Terry Kirby, IAUC President John Fogarty, IAUC Treasurer Gretchen Bales, and IAUC Chairman of the Board Dr. Robert C. Linnon)

 

Unionist voices at the Irish American Unity Conference annual convention in Boston last weekend brought a new dimension to the annual gathering of the pro-United Ireland activists.

The most heated exchanges of the day followed repeated assertions by Raymond McCord that the IRA ex-prisoners present were “terrorists”.

McCord, whose son Raymond was murdered by a loyalist gang leader who was a police agent, rebutted claims by former republican prisoner Gabriel Megahey that the IRA had acted in defense of embattled nationalist communities in 1969.

“I have acted in defense of my family,” said McCord. “I have beaten up loyalist paramilitaries who threatened my family but when did the IRA’s defense become putting bombs in pubs in the middle of Belfast?”

On several occasions, McCord challenged his audience to tell him how his three grandchildren would be better off in a united Ireland.

“Convince me they’ll be better off and I’ll vote for a united Ireland,” he said.

However, McCord remained unimpressed by the answers he received.

“No one here has answered my question satisfactorily,” he told Saturday’s closing session of the convention.

Ulster Unionist Roy Garland said dialogue was the cornerstone of continuing reconciliation in Northern Ireland. He had harsh condemnation for Dr. Ian Paisley’s DUP, recalling that Ian Paisley Jr., now a minister in the Northern Ireland Executive, had demanded Garland be drummed out of the UUP for being pictured with Gerry Adams and Albert Reynolds.

Fr. Aidan Troy, the North Belfast priest who famously defended schoolchildren who were the focus of angry loyalist pickets outside Holy Cross school told the convention that education was crucial to the future of Northern Ireland.

“The key to carrying the process forward is education,” he said.

Responding to questions about the need to encourage integrated education, Troy defended the right of parents to chose a Catholic education for their children.

“But I would like to see the Catholic hierarchy come forward and to say, what contribution can we make to integrated education. However, we can’t expect the children at integrated schools to carry the burden of integrating their communities if at home their parents and grandparents are carrying a contrary message,” he said.

Leave a comment

Filed under cross-community, human rights, IAUC, ireland, Irish Echo, Irish peace process, Raymond McCord

Traffic light at Tipperary Hill, Syracuse, NY

800px-syracusetipperarylight.jpgWhile reading about traffic lights on Wikipedia this morning, Max came across this funny story about a traffic light in Syracuse, NY:

In the 1920s, after continued destruction of a standard traffic light, the City of Syracuse, New York in the United States gave up and installed a traffic light with green on the top. Residents of Irish descent had objected to the fact that “British” red was placed above “Irish” green.

This photo is from the Wikipedia entry, and was taken in 2005–which leads me to believe that it has never been changed back.

6 Comments

Filed under ireland

Changing Times, Changing Realities by Inez McCormack

The following article by Inez McCormack was printed in last week’s Irish Echo and kicks off a new campaign to organize Irish America’s participation in a new drive to encourage and support equitable investment in the “new Northern Ireland”:

This should be a time for change and hope for all who live in the North. I am writing this article for two reasons- one is to honour the significant contribution made by Irish Americans and others such as President Clinton and New York City Comptroller Thompson in making hope for just and inclusive change into tangible realities of peace and opportunity. The other is to argue that this time and these opportunities will not come again and we must now once and for all grasp them to build an inclusive and modern future. For over 30 years now I have argued for real, measurable change that people can feel, taste and touch in their daily lives. This core foundation for such a future, based upon equality, resonates with three decades of lost opportunities in implementing necessary and agreed change.

Strategies and interventions that bring the legacy of a difficult and divided past into such a future need to be built on both what has successfully worked in making change and on what is the agreed mandate of the people as the context for that change. That mandate has been given expression in the Good Friday Agreement, now more than ten years old. It is not too much, to expect that the inclusive equality provisions of that agreement are implemented with urgency and finality. They are also the key building blocks for stable economic and social development

Irish Americans are being asked by me AMONG others to support and call for investment in the north to build prosperity and support peace in this time of historic hope. There are now clearly emerging opportunities for profitable investments in billion dollar commitments to build new infrastructure within the next decade. There is a determination and commitment by all political parties in the new devolved administration to bring external investment and new companies to the North and encourage the growth of local small and medium size companies to take advantage of new opportunities as well as increase trade and investment between North and South on the island.

Twenty years ago Irish America responded to calls to make fairness in employment a reality here. Together we argued it was neither feasible nor acceptable to have a society and economy based upon exclusion and discrimination. Those who then ran Northern Ireland rejected our arguments, claiming that there was not a problem. But the stark realities revealed by official census figures showed brutal patterns of exclusion, discrimination and poverty experienced overwhelmingly, though far from exclusively, by Catholics. At that time I described the plight of unemployed Protestants as disastrous, and that of Catholics as catastrophic. Instead of tackling this economic disadvantage based upon objective need, the authorities used all their resources to attack the messengers. We were accused of scaring off investment, worsening sectarian division and destabilising the possibilities for peace. These were the alibis that time was not ripe for change.

Voices for peaceful and just change from within Northern Ireland, unaided by powerful external support, were ruthlessly swept aside. Irish Americans steadfastly refused to accept any of these arguments, particularly the doctrine of unripe time. Through the MacBride Principles campaign they declared they were no longer prepared to have American dollars support discriminatory practices. Together we went one step further. The MacBride Principles required that Americans investment in Northern Ireland should actively promote affirmative action and produce measurable change, I recall with great gratitude the chorus of support for such change ultimately reaching the highest office in the United States. Such voices from an early stage included the City and State Comptrollers office in New York, Irish American organisations, and a growing number of state and city legislatures who passed and implemented the MacBride principles. That campaign and pressure led to new and tough affirmative action domestic legislation and disciplines on expenditure of public monies. The MacBride legislation is still there as a guarantor of real change: American companies were and are required still to show how state and city pension funds are promoting the reality of fair employment in Northern Ireland.

Irish American pressure to mainstream and promote equality of opportunity, and to insist upon implementation of tough policies played a major role in the interventions of the Clinton administration. George Mitchell, amongst others, saw the importance of inclusive economic and social opportunity in creating confidence that peace could work , especially for the communities and areas of greatest deprivation that had suffered most in the conflict. Such measures then became part of the Good Friday Agreement. Indeed, the promise in the Agreement to bring forward “a range of measures aimed at combating unemployment and progressively eliminating the differential in employment rates between the two communities by targeting objective need” was one of the few explicit commitments in the document.

Continuing resistance to accept responsibility for structural change by placing the causes of disadvantage on the shoulders of those who experience it — the blame the victim approach — was rejected by the political parties and the people in Northern Ireland. Subsequently, the recent St. Andrew’s agreement reinforced this commitment by agreeing objective need as the prerequisite for allocation of resources and investment.

I write this not to bring up old history or old problems but to emphasize the huge contribution of those who argued that fairness in action was not only right in itself but crucial to building prosperity, and would contribute to the potential for building an inclusive peace from which all would benefit and all could own . They also argued that a sustainable business model must effectively integrate economic, social and environmental practices.

This seems so obvious and modest a proposal now. Yet the inability to accept responsibility in implementing that change, in spite of its huge democratic mandate backed up by statutory imperative, remains deep and systemic. The patterns of exclusion that spurred us to action have widened in the decade since the Good Friday Agreement. This is the unstable and unhelpful legacy bequeathed to the fledgling political institutions in Northern Ireland.

The reason I address Irish America now – and of course the coalition that so powerfully joined with us to argue that peace was not possible without justice and equality – is to ask all of those who helped to create the potential for peaceful change to now ensure that in the hope in which so much has been invested is implemented. This requires that economic investment, both internal and external, is used and measured deliberately and consciously to make those hopes for fundamental and irreversible change into reality.

The current reality is, that ten years on from the Good Friday Agreement and a few months into the historic political accommodation that we have all worked and hoped for the patterns of disadvantage are widening. The last decade has been a time of increased investment and growing prosperity. Yet as in the eighties government’s own figures show an ever increasing gap between the haves and the have nots within both communities and growing differential in disadvantage experienced between the Catholic and Protestant communities in the decade since the Good Friday Agreement.

This growing inequality is a direct consequence of deliberately ignoring the commitments in law and policy on fairness and opportunity. Instead of the last decade being used to integrate economic and social development and using these tools of change agreed by the mandate of the people to lay solid foundations to underpin an inclusive peace and a stable economic base, the patterns of past investment and resource allocation are virtually undisturbed.

The ever widening gap means those suffering the greatest deprivation, again predominantly Catholic, but also with a significant number of Protestants, are spectators of prosperity not participants.

New policies and laws were agreed based on the need for structural change and on the urgent requirement for structural measures . They simply have not been implemented in a way that measured action against impact. Our campaign for targets and timetables, so carefully constructed to produce real change within a reasonable time span, has been met with inaction.

The recent report by the Committee on Administration of Justice – Rhetoric and Reality – spelt out this failure in cold terms and hard figures.

The evidence in the report came from figures and facts analysed in four government reports. So these continuing patterns of unacceptable realities are well known. There is simply no evidence that resource allocation and policy are being directed to change them, as required by the Good Friday Agreement, the St Andrew’s Agreement and the law of the land in Northern Ireland. In fact the current allocation of resource and investment is virtually in inverse proportion to these figures. Resources are going to where they went before in the old status quo and the mandate of the people for a new and inclusive status quo has been ignored.

The data produced by the government’s own body the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency, the Northern Ireland Multiple Deprivation Measure 2005 gives the following results. Based on their analysis of a range of factors, including income, employment, and access to services, NI was divided up into almost 900 equally sized areas in order to map out “regional inequalities”.

• Out of 900 areas in total, 19 of the top 20 most deprived areas are in North and West Belfast or Derry.
• Of the top 100 most deprived areas in NI out of a total of 900, over three quarters are within North and West Belfast or Derry.
• Of the top 50 wealthiest areas in NI, none are in North and West Belfast or Derry.
• In fact, of the top 100 wealthiest areas in NI out of a total of 900, only one, is in North and West Belfast or Derry, namely, the Covehill part of North Belfast, which is an historically affluent part of the city, surrounded by some of the poorest areas that suffered both economically and physically during the conflict.

As I know only too well from work I have been involved with there recently, the population there has not sniffed the changes that they were promised and that they could expect in relation to investment and opportunity.

What this data shows is serious geographic and regional differences in terms of inequality in Northern Ireland. Moreover, these regional inequalities also provide a proxy measure for community inequalities. Cleary there are correlations between where these poorer areas are, and the profile of the people who live in them.

A report by the Special EU Programmes body also showed that there is a direct link between how poor an area is, and the proportion of Catholics living in the area.

Catholics make up 19.5% of the population in the 500 most affluent areas in NI.

Catholics make up 72% of the inhabitants in the 500 most deprived areas in NI.

With irrefutable detail these cold hard facts and statistics reveal the depth of daily realties of humiliation and exclusion experienced by those outside the golden bubble of the new good times.

Bringing a difficult past into a new and inclusive future is not easy. But if we do not learn from the lessons of the past then the new future we are all working for is destabilised from the beginning . There is a depressing sense of déjà vu about what is happening. In the eighties government figures showed that over 45% of Catholics, and around 25% of Protestant males were without work. The campaigning that we carried out over those two decades was meant to ensure that those in power faced up to their responsibility to shift the figures. They had the resources – moral, legal, and economic, to do so. Yet many of those excluded in that past are excluded still. The gap between their realities and growing prosperity of some areas and communities are the stark and undeniable reminder in the last decade that new times of peace and hope brought them crumbs not comfort.

Based upon our shared experience of the possibilities of change, there are a number of practical and effective steps that the devolved administration can take now in modernising the economy and stabilising the peace. Public resource allocation can be planned as envisaged in a way that requires govt departments to measure and structure their actions against their impact on reducing inequality and building prosperity .Tools of public procurement that integrate practical equality and social requirements can be effectively used to involve the long term unemployed and economically inactive and thus build a new skills base.

New York City Comptroller Thompson, on his recent visit to Belfast declared his support for a sustainable business model that integrated, economic, social and environmental practices. It is what his office has supported all over the world through their investments and has been fiscally and ethically successful. This is the context of his strong support to bring direct investment to the North and to influence companies to look at the potential for investment on the island of Ireland. Irish America is calling for support for investment opportunities and there will be an international investment conference in the coming year in the North to turn some of the good will in America and elsewhere in the world into practical and tangible investments by companies

In asserting once again that prosperity and fairness must be intertwined in the impact and allocation of such investment. Once again the ball is in Irish America’s court to again assert and require that hope and opportunity must be within the grasp of all. That this is the time for long overdue change in the daily realities of exclusion and that this is good for business and good for peace.

Leave a comment

Filed under belfast, Derry, human rights, Inez McCormack, ireland, Irish peace process, MacBride Principles

Reason no. 2568 why I hate my school

Free tomorrow night? Need some inspiration in your quest for peace, justice and sustainability? Why not head over to the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment to join in the accolades for guest speaker Libby Cheney, Vice President of Corporate Support at Shell Exploration?! A peek at Ms. Cheney’s bio:

Before joining Shell in 2006, Libby was the Manager of Non-Operated Global Development Projects for ExxonMobil Development Company in Houston, TX where she managed technical resources and decisions for global projects totaling more than $25 billion in gross investment. She began her career as a Reservoir Engineer in Kingsville, Texas. Her background includes various assignments managing multi-functional teams for producing assets from offshore Gulf of Mexico to West Texas and California. Libby subsequently led an organization of 150 engineers and technicians in developing and optimizing onshore . In addition, she spent time as the Senior Strategic Planning contact for project interests in Russia, the Caspian Region, and the Middle East.

Think Cheney will come prepared to discuss Shell’s numerous human rights abuses around the world?  Not at this school.  It was only a couple of years ago that the Dean refused to allow a speaker from CorpWatch to make a presentation in the building about Coke’s participation in human rights atrocities and environmental devastation in India because a representative from Coca Cola had not been invited to tell their side of the story.  Claimed she wanted to support the “fair and balanced” approach, to have all sides of the story represented (while clearly making exceptions for corporate polluters and potential financial donors to the school).

Leave a comment

Filed under environment, environmental justice, human rights, michigan, truth

My sister helped save someone’s life yesterday!

img_1478.JPGThis is a picture of my sister Lyn from our trip to Ireland this past summer. Lyn was a swimmer throughout high school and college, and is an avid marathon runner and triathlon participant. In the past couple of years, she has also taken up scuba-diving and is trained as a scuba-diving lifesaver. While running a half-marathon in Ridgefield, Connecticut yesterday, Lyn had the chance to put her life-saving skills to the test.

She noticed a man up ahead of her fall down during the race, and her first thought was “oh, someone just tripped, that really sucks” but immediately realized that he fell straight backwards, landing on his back and hitting his head on the pavement. She and a few other runners knelt down to try to help, none of them knowing what to do. Dark red blood was pouring out of the back of his head on the pavement. His eyes were rolled back into his head and his mouth was open. One runner suggested they elevate his legs, and another held his hand and spoke to him, using his name, Roy (printed on his registration). Someone called 911 and Lyn checked his pulse, then realized that he seemed to have stopped breathing. Then his face had begun to turn purple, and she thought, “I have to do something.”

She began mouth to mouth resuscitation and “put some breath back into him.” After a moment, she said, his chest heaved and he breathed in deeply. At that point another runner came up who was an emergency room doctor and took over until the EMT arrived. Roy was then given a defibrillator and (I believe) a tracheotomy, stabilized, and taken to the hospital (after the ambulance arrived, a full 30 minutes later–ahem). Although Lyn said she’d been taught that you always fill out a report after participating in something like that (using a procedure on someone) she was told it wasn’t necessary, thanked by the EMT and sent on her way. She’ll have to wait, perhaps, until the next race to find out how Roy is recovering.

Isn’t Lyn great?! They call people who perform CPR “rescuers.” Lyn actually gave breaths to Roy who was not breathing by putting her mouth on his and forcing air into his lungs. In situations like this, where someone has stopped breathing and has suffered a heart attack, there is a very small window of opportunity in which to use CPR before permanent brain damage and tissue death will occur. You never know when you might be in a situation like this, and it really makes me want to get certified to do it myself. I’m really proud of my sister for thinking so fast on her feet, for not being afraid to put her knowledge into action, and for doing what it took to keep this man alive until professionals could take over. And Roy, we hope you are hanging in there…

4 Comments

Filed under awesome, lifesaver, my sister Lyn

IAUC statement regarding the deportation proceedings against Malachy, Sean and Nicola McAllister

October 1, 2007—The IAUC has dedicated itself to the idea that peace can only occur in an atmosphere that promotes frank and open dialogue amongst all parties to the conflict in the North of Ireland.  This includes the United States of America, which acting as an “honest broker,” facilitated a political atmosphere that allowed for the birth of the current peace process.  The end product of a lasting peace based on enduring democratic principles is now at hand.  Recognizing this, the IAUC has welded itself to the role of identifying and speaking out against anyone and anything which has the potential to thwart the development of the peace and democracy in which so many people and groups have invested so much commitment and energy.

In this spirit, the IAUC must state forthrightly that the United States Government, by actively pursuing the deportation of former Irish Republican activists, is markedly out of step with all other parties involved in this political endeavor.  The US policy is anachronistic and undermines the concept of a “peace dividend.”  By extension this policy will undermine the peace itself.

We urge our government, through our elected representatives and appointed officials, to stand for peace in Ireland.  With all the conviction we can muster, we request that the McAllister family be granted permanent resident status.  To deny this family legal status would be an affront to our country’s longstanding principles of justice and asylum.

Stop the deportation of the McAllister family.

John Fogarty
President
Irish American Unity Conference

Leave a comment

Filed under deportation, human rights, ireland, Irish peace process, loyalist paramilitaries, new jersey, political prisoners

michigan apples

It’s that time of year again! Max, Eitan, Joanna and I went apple and raspberry picking on Saturday morning. It was a gorgeous day and the trees were bursting with apples. The orchard we went to was unfortunately not organic (I’m not sure if there are any organic apple orchards around these parts), and you could see the pesticide residue on many of the apples. It made me very nervous, and I did my best not to touch my face or put my fingers in my mouth (read: eat with my hands) until after I got home and had a chance to wash them. I don’t know anything about the kinds of pesticides that growers use on apples now, and while they may be less toxic than they were in the days of alar, I didn’t want to take any chances. It was kind of frightening, though, to see the number of children whose parents were allowing them to eat right from the tree…

After stuffing ourselves with cinnamon-sugar donuts and cider, we returned home to prepare for Sunday brunch. Our first brunch with a theme (apples): apples & brie, apple pancakes, crepes with applesauce, apple cake with caramel sauce, bread with apple butter, as well as a vegetable frittata, savory crepes, and applewood smoked bacon…and it was ridiculously delicious. As was the caramel apple ice cream we just finished making. Mmm.

2 Comments

Filed under fruit, michigan