Tuesday, September 28, 2004

The battle for Irish-American votes

Longtime readers of this blog will know that one of our recurring themes is the dissonance between the prominent Irish-American presence in the Bush political and media operations and the ideological ties between the Bush operation and Ulster Unionism. Thus for someone like Ed Gillespie, Republican National Committee chairman, his family background in Irish-American South Philadelphia is a nice veneer for elitist policies, and the Famine provides a good hook for selling Dubya's tax cuts -- but then there's Dubya's visits to Ian Paisley's favourite university, and David Trimble's appearances at certain policy institutes and in certain newspapers.

However, it looks like the tensions introduced by this straddle have produced a Bilbo Baggins moment (when he wants to hold the ring again, just for one last time) for the (American) Republicans. Richard Egan was previously the US Ambassador to Ireland, and since coming back to the US, has reverted to what got him the Ambassador job in the first place -- being a funder and fundraiser for Dubya (and Ralph Nader, but that's another story).

Anyway, the seemingly harmless bimonthly magazine Irish America has pissed Egan off. Their offence was to publish side-by-side the Kerry and Bush positions on Northern Ireland, and simply by virtue of having put some thought into it, it seems that the Kerry position ended up looking a lot better than Dubya's. This has generated a letter from Egan (which is not online yet, will link when it is), which clarifies his role as an enforcer for Dubya, as the Irish Times reports (subs. req'd):

... Mr Richard Egan ... has warned the publisher of Irish America magazine she had "better think twice before trying to influence American politics" as "the Irish are not the only ones with long memories" ... In his letter Mr Egan asked whether the magazine favoured American or Irish interests. "During my time in Ireland I witnessed increasing anti-American sentiment, particularly in the media," he wrote.

"It had little to do with Northern Ireland, but NI was a means to commence disdain for America by blaming our inability to rectify the disparate and often dysfunctional behaviour by those parties that initiated and continue to be responsible for this tragic situation."

This was "not unlike other internal world conflicts in which it seems everyone expects America to solve", he went on. "When we try we are criticised, and when it appears we are not trying we are also criticised."

The letter doesn't specify who the "dysfunctional" parties are, but doubtless given the love-in with Trimble, he means the Shinners. But most bizarre is the charge of dual loyalties levelled at an American magazine whose publisher and most readers would be US citizens. It would seem that if there was one thing that Egan learned in Ireland (and he pronounced himself bored by the assignment), it was the idea of adapting the old Home Rule is Rome Rule slogan as a tool to keep wavering influential Irish-Americans on the right side.

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