Belfast Telegraph

Free market trumps free Eireann for US investors

Dissident violence will not deter American corporations for whom profit is the bottom line, writes Jim Dee in Boston

Last month's rioting in Ardoyne, coupled with the recent spate of dissident republican attacks, has put Northern Ireland's darker face back in the US media cycle - if only fleetingly.

Such news no doubt raised concern among many American peace process devotees. But will the violence be enough to scare off potential US investors?

And is it true, as the US State Department suggests, that some Irish-Americans are helping to fund and arm the dissidents? Last week's release of the Country Reports on Terrorism 2009 (CRT 2009) by the State Department's Office of the Co-ordinator for Counter-terrorism, included an analysis of the Continuity IRA and Real IRA.

The memberships of CIRA (about 50 'hardcore activists') and RIRA (around 100) have been reported before by the likes of the IMC and the PSNI. So, too, has the claim that both have sourced clandestine arms from the Balkans. But the CRT 2009 also stated that both groups are suspected of having secured cash and weapons from Irish-Americans.

During the height of its campaign, the Provisional IRA drew significant material support from Irish-American enclaves in cities like Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Chicago.

In the aftermath of the Good Friday Agreement, the vast majority of these supporters accepted it as the way forward.

However, since the outset, there has been a smaller number of Irish-Americans who've vehemently opposed the accord - including John McDonagh, host of the weekly radio show Radio Free Eireann in New York.

McDonagh pours scorn on allegations that republican dissidents are being supplied by Irish-Americans opposed to the Good Friday Agreement. "That's a complete lie," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"You could just see what the Justice Department is doing now, arresting people in Minnesota and all around the country for supporting [Al-Shabaab] in Somalia.

"If that was going on in relation to Ireland, the FBI would be arresting everybody here in New York City."

A Capitol Hill source long immersed in Irish issues was also highly sceptical about the dissident's alleged US pipeline.

"There isn't any evidence that suggests that these folks have any significant support here in the United States whatsoever," he insisted.

But whether or not some Irish-Americans support it, will sporadic violence be enough to frighten away potential investors?

The former US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, once observed that: "Capital is a coward. It flees from corruption and bad policies, conflict and unpredictability." The former White House envoy Mitchell Reiss agrees. But he also thinks that most investors aren't so skittish.

"Any business that is sophisticated is going to understand that [dissidents] exist," he said. "I think they're going to base their business decisions on the skill of the labour pool, on the tax laws, on any investment breaks that they might get."

Indeed, in the pursuit of maximised profits, there've always been American investors willing to ignore squalid factory conditions for workers, environmental devastation and even violence against trade unionists in many countries around the globe.

Dissident republicans have clearly grown more sophisticated. And, with or without Irish-American support, it's not likely they'll be disappearing any time soon.

But, at the end of the day, neither will American investors whose bottom-line values profit as much as peace.

Jim Dee is the Belfast Telegraph’s US correspondent

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