Belfast Telegraph

Supplanting our patron saint's day with one honouring Gerry Adams is laughable ... unless, that is, you're a victim of terror

Ex-Sinn Fein chief Gerry Adams with Mayor of New York Bill de Blasio
Ex-Sinn Fein chief Gerry Adams with Mayor of New York Bill de Blasio

By Lindy McDowell

After all those years of tiocfaidh ar la-ing, Gerry Adams' day finally came at the weekend. Courtesy of Bill de Blasio, Mayor of New York City, Gerry was presented with a "proclamation" recording that Mr de Blasio has taken it upon himself to rebrand St Patrick's Day as Gerry Adams Day.

Why has no one thought of this before?

Renaming a day dedicated to our patron saint who pre-dated sectarian and constitutional division and who was, and remains, a healing force and whose legacy still brings together Irish people, north and south, of all persuasions and none…

And then supplanting it with tribute to a man whose name will be forever linked to a bigoted terror outfit that butchered hundreds of innocent men, women and children throughout Ireland - in Northern Ireland, in the Republic and beyond (A number of these victims, for the record, Mr de Blasio, being American citizens).

Gerry, of course, looked pleased as punch with his proclamation.

It must have been some consolation after the revelation that a Chicago brewing company, which had previously named a Best Bitter after him, had not only discontinued the bottling, but had sluiced the remains of the batch down the drain after they'd taken on board the distress and outrage this "tribute" had caused to victims of IRA violence.

Mayor de Blasio however, (a supporter, incidentally of something called the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act), is a politician and obviously not quite so sensitive to the hurt caused back here.

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New York is a place which has, as we all know, suffered grievously through terrorism. But it does also have a large Irish American vote.

As our American friends would say, you do the math.

That said, at the end of the day, Gerry Day is really just a meaningless triviality; a bit of oul blarney.

It's hardly the Nobel peace prize. Yet with it, as always with the lionising of the likes of St Gerry, comes another dose of vinegar ditched again upon the ever raw wounds of the families of victims of terror. Those left bereaved. Those left mutilated.

Not a day now passes it seems (renamed or otherwise) when there doesn't appear to be some new demeaning of their loss. And much of that emanating from Irish America. The place where they drink car bomb cocktails and wear T-shirts lauding killer gunmen and bombers.

Maybe we should reciprocate… I'm thinking of something along the lines of an annual Bill de Blasio Day where we mark the enormous contribution made by the Irish American community, their supporters and those aiming to secure their votes, to ignorance of recent Irish history and gross insensitivity towards the victims of terrorist violence.

Okay, so it's probably unfair to tar an entire community with the same brush.

As Brendan Howlin, the Labour leader in the Republic pointed out the other day: "I thought that most in Irish America now were forward-looking... that people understand the complexities of the Irish situation... that there are conflicting views in terms of nationality on the island of Ireland that need to be accommodated."

Down the years I've personally met many Irish-Americans (mostly younger ones) who even if they don't grasp the complexities of this place, at least recognise there are complexities.

But there is an older generation of Irish Americans who, even though they have never set foot in Ireland and have only the most tenuous links to Irish ancestry (their second cousin twice removed maybe had a great-granny who once got a postcard from somebody in Galway) are consumed with some ancient myth about what actually happened here.

Colonel Gaddafi may have supplied the IRA with much of their lethal hardware, but, generally, it was Irish America which helped fund the bloodletting and - via that - the refinement of terrorist techniques which, with dark irony, have been used against American forces elsewhere in the world.

During many visits to America I have listened to some of the most awful sectarian nonsense spouted by people - many of them intelligent and otherwise decent people, people imbued with ancient bigotry. And it is to this gallery that Bill de Blasio plays.

Does de Blasio even care about those people, north and south, Catholic and Protestant, he has wounded so very deeply with his cynical St Patrick's Day proclamation?

It would be good to think that now he might.

And that now he might even agree to meet some of those victims and to listen to their stories.

But that day, most of us accept, is unlikely to come.

Belfast Telegraph


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