The repercussions of the McCartney murder and the Northern Bank robbery in Northern Ireland are finally beginning to have an effect on their major backers amongst the Irish 'diaspora' in the US - Senator Edward Kennedy (D Mass) has indicated, through his spokespeople, that he will not meet with Gerry Adams, as he has done every St Patrick's Day since 1998. I read yesterday, too, that President Bush has likewise declined to receive Mr Adams during his current visit to the US and has indicated he is unlikely ever to do so again. These visits of the 'acceptable face' of Sinn Fein-IRA to the US, during which considerable funds are probably raised for the 'get the British out of Northern Ireland' campaign have been a sickening reality for many years.
I have written over recent months on a number of occasions about the increasing incidences of homophobic attacks taking place in Northern Ireland over the past couple of years. The latest incident I have read of concerns a student in Londonderry/Derry who has been forced to flee his home after being beaten by two men, claiming to be IRA members, who promised further punishment should he have the temerity to report the matter to the authorities. These anti-gay attacks, whilst obviously very serious, and something I naturally feel very strongly about, are merely symbolic of the wider dilemma facing Northern Ireland and the UK generally. How to negotiate, if this is even possible, with people who have not entirely plausibly severed all links with factions who see the use of violence as a means of achieving their political aims. People who, moreover, seem to have widened their sphere of activity beyond the purely political, but who have become a simple criminal gang that indimidates whole communities into compliance to its will for personal gain.
Despite evidence that this been happening, for years, the Irish 'diaspora' in the United States have continued to support, financially, their compatriots back in Ireland. It has taken the McCartney killing, and the refusal of his family to play the Sinn Fein-IRA game, to force Sinn Fein and the IRA into even minimal acknowledgement of their culpability. It has taken this event, also, to force the Nationalists' paymasters in the US to reassess their blind support for people such as Gerry Adams. I will observe with interest whether this marks a genuine change or whether, once the murder recedes a little, the money faucets will quietly be opened once more and whether people such as Senator Kennedy will resume contact with Sinn Fein, specially if it is felt to be of use in his next Senatorial election campaign.
As someone who is partly (i.e. one quarter) of Southern Irish and Catholic descent I have nevertheless always felt it difficult to understand the internecine squabbling between the two major communities in Northern Ireland. In particular, since both the UK and Ireland have always had open borders for each other's citizens and both are now EU members, I believe that whatever genuine grievances may once have existed amongst the Catholics of Northern Ireland have long ceased to have any relevance in the Northern Ireland of today. Luckily we have so far been able to handle the divergent views on what Scotland's future relationship in/with the United Kingdom should be in a much more civilised manner.
UPDATE: (Monday 14MAR05 23.50 GMT) Don't interfere in politics, is what Martin McGuinness says to the sisters of the murdered Robert McCartney. Nice. Or something.