But there should be no complaints. This was a poor performance with the added worry of Brian O’Driscoll and Gordon D’Arcy picking up injuries which Leinster must now hope do not threaten their participation in the Heineken Cup quarter-final against Clermont Auvergne on April 9.
The question is whether D’Arcy should have started Saturday’s Triple Crown clash with the Scots. The centre, who has been struggling since the Welsh game with a dead leg, never looked right.
Worryingly, there is a feeling that Ireland got ahead of themselves. While Declan Kidney’s team deserve huge credit for their past achievements, nothing should ever be taken for granted. The Scots represented a real threat.
Most importantly, they had a good scrum, an area Ireland had struggled in all season, and an outstanding line-out. They also had a top class goalkicker in their out-half Dan Parks. Nothing had gone right for them in their previous Six Nations games, and they were due a change of luck.
Paul O’Connell hit the nail of the head when stating: “We needed to play to the best of our ability. We didn’t, they did. It was a poor performance, we didn’t wish to finish on a note like that.”
But even O’Connell could not explain the game’s biggest disappointment, the Irish line-out. What had been a strength in previous matches became a huge weakness. Hooker Rory Best had a bad day with his throwing while there also seemed to be a lack of communication.
Yet, substitute hooker Sean Cronin of Connacht was never brought on. Maybe the Irish coaching team believes he lacks the experience, but surely if he is good enough to be on the bench, he is good enough to play.
Thankfully, the line-out is an area Ireland should be able to solve before the summer tour to New Zealand and Australia. The same, unfortunately, cannot be said of the scrum. Leinster’s Cian Healy is still learning his trade at loose-head, while John Hayes is understandably feeling his 36 years at tight-head.
Their difficulties were all too apparent from the early stages. Although O’Driscoll scored an early try after a quality break from Jonathan Sexton to lead 7-3, Ireland never really looked comfortable. Sexton was having a poor day with his goalkicking, and there were simply too many unforced errors.
One of them was duly punished when number eight John Beattie availed of some some poor Irish tackling to crash over for a Scottish try. With Parkes landing the conversion and adding a drop goal just before half time, Scotland went in 14-7 ahead.
Eventually, Ireland did get level at 20-20 in the second half through Tommy Bowe’s try and a conversion from the touchline from substitute Ronan O’Gara. But you always had the feeling that there was the potential for further disaster, and a minute from time, Parks duly kicked the winning penalty from the touchline.
Not really the way the Irish team had wanted to finish their stay at Croke Park but, rightly, there was an acceptance that the Scots deserved their victory. “We’re here to get results and we didn’t get one.” said Kidney. “We got it wrong.”
To his credit, hooker Best also put his hand up, stressing. ” I didn’t throw particularly well, it’s just one of those things.When things are going grand, you take all the plaudits, now you have to take all the criticism too.”
The resignations of three more Irish bishops will be accepted by the pope in the coming weeks following Magee’s departure, the Irish Examiner reported.
Magee, who served as a secretary to three popes, took leave of his position after it was determined that, while being aware of incidents of child abuse by priests, he had not reported the cases to Irish legal and health authorities.
Congressman Richard Neal was addressing over 100 members of Congress, Irish American leaders and civil rights campaigners from the North of Ireland gathered in the Capitol Building for the unveiling on Thursday.
“For more than twenty years, I have worked with my colleagues in the United States House of Representatives to campaign for the truth into the murder of human rights lawyer Pat Finucane,” Neal said.
“In 2006, on a bipartisan basis, we passed a resolution calling on the British government to hold an independent public inquiry into the circumstances surrounding his death. As our search for justice and accountability continues, I am honored to take part in this unveiling ceremony. This extraordinary portrait, seen here for the first time, will help keep Pat’s spirit and legacy alive for years to come.”
A senior Democrat, Rep. Neal also marveled at the influence of the Irish in Washington. In the past two weeks, President Obama, and former presidents Clinton and Bush, have engaged in the Irish peace process.
“What other country of six million people can boast of that type of strong relationship?” he asked.
Those views were echoed by Republican Congressman Chris Smith of New Jersey, co-chair of the Ad-Hoc Committee for Irish Affairs.
He stressed that while Democrats and Republicans were divided on many issues, they were at one on the issue of exposing British government collusion in the 1989 assassination of Pat Finucane.
“The British government have good friends in this country, but on the issue of collusion, they have fallen way below the mark we expect of an ally,” he said.
Robert Ballagh, one of Ireland’s greatest portrait artists, said that his creation of the shattered image of Pat Finucane was a metaphor for Finucane’s violent death.
“In many ways, Pat Finucane was a hero and I don’t think we should ever forget our heroes,” Ballagh said.
Pat Finucane’s widow, Geraldine, a frequent visitor to Capitol Hill, where she has campaigned for an independent, international enquiry into his murder, said the painting showed “something of beauty could come from a time of great sorrow.”
The painting was jointly unveiled by Reps. Neal and Smith. Among other members of Congress present were Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY), Brian Higgins (D-NY), Donald Payne (D-NJ), Joe Crowley (D-NY), Mary Jo Kilroy (D-Ohio), and James McGovern (D-MA). Among prominent Irish Americans were Jack O’Brien, Keith Carney and Sean Pender of the AOH, Fr. Sean McManus of the Irish National Caucus, Kate McCabe and Mike Breen of the Irish American Unity Conference, and Al Nunan of the Irish American Business Association.
Representing the Irish government was Consul General Orla O’Hanrahan, while also attending was U.S. Consul General in Northern Ireland, Kamala Lakdhir.
Clara Reilly of Relatives for Justice and Monica McWilliams, CEO of the Human Rights Commission, in the U.S. to lobby for the North’s stalled human rights bill, were among the large delegation from Northern Ireland.
Commissioned by the Belfast Media Group (sister publisher to the Irish Echo) and Belfast art collector Paul Cooper, the Finucane portrait will now be displayed in the offices of Reps. Neal and Smith before it begins a nationwide tour of state offices, including the State House in Boston where Rep. Eugene O’Flaherty will exhibit the work in his office.
“The honorary position of Cultural Ambassador has been introduced in order to enhance the involvement and impact of internationally renowned artists in the cultural promotion of Ireland. The appointee will assist the government in developing its vision for the promotion of Irish arts, culture and the creative industries internationally,” said an Irish government statement.
“Gabriel Byrne is an internationally renowned, award-winning actor and is already well established as one of Ireland’s great ambassadors through his work in film and theatre, as well as his endeavors behind the scenes in supporting and promoting Irish artists.
“The title of Cultural Ambassador is a formal recognition of his role and shows a willingness on both parts to harness the energy and goodwill for maximum effect,” said Minister Cullen in what was one of his last duties before resigning his post for health reasons.
In Washington, Cowen said that Byrne was already well established as one of Ireland’s great ambassadors through his work in film and theater, as well as behind the scenes in supporting and promoting Irish artists.
Arguably, the parade was never in safer or more experienced hands.
As he himself pointed out more than once, Kelly is a veteran of Fifth Avenue on March 17th.
He has policed the parade, and has marched in it as police commissioner.
Being grand marshal then, was like green icing on a very big cake, one that Kelly ate up in block-long slices.
Perhaps Kelly had issued an order to the weather gods, or maybe it was just Kelly’s luck, but the parade was bathed in warm sunshine from start to finish as line after line of marchers, with Laois the leading county, proceeded northwards past St. Patrick’s Cathedral and the reviewing stands to the finishing line at 86th Street.
And it was at St. Patrick’s that the day’s ceremonies began with Mass officiated for the first time on the patron saint’s day by Archbishop Timothy Dolan.
The archbishop is not apparently a nervous type, but he must have been a little edgy as the Mass starting time came and went with no sign of his number one congregant.
As it happened, and as reported in some detail the next morning by Michael Daly of the Daily News, Kelly is a man born to double duty, and then some. On his way to St. Patrick’s he had witnessed an accident in which a woman was knocked down and badly injured by a cyclist.
Kelly, in his grand marshal regalia, tended to the woman until an ambulance arrived.
By contrast, the later walk up the avenue was incident free. The crowds were big, enthusiastic and clearly liberated by the light and warmth on a day that just roared spring.
Again, as in recent years, it was not lost on spectators that we are a country at war and the cheers for the men and women in uniform were duly loud and sustained.
Shannon Schweitzer, named, she said, after the river, was especially cheering her two sons, Thomas and Patrick Adams.
“Thomas is a firefighter and Patrick is in the army,” said the Chicago-born Shannon proudly.
Patrick had served in Iraq and Afghanistan and could well end up in one or other place again, so Shannon was savoring every moment of having her two boys not just on American soil, but on the storied asphalt of Fifth Avenue with its painted green line.
As is always the case, the parade, this year dedicated to the Boy Scouts of America and with Irish government minister Barry Andrews as an honored guest, stepped off at precisely 11 a.m. And as is always the case, it looked incapable of starting just five minutes before that hour.
But there is method behind the apparent confusion and an enthusiasm that literally knows no bounds, chronological or otherwise.
So when the hour struck eleven, the Fighting 69th was already marching, a phalanx in camouflage fatigues striding to the strains of “Garryowen.”
Looking like he could, or should, be similarly attired, Ray Kelly waited in his top hat and tails. But no matter what the outfit or uniform, Kelly looks at home in the vanguard of a column.
And this was the ultimate column: Name: the New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Rank: number one in the world. Serial number: 249.
Runners and walkers are being asked to register and sign up sponsors for the four-mile event in Central Park on April 10. The race starts at 9.30 A.M.
“The story of the January 12 earthquake that hit the country has been fading from the headlines, but the needs on the ground remain enormous. The scale and complexity of the problems are overwhelming,” said Siobhan Walsh, Concern’s Executive Director.
“Seeing the chaos in one of the city’s many camps after a night of heavy rain was a hard, cold recognition of what a long road these people have ahead of them,” said Walsh, who just returned from spending several days in Port-au-Prince.
“Amidst all the tragedy,” she said, “what gives the local community and Concern staff hope are the Child Friendly Spaces we are setting up in the camps and in the slums. They provide a haven for children-they are the only places where I heard singing and laughter.”
Concern has opened three Child Friendly Spaces so far, and more are planned.
Concern has been active in Haiti since 1994 and has a current staff of almost 250, mostly Haitian nationals. Its emergency efforts focus on water and sanitation, health care-with special attention for malnourished children under five-shelter AND camp management, cash distributions and cash-for-work programs.
Full details on the fun run at www.concernusa.org.
“It certainly is a very good thing,” said the Rev. Colm Campbell, who has worked as a chaplain to older Irish emigrants in New York.
Visiting seniors can reserve free rail travel by going to www.discoverireland.com or by calling a local LoCall number to book a free Golden Trekker Ticket when in Ireland.
Irish Rail, which is also known as Iarnr
“The New York City Pension Funds have once again used the leverage of their share ownership to successfully spur change in how companies conduct business in Northern Ireland,” Liu said.
“There is no place for discrimination of any sort in the workplace. By adopting the MacBride Principles, Art Technology has affirmed its commitment to promoting fair work practices. I look forward to working closely with the trustees of the (pension) systems in advocating for more companies to adopt these very important principles,” Liu added.
The resolution was filed in December, 2009 by Liu’s predecessor, Comptroller William Thompson, on behalf of the pension funds, and was officially withdrawn by Comptroller Liu after he was notified that Art Technology had agreed to adopt MacBride. Collectively, the New York City Pension Funds hold 721,464 shares of Art Technology Group common stock, valued at $3,123,939 (as of March 9, 2010).
The resolution called on Art Technology to adopt the anti-discrimination guidelines named in 1984 after the late Irish statesman, Nobel laureate, and founder of Amnesty International, Sean MacBride, to serve as benchmarks for U.S. corporations operating in Northern Ireland.
Over the past 18 years, the New York City Pension Funds have successfully reached MacBride-based agreements with 93 companies with facilities in the North.
The New York City Pension Funds are comprised of the New York Employees’ Retirement System, New York City Teachers’ Retirement System, New York City Police Pension Fund, New York City Fire Department Pension Fund, and the New York City Board of Education Retirement System.
The Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister had a hugely significant vote in his political pocket, one that he was losing no opportunity to present as a major turning point in the drawn out peace process.
And in elevating the importance of the recent vote in favor of devolved policing and justice powers, McGuinness was also taking the opportunity to lavish praise on the role that Irish America has played in the political process that is underpinning the effort to secure a lasting peace.
Speaking to reporters in an interview in New York last Thursday, McGuinness said that there was a “very strong and very powerful” relationship between the Obama administration and political leaders in Northern Ireland.
In tandem with this, McGuinness asserted, the bonds between the Irish people and Irish America had never been stronger.
While there might be differing ideas on how best to proceed, he said he felt that “all the main sections of Irish America” were now united behind the peace process.
“The attention we get, not just on St. Patrick’s Day, but all year round, is testimony to those bonds,” McGuinness said.
The phone call made by former president Bush to (British Conservative Party leader) David Cameron, said McGuinness, had clearly showed that U.S. involvement was “not a charade or put-on” but a genuine and sincere commitment.
Both the Bush and Obama administrations had a lot to be proud of in the context of progress in recent years. America’s role, nevertheless, was changing, McGuinness opined.
This changing role had, he said, been best articulated by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in saying that the focus of U.S. involvement, “at our request,” was shifting from the political to the economic.
“Peter and I had a tremendous conversation with Hillary Clinton,” said McGuinness.
Part of that conversation had focused on an extension for the International Fund for Ireland – due to sunset this year.
“Everybody needs to benefit from peace,” said McGuinness, who expressed the view that assistance from the IFI was still needed “in areas of deprivation and inequality” in the North.
Secretary Clinton, he said, had been “very supportive” in responding to his and First Minister Robinson’s pitch for an extended IFI and had promised to “talk to people.”
McGuinness added that there was “not a blade of grass” between himself and Robinson with regard to the necessity for tackling social disadvantage.
McGuinness was also effusive in his praise for the U.S. economic envoy to the North, Declan Kelly, who had “hit the ground running” and was busy making the case that the economic downturn actually made Northern Ireland a more attractive place for U.S. investment because of its comparatively low cost base.
This case would be presented again in the now planned one-day investment conference to take place in Washington in the fall.
Disputing the view that his relationship with Peter Robinson was not as close as that he enjoyed with Ian Paisley, McGuinness said he had been “hugely concerned” when Robinson’s recent family difficulties had emerged into public view.
“I don’t like to see any family go through difficulties,” said McGuinness. He said that he had been concerned for Robinson as a human being, and not just over any impact those difficulties might have posed for the political process.
While defending Robinson, McGuinness was less than praising in his views when it came to other North party leaders, specifically Ulster Unionist Party leader, Sir Reg Empey, and the SDLP’s recently elected leader, Margaret Ritchie, both of whom are ministers in the Executive headed by himself and Robinson.
The institutions of government had never collapsed since Sinn F
And on a St. Patrick’s Day when Washington basked under a warm spring sun, Cowen also filled the main guest slot at the Speaker’s Luncheon hosted by Nancy Pelosi and at a reception sponsored by the Irish Embassy.
But it was Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, resplendent in a midnight blue gown and a matching pave diamond set of earrings and necklace, who offered a final coda to those here who worked for many years on the Northern Ireland peace process.
“Peace may be officially established by a vote or an agreement, but it is the real life experiences of people day after day and year after year that cement it,” Clinton told a packed audience at the American Ireland Fund dinner the night before St. Patrick’s Day.
Nodding his head in assent was her husband, former President Bill Clinton.
“Peace has come once and for all to Northern Ireland,” Secretary Clinton declared after receiving the Fund’s annual award.
Cowen, meanwhile, had spent time in Chicago and California before making it to Washington. His ubiquitous theme: there are flexible workers looking for employment back in Ireland.
Cowen clearly has forged a genuine bond with President Obama as the two men spent time comparing economic woes their own domestic political difficulties during a private bilateral in the Oval Office.
“Certainly, in Ireland’s context, the resurgent U.S. economy will be a strong indicator of our return to prosperity,” Cowen told the president as the two men sat before the cameras with a strong early spring sun shinning through the floor to ceiling windows.
“Will you be going to Ireland, Mr. President?” this reporter asked on the Echo’s behalf.
“I would love to be going to Ireland,” President Obama replied with a full smile.
Having the Healthcare reform vote looming, just about anywhere might have been appealing to the man.
“We picked a quiet week to visit,” noted the Taoiseach dryly.
Also in Washington, North ministers Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness were recognized at all the various events for finishing the work on policing and justice.
At the start of the day, Vice President Joseph Biden had the Taoiseach and Mrs. Mary Cowen, along with some of the who’s who in Irish American Washington, over for a St. Patrick’s Day breakfast at the vice presidential home on the grounds of the Naval Observatory.
Biden, an enthusiastic endorser of all things Irish, paused in the festivities to recognize the widow and daughter of the late Edward Kennedy in attendance.
“It’s kind of strange to be celebrating St. Patrick’s Day without the patron saint of all of us,” he said.
The tribute to Kennedy was echoed by the president that evening at the White House reception attended by a number of family members including his widow, Vicki.
Sadness of Kennedy’s absence part, after a decade of efforts to end sectarian strife in a corner of an island across the Atlantic, 2010 proved to be the St. Patrick’s Day where attendees could truly celebrate achievement and heritage while hoping for an economic blossoming to match the daffodil and crocus clusters that added bursts of color amid Washington’s still winterized, brown grass.