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Obama, Congress must act after BBC documentary

POSTED ON May 29th  - POSTED IN News, News & Views

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By Ray O’Hanlon
rohanlon@irishecho.com

The U.S. Congress and President Obama should join Amnesty International in demanding action in the aftermath of a BBC television documentary casting light on alleged state-linked murders during the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

“The United States must not be silent about this BBC exposure of forty years of British government state terrorism in Ireland, one of the longest terrorist campaigns in history,” said Fr. Sean McManus, president of the Washington, D.C-based Irish National Caucus.

Amnesty has called for an investigation after the BBC documentary program “Panorama” reported claims that agents inside loyalist and republican terror groups were able to kill and target victims with impunity during the Troubles.

Reported the Guardian newspaper after the documentary, entitled “Britain’s Secret Terror Deals,” was broadcast Thursday night: “Lady Nuala O’Loan, the former police ombudsman in the region, branded informers who were allowed to commit crimes including murder while in the pay of the British state as ‘serial killers.’”

The report added that Panorama had alleged that in many instances the security forces – RUC special branch, military intelligence and MI5 – helped cover up killings carried out by their agents.

Said O’Loan: “They were running informants and they were using them. Their argument was that by so doing they were saving lives, but hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people died because those people were not brought to justice and weren’t stopped in their tracks. Many of them were killers and some of them were serial killers.”

Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International’s program director for Northern Ireland, said: “The breadth and depth of collusion being alleged here is truly disturbing.

“Killing people targeted by the state, using intelligence provided by the state and shooting them with guns provided by the state – if all this is proven, we’re not talking about a security policy, we’re talking about a murder policy.

“There must now be a full, independent investigation into the scale of the policy where the police, army and MI5 worked with illegal paramilitary groups, resulting in the deaths of perhaps hundreds of people.”

The documentary, according to the Guardian, focused on links between the RUC, army and MI5 with the Ulster Defence Association and the Ulster Volunteer Force, but also explored allegations from the families of those killed by the IRA that, in some cases, those involved in murdering their loved ones were informers for the British state.

Meanwhile, the political crisis in the North prompted by the failure of the Welfare Bill to secure approval in the Northern Ireland Assembly has prompted the Irish and British governments to convene next week for what is being described as a “Review and Monitoring” meeting focused on the Stormont House Agreement.

Invitations have been extended by the governments to the leaders of the Northern Ireland Executive parties. The meeting will take place on Tuesday, June 2.

Ireland’s courage an example for the world

POSTED ON May 28th  - POSTED IN News, News & Views

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Vice President Biden

By Joe Biden
letters@irishecho.com

Last weekend more than 1.2 million Irish voters took a courageous stand for love and family when they overwhelmingly chose marriage equality.

They recognized the fundamental truth that every person is entitled to dignity and respect, and that there can be no justification for the denigration or persecution of anyone because of who they love or who they are.

I want to thank my good friends Taoiseach Enda Kenny, and Tanaiste Joan Burton, for their forceful leadership and eloquent advocacy on this critical issue.

I cannot improve upon the perfectly Irish statements they made following this historic vote, but I can echo the Taoiseach’s words when he described the Irish as “a generous, compassionate, bold and joyful people,” and that their choice will be “heard loudly across the living world as a sound of pioneering leadership.”

In 22 years, Ireland has gone from a nation where simply being LGBT was against the law. Now, it is a nation where the people resoundingly stand for equal rights.

And here in the United States, in just the past three years we’ve gone from six states recognizing marriage equality, to 37 states, comprising 224 million Americans. It’s about love. It’s about equality. It’s about dignity. It’s about our most cherished values. That’s what this is about – it’s all it’s ever been about.

There is still work to be done. There are still too many nations that deny people even the right to be safe from violence and severe discrimination, and too many states here in America that allow a person to be fired simply for being lesbian, gay, transgender or bisexual.

But the progress is undeniable. As advocates in Ireland, the United States and around the world have proven time and again, where there’s passion and commitment, there is opportunity.

I continue to believe that in every corner of the world, people want to do the right thing. You should never underestimate the epiphanies that follow when a culture makes a breakthrough of conscience.

But it takes leadership. It takes courageous individuals who are willing to step forward, to turn adversity into positive change, and to truly live the words of the great Irish poet William Butler Yeats: “Do not wait to strike till the iron is hot, but make it hot by striking.”

Sixth NY/NB conference will be biggest ever

POSTED ON May 27th  - POSTED IN News, News & Views

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Geraldine Hughes

By Irish Echo Staff
letters@irishecho.com

The biggest-ever delegation of political leaders from Belfast will attend next week’s New York-New Belfast conference and this just as Irish America refocuses on the prospects for the Northern Ireland peace process.

Members of the Stormont Assembly from five different parties will attend the sixth annual conference at Fordham University Lincoln Center campus on Thursday evening June 4, and on Friday June 5.

They will be joined by their counterparts from New York City Hall, Albany and Capitol Hill who have been staunch supporters of both the peace process and transatlantic partnerships.

Over one hundred delegates are already registered for the conference which will be opened on Thursday evening by Fordham President Fr. Joseph McShane and New York-based Belfast actress Geraldine Hughes.

Among opening night highlights will be a presentation on “Game of Thrones” which is filmed in Northern Ireland and is generating a mini-tourist industry of its own. Opening night will also feature a preview of the $54 million new Irish Arts Center in New York.

On Friday, the focus switches to business with New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli — who last year committed $15 million to a Belfast equity fund for start-ups — taking the podium at the U.S.-Ireland Top Companies luncheon.

Backed by premier business partner KPMG, the conference will close with a finale reception at the Midtown residence of Irish Consul General Barbara Jones.

For more details on the conference, or to register, go to www.aisling-events.com.

Kenny says Ireland has made history

POSTED ON May 26th  - POSTED IN News, News & Views

26/05/2015. Ban Ki-Moon.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny was able to brief Ban Ki-moon first hand on the result of the same sex marriage referendum. The United Nations Secretary General is in Ireland to receive the Tipperary Peace Award. Photocall

By Irish Echo Staff
letters@irishecho.com

Ireland made history.
That’s the view of Taoiseach Enda Kenny in the aftermath of last Friday’s referendum vote clearing the way for same sex marriage in the Republic.

Following the vote, the Oireachtas will now draw up legislation that will lead to a new amendment being inserted in the Constitution that recognizes and protects the institution of marriage without regard to sexual orientation.

Prior to the referendum, same sex civil unions were recognized in the Republic but not full marriage which, as an institution, is formally protected by the Constitution.

Once the Dáil and Seanad complete their part in the process, the enabling legislation will be signed by President Michael D. Higgins.

Mr. Kenny said he welcomed the result of the vote and he thanked all those who voted in the referendum.

“In the privacy of the ballot box they made a public statement,” he said

The ‘Yes’ vote had “disclosed who we are – a generous, compassionate, bold and joyful people. Yes to inclusion. Yes to generosity. Yes to love, and
Yes to equal marriage.”

Continued Mr. Kenny: “The people have answered the call of families and friends, of neighbors and new acquaintances.

“Of Jack O’Rourke and Edel Tierney, Finian Curran and Allie Kershaw and Jerry, Leo, Pat and so many others. It was their stories and their voices that inspired the hearts and minds of the Irish people.

“Our people have truly answered Ireland’s Call.

“The referendum was about inclusiveness and equality, about love and commitment being enshrined in the constitution. For a significant proportion who voted against the amendment it was because of genuinely held views which are to be respected.

“The decision makes every citizen equal and will strengthen the institution of marriage for all existing and future marriages. All people now have an equal future to look forward to.

“So – the people went to the polls. It passed. The answer is yes. Yes to their future. Yes to their love. Yes to their equal marriage.

That yes is heard loudly across the living world as a sound of pioneering leadership of our people and hopefully across the generations of gay men and women born as we say, before their time. The people have spoken. They have said yes. Ireland – thank you.”

Three months since ‘waiver’ letter

POSTED ON May 25th  - POSTED IN News, News & Views

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Ambassador Kevin O’Malley

By Ray O’Hanlon
rohanlon@irishecho.com

It is three months this week since a letter was sent by Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs to the U.S. Embassy in Dublin on the matter of visa waivers for the undocumented Irish.

Receipt of the letter was acknowledged by the embassy, and there was also an indication that a reply would be forthcoming.

In the intervening months there have been discussions on the waiver issue between senior officials and political figures in both the Irish and U.S. government.

Irish foreign affairs minister, Charlie Flanagan, and U.S. Ambassador to Ireland. Kevin O’Malley, are understood to have discussed waivers on at least two occasions in the last month or so.

And the plight of the undocumented Irish has come up for discussion in the Dáil in recent days.

In a Dáil questions and answers session, Fianna Fáil TD, Brendan Smith, asked Minister Flanagan “if he will provide an update on his efforts on behalf of undocumented Irish emigrants in the United States of America; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

A reply on behalf of the minister stated: “Achieving relief for undocumented Irish migrants in the U.S. is a priority for the Government in our contacts with the United States.

“Through our Embassy in Washington and our Consulates throughout the U.S., we continue to work closely with high level Government contacts and with many other individuals and groups across Irish America and beyond. All of this work is aimed at achieving relief for undocumented Irish migrants in the United States and improved channels for legal migration between Ireland and America.

“During his visit to the U.S. in March and in a series of high level contacts with the U.S. Administration, with Congress and at State level, the Taoiseach raised the issue of immigration reform and the plight of the undocumented Irish, stressing that almost every family in Ireland is related to or knows somebody who is caught up in this deeply distressing situation.

“During his meeting with President Obama on 17 March the Taoiseach commended him on his executive action announced late last year. This action is currently the subject of legal proceedings in the U.S. federal courts. The Taoiseach emphasized the need to allow the undocumented to come out of the shadows and be free to travel home for family events.

“He also highlighted the issue of those amongst the Irish undocumented who might be eligible for visas, but who would be required to return to Ireland for their issuance and hence would require waivers for their prior period of undocumented residence.

“The Taoiseach also pointed to the need for a legal pathway to allow for future Irish immigration to the U.S. for those who wish to make a contribution there, expressing the hope that a political way forward could be found on this issue which would encourage progress on a comprehensive legislative package by Congress.

President Obama spoke of his executive actions on immigration reform and acknowledged the contribution of Irish immigrants to America’s development. He considered that one of the great strengths of the United States had always been its willingness to welcome new immigrants to its shores.

“I also raised immigration reform issues, including the possibility of immigration reform legislation and the question of visa waivers, when I met with Vice President Biden in Boston on 30 March. I have also had the opportunity to discuss these matters on a number of occasions recently with U.S. Ambassador O’Malley.

“In addition, the Taoiseach discussed immigration issues with Congressman Paul Ryan during his recent visit to Dublin on 30 March. The Government as a whole, including my Department in Dublin and our Embassy in Washington, will continue to actively follow up on all of the issues raised in recent contacts with the US Administration, with Congress and with the U.S. Embassy in Ireland.”

The waiver issue focuses on permitting undocumented immigrants to travel back to Ireland without triggering the three or ten year bars that would prevent them from returning to the U.S.

As the Irish Echo previously reported, it is possible to obtain visa waivers permitting travel back to Ireland, and, critically, a return to the United States.

But Ireland trails a number of countries in terms of securing visa waivers according to figures compiled by the U.S. State Department.

A list of the top twelve waiver-winning countries for the past three fiscal years shows Ireland in eighth place in each of those years.

In fiscal 2014, Irish applicants were granted 118 waivers, though there were also 280 refusals.

Ireland trails Mexico which is in first place with 8398 waivers in fiscal ’14, though Mexican applicants were also refused 35244 times.
Interestingly, the second place in the waivers-gained table, at 2211, is occupied by “Great Britain and N. Ireland,” which would presumably mean that some Irish passport holders from the North secured waivers to travel.

The figures were obtained by the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform which has been campaigning for an end to the exclusion bars.

Also ahead of Ireland in the table, and beginning with third place, were Australia, Bermuda, Colombia, Norway and New Zealand. Immediately trailing Ireland in the list were Germany, the Dominican Republic, South Korea and Japan.

Waivers that remove the three and ten year bars are a matter for U.S. embassies and consulates, hence the importance of a response to the DFA letter from the U.S. Embassy in Dublin

In a “guidance” document for such diplomatic outposts, the State Department highlights the discretionary powers that embassies and consulates retain in the matter of waivers.

The document states in part: “ The Congress, in enacting INA 212(d)(3)(A), conferred upon the Secretary of State and consular officers the important discretionary function of recommending waivers for nonimmigrant visa (NIV) ineligibilities to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for approval.

“You should not hesitate to exercise this authority when the alien is entitled to seek waiver relief and is otherwise qualified for a visa, and when the granting of a waiver is not contrary to U.S. interests.

“The proper use of this authority should serve to further our immigration policy supporting freedom of travel, exchange of ideas, and humanitarian considerations, while at the same time ensuring, through appropriate screening, that our national welfare and security are being safeguarded.”

In cases where waivers are granted it is often the case that the applicant might be a parent of a U.S. citizen child or children, even though the applicant, he or she, might be undocumented.

Florida rescinds its MacBride Law

POSTED ON May 22nd  - POSTED IN News, News & Views

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The State Capitol building in Tallahassee

By Ray O’Hanlon
rohanlon@irishecho.com

As expected, Governor Rick Scott of Florida has signed a state budget bill that includes, in its multitudinous line items, a bill that rescinds the state’s MacBride Principles law.

The budget bill, which had to be passed in totality or not at all, was signed by Scott Thursday even as Ancient Order of Hibernians members in the state were inundating the governor’s office with calls.

The Florida MacBride law had been on the books since 1988, a year of particularly strong MacBride activity across the U.S.

And in another development, it has emerged that Nebraska, with little fanfare or fuss, rescinded its MacBride law in 2011.

The rescinding was presented in January of that year to legislators on the state’s Retirement Systems Committee as a money saving measure.

The amount saved was, according to a transcript of the committee’s deliberations obtained by the Echo, $8,500.

With Florida and Nebraska subtracted, the principles are today law in just 16 states, though they are also enshrined, since 1998, in U.S. federal law.

The Florida rescinding measure was an item in the overall budget bill generated by “Bill Analysis and Fiscal Impact Statement” drawn up for the Florida Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government.

The bill, SB 7024, was then introduced in the Senate back in early March by the Government Oversight and Accountability Committee. The impact statement cover page also refers to the State Board of Administration.

The language 7024 is dry and matter of fact; it give virtually no hint of a political hand behind it. The bill even lists the MacBride Principles.

Nevertheless, the rescinding of the Sunshine State’s MacBride code is prompting an immediate pushback from pro-MacBride groups such as the AOH and Irish National Caucus.

In a statement, Greg Seán Canning, AOH Florida State President, expressed “great disappointment” after receiving a call from the governor’s office “informing me that Governor Scott signed Senate Bill 7024 into law.”

Canning continued: “Despite the loss of our initiative to prevent this legislation from becoming law, there is some positive news. First, the Governor’s office stated that they were inundated with phone calls all day. They also stated that they never realized how organized the AOH was and the strength of our response.

“That being said, I would like to express my gratitude for the quick response from our Brothers, Sisters, and Friends both in and outside of Florida. We only learned about Bill 7024 a few days ago. This Bill was held up in committee throughout most of the legislative process. This kept it out of the public eye.

“When it was finally released, the Senate only had two days to consider it. Many knew nothing of its ramifications. They were informed that this legislation would help the economic situation in the North and that because of the progress being made within the 6 Counties, the Mac Bride Principles were no longer needed. By the time this Bill became public knowledge, it was too late.”

Canning followed up with a call to action stating in part: “First, while we would rather engage in a struggle that we would have a better chance of winning, we cannot always turn away from those that offer little to no chance of success.

“There are those situations (this being one of them) when we as an organization must take a stand based on ethics. If we must always base our actions on victories only, then we have failed as an organization with principals. There will be those times when we will have to engage an issue even if there is no chance of success. I believe that this situation needed a strong response from us.

“Going forward, we must all keep a close watch on future economic bills that might serve to alter the current economic situation in Northern Ireland. This bill may well pave the way for stronger legislation in Florida or similar legislation in other States.

“Make no mistake, the MacBride Principles are under attack. We must seriously think of how to inform legislators from other States on the ramifications of removing the protection of the MacBride Principles in Northern Ireland. Doing so can and will reopen the doors of economic discrimination against the Irish Catholic Nationalist population within the 6 Counties.”

Fr. Sean McManus, president of the Irish National Caucus and the most high profile MacBride campaigner in the U.S. since the 1980s, didn’t mince his words describing the Florida rescinding as “anti-Catholic, anti-Irish.

Said the Washington, D.C.-based McManus in a statement released before Governor Scott signed the budget bill: “If Florida’s governor were to sign a Senate Bill to repeal the MacBride Principles, it will be seen as anti-Catholic and anti-Irish — whatever the governor’s intentions.

“Why would the Florida Senate attempt to do this? Who manipulated them in such a way? The MacBride Principles are universally regarded as being the most important and effective campaign ever against anti-Catholic discrimination in Northern Ireland.

“The Governor would be profoundly ill-advised to be associated with such an awful act. The MacBride Principles were passed to ensure that Florida dollars would not subsidize anti-Catholic discrimination in Northern Ireland. Those who are opposed to these principles will logically and naturally be seen to be anti-Catholic and anti-Irish. That’s politics 101.”

Florida poised to rescind MacBride legislation

POSTED ON May 21st  - POSTED IN News, News & Views

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Governor Rick Scott

By Ray O’Hanlon
rohanlon@irishecho.com

Florida is this week poised to overturn MacBride Principles legislation that has been law in the Sunshine State since 1988.

A rescinding bill, approved by both houses of the state legislature, is reportedly on the desk of Governor Rick Scott.

Scott is expected to sign the measure.

The development is a bolt from the blue as MacBride Principles campaigners – and the many Irish Americans who supported state and municipal MacBride campaigns that began in the early 1980s – have long considered the campaign to be more or less completed.

18 states and over 40 municipalities in the U.S. have MacBride legislation in their legal codes.

Now Florida looks set to reduce the state tally by not just one, but given the state’s size and economic clout, by a big one.

“This bill steamrolled through. There was not one vote in opposition,” Sean Sidway, a leading member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians in Florida told the Irish Echo.

Hibernians in the state, alerted to the situation and aware that it is the eleventh hour, are now scrambling in an effort to persuade Governor Scott to stay his pen.

But time is not on their side.

Sidway, the chairman of the Florida AOH Freedom For All Ireland Committee, said the bill would completely undermine the 1988 legislation.

Sidway said that the AOH was attempting to identify the original sponsor of the bill and had reached out to some legislators.

A document seen by the Irish Echo indicates that the measure was preceded by a “Bill Analysis and Fiscal Impact Statement” drawn up for the Florida Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government.

The bill, SB 7024, was then introduced in the Senate back in early March by the Government Oversight and Accountability Committee. The impact statement cover page also refers to the State Board of Administration.

Initial responses from some of the legislators contacted about the bill, according to Sean Sidway, had shown that legislators were either uninterested or “totally uniformed” about the bill, its subject matter, and it likely effects.

“It seems that they (legislators) have been taken in by the optics and are unaware that things are not all fine in Northern Ireland. This bill seems to have been inspired more by a profit motive rather than a moral imperative,” Sidway said.

“That moral imperative is getting lost in the shuffle,” he said.

“It’s really alarming. They (legislators) don’t have a grasp of the situation. You don’t give back what you have fought to achieve,” Sidway said of the late hour AOH bid to stop, or delay, the bill signing.

The MacBride Principles are a set of guidelines aimed at promoting non-discriminatory hiring in Northern Ireland.

They came into being in the early 1980s when Catholics in Northern Ireland were two-and-half times more likely to be unemployed than Protestants.

However, the intent of the principles was to bring about fair employment opportunities for all, regardless of religious or political affiliation.

Signatory states and municipalities require that their pension funds invest only in companies in the North that comply with the principles.

Many U.S. companies operating in Northern Ireland have embraced the principles, named after the late Irish Nobel laureate, Sean MacBride.

The MacBride campaign is seen as having prompted successive British governments to enact their own fair employment legislation in the North.

21 is old enough for many things, but…

POSTED ON May 20th  - POSTED IN News, News & Views

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Is Áras an Uachtaráin ready for a 21-year-old occupant?

By Sarah Martin
letters@irishecho.com

Anyone who is abreast of Irish politics over the past few weeks knows the word “referendum” is on the tip of just about everyone’s tongue.

Everyone, however, might not be aware that the equal marriage referendum is not the only decision on the cards for Irish voters.

The Irish presidency is unlike that of many other nations, among them the U.S.: the president is not the leader of the government, but rather a constitutional head of state, a representative of the nation who is above party politics.

Irish presidents have been mostly men over the age of 50. Our pair of female presidents were only four years younger than this mark when they were elected.

The official age for a candidate to be eligible to stand for the Irish presidency is 35 (the same as in the U.S.) and the referendum in question would lower this age to 21.

The Journal.ie and The Irish Times have both published articles that speak in favor of a ‘Yes’ vote – the former going so far as to claim that those voting ‘No’ were ageist and clearly don’t value the youth of Ireland.

Both articles seem to favor the opinion that as we still elect our president, the lowering of the age merely gives voters more choice.

Of course this doesn’t force us to install Justin Beiber in Áras an Uachtaráin.

It is also key to note that there is still over a decade between our current age of eligibility and our youngest ever president, so the age limit has not dictated our vote thus far.

However, I found while quizzing my peers about this topic, all in the 20 -30 demographic, that they decidedly fell on the ‘No’ side of the argument. Their reasoning did not reveal a lack of faith in the youth of Ireland, or by extension a lack of faith in themselves, but rather an awareness that at 21 they are not prepared, or were not ready, to represent an entire nation.

One choice phrase that was repeated by all of those in the 25-30 demographic was that they felt a huge difference in themselves, and great growth between the ages of 21 and 25 often saying “I was a different person then.”

In essence, they felt that at 21 they were still forming into the adults they would become.

Even the most politically minded, well informed, eloquent 21-year-old is, from what I have seen in my friends and acquaintances, in constant flux. They are still finding themselves, and is the best place to do that as the figurehead leader of a republic?

That being said, when I continued to discuss the referendum with my fellow twenty-somethings we all agreed that Ireland could do with a change of image.

So what could a 21-year-old bring to the position that a 35-year-old could not? Why would they even want the job?

Well, first and foremost, your voice will be heard. You are effectively given an audience, and if you are charismatic, young, and vibrant, it is likely people will stay tuned in.

It’s the truth that we live in a world where a young, hopeful activist is especially appealing to the world’s media.

It is certain that some of the world’s young people who have garnered an audience through their own celebrity have been using their voice to try and bring about a change for the better. Most recently, Ireland’s own Saoirse Ronan has been a huge advocate of environmental issues within Ireland and Emma Watson’s “HeForShe” campaign, as well as her work as a UN ambassador, has garnered a huge amount of world attention and acclaim.

Their youth, passion and drive is apparent and it is certainly true that they are putting a voice to the issues of our generation, perhaps previously neglected by heads of state.

When asked what I would hope to achieve were I, at 21, elected President of Ireland, it was this newfound voice that I was most interested in: being able to shine a light on the injustices and hypocrisies, big and small, that take place in our country and many others. Even if I was unable to change them directly, I would be directly able to affect change.

My wish would also be to see gender inequality, and inequalities in general, become something disassociated with the Republic of Ireland; to put forth an image of Ireland that shows us as the free, modern, forward thinking country we are becoming.

Maybe that is naive, and sounds like wishful thinking, but I believe that this is the one thing youth exclusively brings to the table: the sincere belief that we can change the world, and a faith in humanity that is yet untainted.

Nevertheless, I guess my question to those so passionately in favor of lowering the age is why is the immediacy so important?

This hypothetical prodigious 21-year-old they speak of will hopefully still be in existence five or ten years down the road, and if they truly wanted to be the President of Ireland at 21, shouldn’t he/she be willing to wait for that honor?

At 21, if you are lucky enough, you have just graduated with your undergraduate degree. You may not have had to pay bills or rent yet, and have only participated in general elections for three years. You will not have even have voted for your predecessor.

Even if you were the most independent 21-year-old, up to this point your experience of life has been limited. Yes, you might have travelled, or been heavily involved with political organizations, but you can’t know much about the life of someone in a different demographic, not really, and certainly can’t speak for all of them.

Is it not fair, even right for a passionate candidate to take additional years to learn more about the world, live it through more than their own eyes, form their world views, and generally improve themselves?

Personally, I think the age of candidacy should be lowered, but not to 21. Any 30-year-old would still be considered youthful and vibrant, yet also have the experience of the world, and its people, that only comes from living through it.

So if I were in Ireland to vote on Friday, May 22nd, I would be voting ‘No’ to the referendum in question, not because I think a 21-year-old would make a bad president, but because I think he or she could wait nine years and be a better one.

Sarah Martin was 21 when she began writing this opinion piece last week. She was 22 when she finished it.

Tea and a handshake

POSTED ON May 19th  - POSTED IN News, News & Views

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Gerry Adams and Prince Charles exchange words and a handshake when they met at University College Galway today. Photocall.

By Ray O’Hanlon
rohanlon@irishecho.com

The process of reconciliation between Irish republicans and British royalty took another significant step forward today when Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams met with Prince Charles at University College Galway.

Charles and his wife Camilla were on the first day of a four day visit to Ireland.

The meeting was overloaded with symbolism as Charles will be visiting Mullaghmore, County Sligo tomorrow.
The village is where his great-uncle, Lord Mountbatten, was killed by an IRA bomb in 1979.

Charles had agreed to the meeting with Adams after it had been requested by the Sinn Féin leader, who was in Galway campaigning for a ‘Yes’ vote in Friday’s referendum in the Republic on mixed marriage.

During the brief meeting, Adams and the Prince of Wales smiled at one another and exchanged words.

Charles, holding a tea cup and saucer, cordially greeted Adams who leaned forward to speak close to the prince’s ear several times. Adams then introduced the prince to the man standing next to him, after which Charles continued moving along a line of people waiting to greet him.
Adams is the most senior republican to meet the prince. Martin McGuinness previously met, and shook hands, with Queen Elizabeth.

Said Adams in a statement about the meeting: “Today’s meeting with Prince Charles is a significant symbolic and practical step forward in the process of healing and reconciliation arising from the peace process.

“He and his family were hurt and suffered great loss by the actions of Irish republicans. I am very conscious of this and of the sad loss of the Maxwell family whose son Paul was killed at Mullaghmore, and I thank all involved, including Charles, for their forbearance.

Lord Mountbatten was murdered along with Lady Doreen Brabourne, the 83-year-old mother-in-law of his daughter, his 14-year-old grandson Nicholas Knatchbull, and 14-year-old Paul Maxwell, from Killynur, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh.

Rory tees up Irish Open

POSTED ON May 18th  - POSTED IN News, News & Views, Sport

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Rory McIlroy

By Ray O’Hanlon
rohanlon@irishecho.com

What do you get when you add the two numbered date, May 28-31, for the upcoming Irish Open golf championship at Royal County Down?

You get 59.

And that’s the score that Rory McIlroy was potentially looking at on the 16th hole in the final round of the Wells Fargo Championship yesterday in Quail Hollow, Charlotte, North Carolina.

In the end, McIlroy finished with two pars and carded a 61.

That said, the County Down native obliterated the tournament four round record while notching up his second win in three PGA tournaments.

McIlroy’s win was also a repeat in that the now 26-year-old’s first PGA victory was in the same tournament at the same venue in 2010.

The victory, then, was a sweet one for McIlroy, but across the Atlantic it was sweeter still as it perfectly tees up the Irish Open and Rory’s starring role in the tournament.

Quail Hollow was McIlroy’s last U.S. outing before flying east for a European tour swing that will be highlighted by the Dubai Duty Free Irish open hosted by, well, The Rory Foundation.

The Open is to be played at the fabled Royal County Down course and so will be as near a home game for McIlroy as his possible.

To say Rory wants to win his first Irish Open, and on this course, would be an understatement.

But McIlroy is also responsible for luring an array of players who will have ideas other than another Rory win.

They include in the in-form Rickie Fowler, Sergio Garcia, and Ernie Els, who has four golf Majors to match Rory’s total to date.

Also in the field will be the other members of the Irish Majors club, Graeme McDowell, Darren Clarke and Padraig Harrington, a winner once again on the PGA tour this year.

Others making tracks for the first tee at Royal County Down include defending champion Mikko Ilonen of Finland, and former world number one, Lee Westwood.

Suffice it to say, the Irish Open, which was teetering on the brink of oblivion just a few years ago, has come back with a roar.

And a Rory.

More at www.irishopen.ie.

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