McCain's Irish Blunder
SENATOR John McCain made a very strange statement on Northern Ireland while being interviewed on the Brian Lehrer show for National Public Radio on Monday.
McCain was comparing conflict situations around the world and citing Northern Ireland as an example of how conflict situations could be helped by a combination of diplomatic, economic and sometimes military steps.
"If the British Army hadn't been in Northern Ireland there would never have been an environment that created a negotiating atmosphere," he stated.
Huh? The presence of the British Army in Northern Ireland was a catalyst for peace? Bloody Sunday, shoot to kill, MI5 dirty tricks - all helped bring about a peaceful resolution?
Certainly not. Indeed, it can be argued that the excesses of the British Army exacerbated greatly the conflict after they moved in.
Remember they were first greeted with cups of tea and sympathy by beleaguered Nationalists, but soon showed their colors with massacres like Bloody Sunday when 14 unarmed citizens were shot dead by the hated paratroop regiment.
To suggest that they were an evenhanded force as McCain does is just plain wrong and surprising from the Republican front-runner.
It is worrying that a man like McCain, who has a deep and abiding interest in Ireland, would make such a statement. Much of the higher echelon of the British military apparatus worked actively to prevent the peace process from happening. Their spy agencies in particular did their level best to prevent Sinn Fein getting into government.
For McCain to suggest otherwise is regrettable. His large Irish support base will hardly be best pleased.
McCain's Northern Views
McCAIN made other comments to Lehrer on Northern Ireland and its possible role as an example for other conflict resolution situations, including the Middle East.
Clearly the success of the Irish peace process has registered with him, but he seems unsure of how exactly it all came about.
A few years back McCain's pro-British tilt was very evident in his Northern Ireland comments. Since then he has appeared more evenhanded, but it is clear he still has a knowledge gap like most U.S. politicians.
He says that he was pleasantly surprised that Northern Ireland has been largely resolved. He admitted he "didn't think they would" resolve it.
He spoke of a trip to Belfast about 15 years ago when he said there was about "90% unemployment" in the city, a figure way off the mark even for the worst time in the North. He said it was now about 90% full employment, which is closer to the mark.
McCain's point was that political and economic factors combined to create the opportunity for peace which is fair enough, but to suggest that the British Army presence helped create the conditions for that peace is far off the mark.
McCain's Irish Roots
McCAIN is a huge admirer of the writings of Roddy Doyle, the chronicler of working class Dublin, and also of short story writer William Trevor.
His Irish ancestry traces to Antrim in Northern Ireland, where his mother's ancestor Hugh Young left to settle in Augusta County, Virginia.