Mock Outrage at Joke

THE outrage expressed by the Ancient Order of Hibernians and other Irish organizations about John McCain's silly joke about two Irish drunks, which he made before his comments in Scranton last week, seems over the top.

Sure the joke was offensive, if you thought he stated it with any malice whatsoever, but McCain has been telling this joke for decades, often to Irish audiences such as were present in Scranton.

McCain is intensely proud of his own Scots Irish heritage, and he has an affinity for the Irish that is unmistakable soon as you meet him.

That does not mean he has no issues. His failure to support the first Gerry Adams U.S. visa is just one, but telling an Irish joke hardly qualifies him for hate status.

It seems an overreaction, not to mention, judging by letters to this paper, a lot of mock outrage from Obama supporters eager to capitalize on the joke.

We need to be able to laugh at ourselves a little too and not have Taliban type rules and regulations about when jokes can be told about us.

The AOH did genuinely good work a few years ago tackling the St. Patrick's Day card industry for their wholesale stereotyping of drunken Irish in the run up to St. Patrick's Day.

McCain's icebreaker joke hardly fits in that category. A little Irish humor now and then can get the party going, which is definitely what McCain intended to do, and nothing else, in Scranton.

Palin at Irish Pub

While McCain was debating Barack Obama in Mississippi, Governor Sarah Palin was whooping it up at the Irish Pub in Walnut Street in downtown Philadelphia.

It was just the latest example of how the McCain campaign has cleverly picked Irish spots to showcase their candidates for the Irish American vote in Pennsylvania.

Palin, dressed casually in a red top and shirt, arrived at the location before the debate and met with key supporters, including many leading Irish American supporters, of McCain in the Philadelphia area.

The Obama camp continues to play catch-up on the Irish issue. To date neither Joe Biden nor Obama himself have made any appearances in Irish venues or before Irish audiences.

Now there are rumors of an October Irish Presidential Forum appearance by Obama, around the time of the Al Smith dinner in New York which both presidential candidates will attend. Let's see how they pan out.

No Catholics Need Apply

BRITISH Prime Minister Gordon Brown took a brave step in Britain last week by trying to remove the greatest anti-Catholic legislation still on the books in any western democracy.

He has drawn up plans to end the 300-year ban on Catholics ascending to the British crown, thereby making it possible for Prince William's first born to become king or queen if they converted to Catholicism, as he also intends to reform the rule that male heirs are first in line for the crown.

The 1688 Bill of Rights, the Act of Settlement in 1701 and Act of Union in 1707 were drawn up specifically to ban Catholics or their spouses from the succession and provided for only the Protestant succession.

Under current law Catholics or those who marry them, or children born to them even out of wedlock, are not in the line of succession.

Amazingly, the current law also requires the new king or queen to make a statement before parliament rejecting Catholicism.

Brown is showing considerably more political courage on this than his predecessor Tony Blair, who converted to Catholicism after leaving office but never challenged the anti-Catholic provision in his tenure as leader.

Geoffrey Robertson, the constitutional lawyer who has led the fight to change the law, pronounced himself very happy with the Brown initiative.

"The Act of Settlement determined that the crown shall descend only on Protestant heads and that anyone 'who holds communion with the Church of Rome or marries a Papist' - not to mention a Muslim, Hindu, Jew or Rastafarian - is excluded by force of law.

"In order to hold the office of head of state you must be white Anglo-German Protestant - a descendant of Princess Sophia of Hanover - down the male line on the feudal principle of primogeniture. This is in blatant contravention of the Sex Discrimination Act and the Human Rights Act," Robinson told The Guardian newspaper.

In recent years the Earl of St. Andrews and Prince Michael of Kent lost the right to the throne by marrying Catholics.

In 2008 it was announced that Peter Phillips, the son of the Queen Elizabeth's daughter Princess Anne, would marry his partner, Autumn Kelly, a Catholic who quickly changed her religion in order to keep Phillips' place in line for the throne.

Strange Scene for DUP

IT was a strange scene at the Co-operation Ireland USA dinner last week in New York when Jeffrey Donaldson from the Democratic Unionist Party refused at the last minute to accept a joint peace award with Sinn Fein Minister Gerry Kelly.

Apparently Donaldson was warned off any joint acceptance by party leader and North's First Minster Peter Robinson, who was reacting to criticism from his own right wing about the intended award.

In the event both men attended the dinner but there was no joint presentation. It is a sad reflection on the nature of Robinson's leadership that he cannot make any gestures across the aisle.