"Those who monitor the media waves on behalf of U.S. security have placed me on a black list of those who will be turned away at the Shannon Airport."
I had a great night in Shannon last week. It was for so long my home town when we lived in Maisie’s thatched cottage out the road, and it is a different town to most others in Ireland because of its hub status in both aviation and industry.
I have many friends and contacts there over the years. I still visit as often as I can to keep the links open and for the enjoyment of a bit of craic in The Honk pub, my local for the better part of 20 years. It is located right on the airport perimeter.
There are very witty Irishmen around Shannon. I enjoyed the quip early the other night from McGarrigle, initially a native of Down but now resident in Shannon for many years.
He has a unique edge to his Ulster tongue and keeps abreast of world affairs always. Do ye know what he had to say the other night about political events in America? He said it over the top of a pint of Guinness with his sharp accent. And it was surely original.
“Lads and lassies,” says he. “It’s all over now for sure. Hope has left the White House. It was always likely to happen with all the sackings but now, for sure, after just a year, Hope has gone altogether from the White House!”
A lot of the listeners did not realize that he was referring, at least in the narrow context, to the sudden departure from the White House of yet another close Trump aide, Hope Hicks.
Ye know the details of that yourselves by now. It was a sharp comment was it not?
It was hours later, and a lot of music, song and craic later, that I was rocked back on my heels by a gem of unwelcome information from another Shannon contact.
I said above that I have friends and contacts in the town and airport at many levels, priceless and prized sources for an old hack like myself.
All I can say here and now about my shock news is that this most reliable source, who just maybe has connections with the immigration base at Shannon, called me gently aside at the end of the night and asked me if I had any plans to cross the Atlantic for an American visit later this year.
I responded that I had an invitation to return to East Durham in the Catskills this summer from the mighty Reidin O’Flynn and was hugely looking forward to that. The Irish kind of fleadh in East Durham, which I have attended twice in recent years, is mighty altogether as many of you know.
So I told him that and was shocked and amazed when he sadly shook his head from left to right and advised me to forget about the Catskills altogether because, effectively, I have been banned from the United States for the foreseeable future.
My source told me that I had been writing what was termed fake news for the past year for the Irish Voice and its linked website IrishCentral (he named both of you too!), and I had been critical and dismissive of President Trump on many occasions.
The consequence of that, he said, is that those who monitor the media waves on behalf of U.S. security have placed me on a black list of those who will be turned away at the Shannon Airport gates if they try to enter your beloved country.
“Forget about the Catskills for now Cormac, and take a week in Dingle or Donegal instead and make the best of it,” is exactly what the man said.
I’ve known and trusted him for over 20 years so, frankly, I was so shocked by the news that I actually spilled my drink. I have slowly recovered since but am still shocked to the core.
So, Reidin and Donal and all my new friends in East Durham around the Shamrock Bar, it seems likely that that I will be unable to return this summer as planned.
I had been so looking forward to getting back for all the lively sessions with such as Jackie Daly and the amazing Michael O’Maille and Mary Bergin of the golden tin whistle, but it seems likely I will be barred at the airport gate.
Just to make my point when the time comes, I will present myself at U.S Immigration with my bag and will force whatever officers are on duty to bar me.
And, if and when that occurs, I will write a story about it for every outlet I serve, and be very angry indeed. The elemental truth is that I have never written (or tweeted!) fake news in my life.
Enough for now. I will keep ye posted about all developments.