The expressions of sympathy for the late John McCain by Irish leaders was impressive—even if they got his legacy on Northern Ireland all wrong.

There was widespread and deserved praise for his work on immigration but on Northern Ireland, the praise was misplaced.

Don’t take my word for it, here's what Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith said  in 2008 in The Irish Times: “If it had been left to John McCain, there would have been no Northern Ireland peace process and no peace today.”

McCain was a hardliner on opposing the peace process. Precisely why is unknown, perhaps he cherished his deep ties to the British rather than his Irish roots.

Kennedy Smith wrote in The Irish Times: “John McCain was among those who opposed Bill Clinton's peace efforts in Northern Ireland.”

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Jean Kennedy Smith.

Jean Kennedy Smith.

McCain followed Britain's lead and opposed giving Gerry Adams the visa. He described Clinton's involvement in Northern Ireland as "mistaken".

He dismissed those who urged Clinton to grant Gerry Adams the visa as "motivated by romantic, anachronistic notions of Irish republicanism."

She wrote: “McCain expressed concern about offending our British allies, and later said it was a "terrible mistake to give Gerry Adams the publicity that a visit to the White House gave him."

He publicly defied "anyone to show me how that contributed to peace in Ireland."

Of course, he could not have been more wrong.

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Gerry Adams. Image:

Gerry Adams. Image:

Then there was his notorious speech at the American Ireland Fund Gala in Washington in 2005.

The speech read like it came from Maggie Thatcher; nasty, mean-spirited, a complete lack of vision. Gerry Adams who had put his life on the line for peace was there and must dearly have felt like walking out.

McCain stated: “Sinn Féin is faced today with a historic choice. There has been endless debate about Sinn Féin and its ties to the Irish Republican Party. I say let’s end the debate, the charges and countercharges, and recognize what we have known for years – that there is simply no place in a democracy for a private army engaged in illegal activity.

“The IRA has long enjoyed the support, in Ireland as well as in my country, of people who might have regretted their tactics, but appreciated their service in the republican cause and their defense of Catholics persecuted in the North … no one can honestly claim today that the IRA is anything better than an organized crime syndicate that steals and murders to serve its members’ personal interests.

McCain was right about Irish immigration but wrong about Northern Ireland.

McCain was right about Irish immigration but wrong about Northern Ireland.

“There is nothing ‘republican’ about the Irish Republican Army. They are inarguably an impediment to peace, to freedom and to justice in Northern Ireland, and anyone, Irish or American or British who desires and works for the success of peace, freedom and justice.

“We need more people in the North to cross the line of intimidation and terror and criminality that the IRA has imposed on their countrymen and that their political allies have tolerated for too long.

“The elements of a just peace in Northern Ireland are attainable. But the IRA must disband, Sinn Féin must forswear ties to any paramilitary remnants, and the Democratic Unionist Party must show a real willingness to share power.”

The British must have been very pleased. John McCain simply got it wrong.

What do you think of John McCain's take on Northern Ireland, Sinn Féin and the IRA? Let us know in the comments section, below.