An Adams chronicle

Jr, Edward McGlynn Gaffney

OF SEVERAL HINDS Edward Gaffney, Jr. AN ADAMS CHRONICLE TALKING ABOUT NORTHERN IRELAND Last fall m these pages I suggested that the Supreme Court would not find it easy this term to...

...AN ADAMS CHRONICLE TALKING ABOUT NORTHERN IRELAND Last fall m these pages I suggested that the Supreme Court would not find it easy this term to dispose of the claim that the National Organization of Women had brought in the Scheidler case ("Anti-abortion Racketeers7" Novembers, 1993) The case involved the application of the federal antiracketeenng law to abortion protesters I was wrong The Court ruled promptly and unanimously that the rico statute does not require any showing of an economic motive behind acts that a rico plaintiff might complain about I suggested in that column "There is and there ought to be a lot of room m the law between activity that is unqualifiedly protected under the First Amendment and activity that is severely punished under a federal statute in which Congress took aim at organized crime " I don't exactly have to eat this sentence yet, because the Court put off until another day any question relating to the First Amendment, noting that this issue had not been raised properly in the Court of Appeals I can hardly wait until the Court gets such a case to resolve the matter in a tidy fashion Meantime, if you see any not-for-profit racketeers in your neighborhood, it may comfort you to know that you can turn them in at your local federal courthouse I take comfort from the characterization of a whole line of Supreme Court cases as "getting it wrong by making it look easy," which Justice Antonm Scalia once wrote when he was still a law professor at the University of Chicago Having failed as a prognosticator of Supreme Court cases, I turn to the easier tasks of predicting the future of Northern Ireland Last December the British government agreed to a Joint Declaration with the Irish government that offered a window of opportunity for change in "John 7 Bull's Other Island," as Shaw once described Ireland In the Downing Street Declaration, Prune Minister John Maj or and the Taoiseach, Albert Reynolds, reached a new level of accord Britain stated for the first time that it had no interest in keeping Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom, if a majority of the citizens in the North wished another form of government And Ireland said it would not force people in the North to become part of the Republic if they did not want that solution The primate of Ireland, Cardinal Cahal Daly, hailed the declaration as a "model of balance and fairness " Reynolds called it "the most important policy statement on Northern Ireland in the last seventy years " The commitments in the declaration require a lot more elaboration before "peace m our time" will break out in "that dear old Irish land across the sea " For that very reason, on February 1, the National Committee on American Foreign Policy sponsored a conference on Northern Ireland at the WaldorfAstoria Gerry Adams stole the spotlight in the media Assume thejunsdictional validity, if not the policy wisdom, of the partition of Ireland into two separate sovereignties That makes Adams a citizen of the United Kingdom, however he might wish things otherwise And in his own country he is banned from speaking publicly about issues of public concern because of the perceived connection between the political organization he heads, Sinn Fein, and the paramilitary organization, the Provisional IRA Indeed, until last January Mother England was even able to extend the force of this ban to our own country, which repeatedly refused Adams a visa to come here to speak about the future of his country When the Clinton administration momentarily relaxed this ban and granted Adams a visa for forty-eight hours to attend the New York event, it was a victory for the open discussion of ideas The very presence of Gerry Adams on American soil to give his version of the meaning of the declaration was enough to provoke an angry outburst from the Brits, who did not miss the opportunity to condemn Adams as a terrorist The irony of doing so in our nation's capital not only overlooked the tradition of free speech that is one of the most precious fruits of our separation from England two centuries ago It also occurred at the very place where Yasser Arafat recently extended his hand to Yitzhak Rabin, and at the very moment when Adams was acknowledging his duty to make peace with those who pulled the trigger to shoot him and to bomb his home, and when he was pledging Sinn Fein's "firm intention to see the gun removed permanently from Irish politics " What the media coverage of this event missed was the historic encounter between Gerry Adams and John Alderdice Adams needed no introduction to the New York Irish as the leader of Sinn Fein, but who is Alderdice7 A psychiatrist who is the son of a Presbyterian preacher, Aiderdice chairs the Alliance party, a small but radically different group of Unionists desiring both to remain within the United Kingdom and to find a way to live at peace with their neighbors In many ways Alderdice deserved a lot more credit for showing up at the New York conference, because he now has to answer to his party members for consorting publicly with Adams Alderdice gave a moving account of the dysfunctionality of the family that lives in the northern part of Ireland, and an eloquent plea for moving beyond these deep divisions to a saner, or at least a less insane, way of relating to one another The media also missed the thoughtful comments of John Hume, the leader of the Social Democratic and Labor party (SDLP), who has been at this task of reconciliation for two decades now It was he who broke the Adams taboo by opening discussions with him last year The Hume-Adams dialogue led in turn to a round of secret meetings between Adams and the highest level of the British government With the pubhe disclosure of the mere fact that any meeting had occurred, let alone that the meetings involved substantive discussion of alternative paths for the future of Northern Ireland, the British government first tried denial, and then it played the Orange card one more time Hume noted that the partition of Ireland did not cause the Irish problem, it only institutionalized it, and he challenged both Unionists and Nationalists alike to repudiate the violence that only makes the problem worse I have no prediction about the resolution of the so-called "Irish question" (which is no more a real question for the Irish than the "Jewish question" was a question for the Jews) It does, however, seem to me that the only way that there will be a just and lasting peace in this troubled region is for all of the parties to come together at a conference table—maybe in some remote village m northern Norway, rather than under the glare of television cameras in New York—at which all of the difficult issues are discussed freely and resolved thoughtfully One of the disappointments of the Waldorf conference is that neither James Molyneaux, chair of the Ulster Unionist party, nor the Reverend Ian Paisley, chair of the Democratic Unionist party, was willing to attend a conference where Mr Adams would be present Whether or not the present window of opportunity is seized by the disputing parties, or, indeed, whether or not the dream of peace with justice in Ireland becomes a reality in my lifetime, we can all be grateful to the sponsors of the historic Waldorf conference for moving the process at least one step further toward resolution ? 8...

Vol. 121 • April 1994 • No. 7

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