The U.S. Role in the Irish Conflict



 By Michael Cummings

 Most Americans have become accustomed to thinking that Britain’s partition of Ireland in 1920 without benefit of one Irish vote and the conflict that ensues today is solely Britain’s doing. Not exactly. The British government could not have perfected partition without America’s help. Indifference and/or collaboration by the U. S. were key to Britain’s iron fisted defense garrison of Ulster. Her Majesty’s oppression is expected. Hatred of the Irish runs deep in the aristocracy actually running the North. Unforeseen was the blind eye turned toward Britain’s lawlessness, while our Presidents condemned the same actions in other countries.    

Ireland would today be the single country it was in 1918 if then U. S. Presidents were more committed to freedom and self-determination than to an isolationist foreign policy. It did not help that Woodrow Wilson, our most Anglophile President, sacrificed Ireland’s nascent democracy to appease Britain and gain their support for a League of Nations in Paris in 1919. His shortsightedness was followed by Nativist anti-Irish, anti-Catholic bigotry – inspired by British authors and journalists – which peaked during the 1928 U.S. Presidential Election between Al Smith and Herbert Hoover.  Freedom, human rights, and the rule of law, became watch words in foreign policy only after WW II but by then it was too late for Ireland. Britain had invented the myth of the “special relationship”. Truly it was a parasitic relationship. We rescued a crumbling British empire and ignore its colonial malevolence in six counties of Ireland. Go figure.  

In a 1956 speech in Chicago, Senator John F. Kennedy alluded to this quandary which no doubt unsettled British sycophants at Foggy Bottom.  “We hamper our efforts,” he stated,“and bring suspicions on our motives by being closely linked with Western imperialism… [and]… permitted the reputation of the United States as a friend of oppressed people to be hitched to the chariot of the conqueror, because we believed we could have it both ways.” 

Unfortunately it was St Patrick’s Day and not World Peace Day and it was delivered to the Irish Fellowship Club and not the Council of Foreign Relations. But in 48 words he explained why we danced with the devil and their one-party statelet to fight another one-party Communist state with even more heinous qualities. The Senator may not have been aware that Ireland was amenable to joining NATO in 1948 despite its neutrality policy but wished to assert in a non-violent way their sovereignty claim to the six counties of Ireland by signing a separate bi-lateral treaty with NATO. The Department of State and the National Security Council in NSC 83/1 ignored Ireland’s dispute and whined about the inconvenience of a separate treaty for Ireland.  So much for democracy and self-determination. It only got worse for Ireland and better for the British.  

Britain needed Catholics to remain second-class subjects of the crown. Thus internment in 1971, Bloody Sunday in 1972 and the Dublin/Monaghan bombings in 1974 came off with barely a whisper of concern from the our Department of State, the guardians of our virtue in the world, because they were too busy circulating British statements about Irish communists, using surrogates to battle language in political party platforms, opposing and burying President Carter’s statement of concern in Pittsburgh for human rights violations in the North and pushing for the approval of the sale of high powered weaponry to the Royal Ulster Constabulary which operated at the time like vigilante death squads than a modern law enforcement agency. 

As Anne Cadwallader dramatically makes clear in her book Lethal Allies, at the same time the U.K. was pressing Presidents Carter and Reagan for 3,000 Ruger pistols, RUC Chief Constable Kenneth Newman was covering up the collusion of the RUC with paramilitary gangs in Lurgan and the MI-5 linked Robin Jackson, aka The Jackal.  Jackson is estimated to have killed or collaborated in the killing of 100 innocent Catholics. This arrogant and insulting maneuver by the British shows how little regard they had for American officials and the American people.  

At that time, the Departments of State and Justice were falling over themselves to extradite or deport Irish refugees lucky enough to escape the killing fields of N.I. When federal magistrate Naomi Reice Buchwald ruled against State and the DOJ in 1981 in the Dessie Mackin case, there was a rush to Congress at Prime Minister Thatcher’s bidding to change the political offense exception clause in the extradition treaty.  All while the Prime Minister was running juryless Diplock courts, orchestrating the assassination of attorney Patrick Finucane,  the murders of five elected Sinn Fein Councilors and 11 Sinn Fein campaign workers.

When Egyptian civil rights activist Ayman Nour was arrested by the Egyptian military, Secretary of State Rice  canceled a scheduled visit to discuss foreign aid to protest the arrest. The murders of Attorneys Patrick Finucane and  Rosemary Nelson drew little notice and no protest by the U. S. Did no one at the Department of State read the report by the Joint Committee on Security and Cooperation in Europe (Helsinki Commission) and Nelson’s testimony to that Committee wherein she documented the pattern of death threats to her by the RUC in Portadown?  Such was the confidence in U. S. indifference that the mother of three was blown up by a car bomb less than a year after her appearance before that Committee.  

The Department of State prodded by the British, urged the self-proclaimed Anglophile Speaker of the House Tom Foley to rush a House hearing and testify that, despite all evidence to the contrary, the International Fund for Ireland was  not being used by the British as a political piggy bank.  Speaker Foley left more than a few mouths gaping when he proclaimed “…there is no such thing as British oppression.”  Orders of the British Empire (OBE) were likely flying off the shelves in Buckingham Palace.  

This was all B. C. Before Clinton.  By 1992, State and Justice were still combining to fight two applications for a visa  from Gerry Adams, an elected Member of Parliament, and published author who was President of a legal political party and was free to travel anywhere in Europe. The reason for this inexplicable and embarrassing action?  In a First Circuit Court of Appeals lawsuit filed by the Ancient Order of Hibernians, the Irish American Unity Conference, the Irish Northern Aid Committee and others, State and DOJ explained their actions by producing copies of articles from the Fleet Street rags which described Adams as akin to the Antichrist. Ms. Nancy Soderberg of Clinton’s  National Security Council gave no thought to the visa as a way of breaking a stalemate because State opposed it.  Did anyone at 2201 C Street NW know anything about Irish history other than what was spoon fed them by British spin masters?  Would anyone care to guess the lives that could have been saved had America lived up to its promise and given Adams a visa three years earlier? Had State grown tired of its role as Britain’s patsy? Hardly. 

Two  years ago Britain invoked a treaty to issue subpoenas on behalf of the PSNI for research records held in Irish archives at Boston College. The State Department failed to provide any evidence of their due diligence in  determining  if the request for the subpoenas were politically motivated or contrary to U.S. policy.  The subpoenas were but State supported the request anyway.   

Many Americans first earned of Britain’s Irish legacy as it was crushing the Ireland’s civil rights movement.  Is it too much to expect that the “best and brightest” of our diplomatic corps could be better informed?  In all of this the Irish government has been less than helpful, claiming they are caught between a rock and a hard place.  They could possibly fight the British on the merits but only if the U. S. stops being a  lackey for the British. Senator Kennedy in that 1956 speech indicated America can no longer look both ways “.. on the subject of colonialism which has caused our standing in the free world to be seriously questioned.  The time has come for a more forceful stand.”  Indeed.

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