Monday, January 19, 2009

First we take Manhattan


This blog comes to you from Penn Station New York. At least that’s where it starts. On the train. En route to Washington DC. And to the Inauguration of Barack Obama. I arrived here with our trusty leader, RG McAuley late yesterday. The city as usual was buzzing. And snowing. Go han-fhuar. Up early for a quick walk around the block and then to where I now sit, waiting for the three hour journey to commence. The train is a good way to travel. It also means we get to avoid the Hudson.

This morning’s newspapers are filled with news of the Obama family, tomorrow's inauguration and yesterday's big concert at the National Mall. Seisún iontach mór. There is a great photograph (above) in USA Today of Bruce Springsteen and Pete Seeger bopping it up with This Land is Your Land. Seeger, a special hero of mine, was there risking life and limb during the civil rights struggle and all the other great causes. He and thousands of other unsung, and unsinging, heroes and heroines helped make tomorrow.

Seventy years ago Marian Anderson, a famed American contralto, was banned from singing in the Daughters of the American Revolution’s Constitution Hall because of her skin colour. Instead she performed on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to an integrated audience of 75,000. She sang My Country, ‘Tis of Thee. Last night it was sung again. With gusto. Marian helped make tomorrow also.

Today is Martin Luther King Day. That gives tomorrow's event a special significance. He especially made tomorrow.

Barack Obama, I am sure, knows all this and more that I can only speculate about. Expectations here are very high about what he can deliver. I wish him well. Go n-éirí an t-ádh leis. I feel very privileged to be a guest at such a watershed moment in the history of the USA. The world needs change. Republican Ireland will look to the new administration to help encourage movement towards unity and end to the partition of our small island. Plenty of work for Irish America and our friends. The rest of the world including Ireland will look also for peace in the Middle East and Iraq. For even-handedness everywhere. For progress on the big environmental issues. So tomorrow marks the beginning of all that. We hope.

Next week this blog hopes to give you my sense of the Inaurguration. We are only in Washington for one night. Back on the plane tomorrow. Tuesday, to London and then Dublin for the First Dáil celebration on Wednesday. With a good tail wind we should make it.

The Irish government has its commemoration tomorrow. It almost forgot about it. Or at least by the time it remembered it was too late to book the Mansion House. Sinn Féin had got there first. Not that we would have denied the Oireachtas access. No indeed not, as this blog has noted before this. When we were approached we offered to share the space if the event was truly a national one with co-equal speaking rights. No thanks was the reply. Ach well.

But no matter. The focus on these commemorations and the Democratic Programme of the First Dáil should allow some discussion about what all this means for Ireland today. I think we need a national conversation on the core values that we want for our country and our communities.

That will also mean addressing the genuine fears and concerns of unionists. We need to look at ways in which the unionist people can find their place in a new Ireland.

There are many issues for republicans and unionists to talk about. Within the British system, unionists are fewer than two per cent of the population; they cannot hope to have any significant say in the direction of their own affairs. As 20 per cent of a new Ireland, unionists will be able to assert their full rights and entitlements and exercise real political power and influence.

So, our vision of this new Ireland must be a shared Ireland, an integrated Ireland, an Ireland of which unionists have equal ownership.

I believe there is growing support for Irish unity and there is a growing awareness of the importance of the all-Ireland economy to our nation’s future prosperity and growth.

The celebration of the First Dáil Éireann is one example of how we can begin to promote and explain the need for a fair, just and united Ireland. See you in the Mansion House. I hope. Bígí linn.


Helen said...

Unfortunately I think you are wrong about the influence the unionist community has within the British political system. Unionist politicians often have much greater influence on British govt than they 'should' given the size of the population they represent. Unionist MPs had huge influence on the Major govt and for example recently we know they must have got a good deal for voting infavour of 42 day detention without charge. The Assembly has a very high ratio of elected members to constitutents (16,000 constituents per MLA) compared to other elected bodies. I think most of the unionist community are aware of this so to suggest they'll have more political influence in united Ireland sadly isn't very persuasive.

Paul Doran said...

Hello Gerry.Paul doran Here
I am not so sure of the difference Obama will make,some of his side kicks he has working for him are of a dubious nature(Politcally speaking)Re Lawrence Summers,Paul Volcher .I was reading this yesterday
and when you read that,then when this can change I will believe.Don't get me wrong to see a Black President is Fantastic, but his Politics is what I am interested im, he didn't speak on Gaza.and you have not spoken out about The Child abuse is the Clogher diocese. Mr Magee should go and it needs someone to state this clearly.Anyway safe Journey a chara.

Anonymous said...

Hope you and Richard enjoy watching the inauguration in the freezing cold with your long johns on. Im going to watch it here in my nice warm house with cup of tea and no security looking over my shoulder ,Safe journey home.

Anonymous said...

Welcome to The U.S.A. Mr.President. Your attendence on this historacal day brings visions of another event that I hope to be a witness to sometime in the near future.The thought that anything is possible brings hope for a United Ireland and I know that under your leadership this is attainable. Your friend forever,E.F

Anonymous said...

Today is a Day of Hope with the inauguration of Barack Obama.
Hopefully, the Bush Crusades against Islam with its million dead innocent Muslim victims will come to a conclusion.
Hopefully, no more wars will be started because there was "not enough targets to bomb in Afghanistan," according to the former American Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld.
Hopefully, American Rambo/Torture Democracy will be finally buried.
Hopefully, American Casino Capitalism will be replaced with something more genuine and caring, and the multi-billionaires will become few in number.
Today is a rare Day of Hope.

Anonymous said...

Hi Gerry,

welcome to blog land,it seems your a dab hand at this,Im enjoying your posts.

On the subject of Barack Obama, being the day that's in it,We all agree that change is needed but Im pretty sure this change is not the change we think it is,I hope Im wrong,only time will tell I suppose.
When Barack's administration speaks of change in my opinion he is referring to Globalisation,the change Kissinger speaks of,they are one in the same.This change means the world order or New World Order as some have referred ie. George Bush Snr.,Tony Blair,Gordon Brown and Kissinger (all have used the phrase in Public speeches)the latter Kissinger as recent as Jan 12th..when he said "there is now a chance with Obama for a NWO" Im sure you've come across this topic in your travels.This order or Gloalisation,the new economic global system which they are pushing ie Bretton Woods will plunge the planet into total chaos leaving those in poverty to suffer for an eternity,it will bring more War upon the Muslim and Arab nations and may even create a new cold war or worse actual war with Russia.this I fear is the changes coming Obama speaks of,he reads from the script of Kissinger and Brzezinski and any study of those two charachters will lead you to this conclusion.I suppose if I have a question it is this,where do you stand on the whole issue of the Globalised world Order these leaders speak of?
Thanks for giving us a chance to voice our thoughts.

96cambridge said...

Cad foai Gazza. Bhí Obama an -cuinin.

What about Gazza Gerry? What did Obama say or do about the slaughter, nothing. He calims he needed to be quiet and let Bush deal with it, but was he quiet about Mumbai? Gerry, don't get too close to the U.S because you are a socaialist. Or are you?

Anonymous said...

From Barack Obama's inaugural speech;

"To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent,
know that you are on the wrong side of history.”

Perhaps the powers that be in Ireland should pay particular attention.

Daithí said...

Is doigh liom nach raibh do sheanchara Peter King leat.

Paul Doran said...


Paul Doran Here

I couldn't make it tonight for the Celebrations for the First Dáil, but happen to be reading Saothar 32 ( Issued by the Irsh Labour History Society)
and on page 51 to 62 it has a interesting document study called ' Agitate,Educate,Organise' The IRA's An tOglach, 1965-68 and then there was a great programme on RTE radio 1 called' How Macroom Remembers'which looked into the tumultous years between the First Dáil and the end of the Civil War.( you can get this on their podcast)

May I recommend these to your readers.and thoses interested in Republican history

Anonymous said...

Very interested to hear how the event in washington went.

Looking forward to reading your next blog Gerry.

Linda Coleman said...

Hi, Gerry, welcome to the blogosphere.

Glad you enjoyed a nice train ride instead of experiencing our "thrill ride on the Hudson." Hope you stayed warm enough at the inauguration. I watched from the comfort of my couch, and tried to guess where people in the crowd traveled from by how many layers of clothes they were wearing!

What the pundits have missed so far about this election is that Obama is the first real grassroots President; those of us who helped him win did so neighborhood-by-neighborhood, as he's said, and used the internet to organize.

After he was elected, we went to Transition Team meetings in our neighborhoods, on various topics of concern, then submitted reports directly to the team.

I hosted a meeting about universal health care, and incorporated some of your talkikng points, Gerry, about health care as a human right; my report went to Tom Daschle, the new Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Pundits are surprised that Obama says "we" so much, but that's who he's talking about, those of us in the neighborhoods who are going to help him do some of the hard work that lies ahead.

Thanks for continuing to come to the U.S., Gerry, and for putting your faith in us.

Linda Coleman said...

Since you're new to blogging, I thought I'd pass along this advice--save your work! I know so many people--including professional writers at the local newspaper!-- who have lost an hour's worth of writing because of a server crash, electrical surge, or whatever, so save everything! The best way is to compose your blog in an offline program like Notepad, then cut-and-paste it into your blog. Good luck out there in the blogosphere!

USA said...

I would use MS. Word for this purpose as it includes a spell check.

Anonymous said...

Obama said , that 'Americia defended the right for Isrealies to defend itself'. Do you think Gerry that he should also believe that Palestine also has the right to defend itself.
It was interesting to listen to a miliary spokes person from Isreal on Sky news the other day. She was able to turn every question around and blame Hammas. Reminded me of here a few years ago.

Linda Coleman said...

Good idea about MS Word, USA, I use that; another trick I've learned is to have at least two browsers installed, in case one of them doesn't connect or is too slow. I've been in a time-crunch many times before, trying to get work done, frustrated at the slow connection speed.

So I have Firefox and Safari ready to go, as well as Internet Explorer.

Robbi McMillen said...

I was happy Obama got elected, but would have prefered Clinton. Maybe she would have been fair in terms of the Middle East. Obama has only talked about Hamas and their smuggling of weapons and nothing about the genocide carried out on the Palestinian people. America is still influences by behind-the-scenes businessmen, Obama won't change that, he will only let on to.

Linda Coleman said...

You're right about "behind the scenes" influences, Robbie; the biggest one is the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC (The American Israel Public Affairs Committee).

The most frustrating thing facing progressives in the U.S. is groups like AIPAC driving our policies, both foreign and domestic.

Historically, we're so tied to Israel that it would be difficult for anyone we send to the Middle East to be perceived as an "honest broker." And the genocide in Gaza has been virtually blacked-out on our mainstream media over here; the only way to read about it is on the blogs and the international media websites.

Anonymous said...

well linda you just got a black man elected president of the most powerfull country in the world, reading your posts you know your work dosn't stop there as your involved in theese transitional meatings, may i suggest one more objective. set your sights on AIPAC. make america the country that the world knows it can be.

and gerry good blog, what do SF think of the advancements made by the left in latain america. the only party able to pull something similer of in ireland is SF in my opinion, iam not sure where you and your parties head is in relation to advanceing a socialist agenda. but SF have the intelligience the roots in the community, the concept of nationhood, the catholic/christian social concience the network across the country and a government giving away billions of euro's at a time when health and education etc services. personly think SF is the party best positioned to lead the fight back, hope there up to the task. all the best in the future with the blogs and everything else.

Linda Coleman said...

Thanks for the encouragement, Anonymous, and there is a movement in the U.S. to target AIPAC; there's a liberal Jewish group called J Street trying to take them on. Watch their video at YouTube...

...and google-search J Street to find out more.

The downside is that J Street also a billionaire-backed lobbying effort, but that's the way it has to be for now. The ultimate goal for progressives in the U.S. is to get all the big money out of politics, turning the political process into an actual "we, the people" democracy instead of a fight between our billionaires vs. theirs.

Robbi said...

Thanks Linda! I'll have a look!