Meitheamh 26th 09
POLITICAL FOOTBALLS AND PEACE PROCESSES.
This blog comes to you from San Francisco. I have long given up the effort to persuade others that globe trotting is an enjoyable business. It is interesting. There is no doubt about that. But my jet lag has jet lag. That’s because we passed through two time zones – Richard says three – to get here. Or maybe four, he adds.
I offered him a herbal sleeping tablet to ease the pain.
‘No’ he said ‘I don’t take sleeping tablets they make me too drowsy’.
But anyway we are in San Francisco for the west coast United Ireland Forum which will star Fionnuala Flannigan, Bobby Ballagh, and Professor Ruan O’Donnell as well as hundreds of west coast activists, including John Burton, Chair of the Democratic Party in California who will moderate the event.
The feedback from the New York Forum has been very positive. At least here in the USA. In Ireland it led to predictable attacks from unionists and the SDLP, as well as some negative commentary in the Dublin print media.
Junior Minister Martin Mansergh joined in this. He said that we couldn’t afford a United Ireland at this time. The reality is that Ireland cannot afford Dr. Mansergh’s government. But his remarks are an interesting insight into the feeling of the Irish establishment.
The fact is that under the Good Friday Agreement but particularly the Irish constitution the Irish government has an imperative to pursue Irish unity. There used to be a lot of talk about constitutional nationalism – where’s their strategy, their programme, to end partition?
Saturday also sees Antrim playing Cavan in the semi final of the Ulster Football Championship. This blog hopes to find some place to watch the game. It’s being played at 7pm Irish time which means 11am on Saturday morning, San Francisco time. I really hope that Antrim wins. The problem is I haven’t missed a game in ages but the win against Donegal was achieved in my absence. Could this be the secret of our recent success? Tomorrow will tell the tale.
If it does, does that also mean I shouldn’t go to hurling games either, Sambo?
At any rate tá suil agam go mbeidh bua againn. Aontroim abú.
Regular readers will recall the Sinn Féin delegation visit to Israel, the Gaza Strip and the west Bank in April. As promised at that time I have now published a report of that visit. It will be distributed to governments, political leaders, NGOs and others.
During our four days in the region we met a huge number of NGOs, Israeli and Palestinian human rights organisations, women’s groups, community organisations, bankers, the private sector, university heads, health staff, including trauma counsellors, and all of the main Palestinian political parties and a Kadima member of the Israeli Parliament and Palestinian refugees.
We were warmly received by everyone we met and they openly and honestly outlined their assessment of the current situation.
Many are hopeful that the new US Administration and the appointment of Senator George Mitchell will create a new opportunity to make progress toward a peace settlement.
It is obvious also that the political conditions for ongoing violence and poverty and instability still dominate the situation.
It was also clear from the scores of Israeli and Palestinian citizens that the Sinn Féin delegation met that there is a deep desire for peace.
The report records the delegations four days in the region, as well as the sights and scenes and the conversations.
Despite all of the difficulties I remain hopeful. I believe there is a widespread desire to achieve a peace settlement.
But it will require political leadership and a willingness to take risks.
The report sets out the steps which I feel can make a real difference in this situation.
The report is available now for a small fee to cover publication costs through Republican Publications www.sinnfeinbookshop.com