Presidents, Politics, and Pints
A Letter from Ireland
Friday April 14th was a day to remember. Ireland hosted current and former US Presidents and Secretaries of State. As President Biden and Secretary Blinken were making their way to Mayo, Bill and Hilary Clinton were landing in Belfast.
Meanwhile, I was cutting work early and heading out for “lunch” with a visitor from the US. Don’t tell Mary Lou. My friend, while lacking a drop of Irish blood, has spent a lifetime in politics in the US and knows Irish Politics inside and out.
A visitor casts a new light on an old town. We stopped off in “the Gravediggers” for lunch. It was a recommendation from another US friend. I’d driven past the street every day heading into Dublin, but never took the detour. I’m glad we decided to start there.
So began a safari to find the best pint and pub in Dublin. We didn’t get far. It was great to revisit old haunts in good company. Pints were downed, stories told, and the world put to rights.
We were back in the house in time to watch Biden take the stage in Mayo to the sound of, “Shipping up to Boston” by the Dropkick Murphys.
Then it was back to business, attending the events at Queens University Belfast to mark the 25th Anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. There I met up with a wide range of Irish American friends who continue to promote the politics of peace.
The leadership of the LAOH attended. That had produced a booklet with Relatives for Justice on women's reflections on the peace process. Like the AOH, they put their money where their mouth is, dispersing grants to civic bodies to promote peace, justice, and unity.
I can’t think of another nationality in the US that gives so much time, resources, and support. The connection between Irish America and Ireland is one of kinship forged over generations. The relationship between Ireland and the US is special.
Margaret Thatcher would boast about the “special relationship” with the US. It was a convenient strategic alliance, Reagan would stroke Britain's ego while Britain would promote US interests in the EU. Brexit ended that alliance.
The Tory party and the press don’t understand the relationship between our two nations, long dismissing Ireland with an arrogance bourne out of colonialism. They think it is all naive sentimentality and Tammany Hall politics. With more than a whiff of British casual racism, it was an allegation directed at President Biden but not President Clinton.
President Biden is a proud Irish American, but no US president is naive and Tammany is long gone. Post Brexit, the strategic US alliance is now with the EU and not Britain. In a world of conflict, the Irish Peace process succeeds. It is an American foreign policy success. The relationship with Ireland endures.
Irish-America has been key. This is not an issue of romanticism. Sentimentality would not survive two days of Irish weather. Irish Americans are proud of their family histories and see the potential in Ireland. The identity straddles two nations and centuries.
It is living, breathing, and evolving. The Dropkick Murphys, the walk-on band of choice for President Biden, merge garage rock, punk, and Irish Balladry into something new. It is Irish-American and is rightly celebrated. It’s reach is beyond Irish America to embrace all in the US and beyond.
Have a great weekend,
Ciarán Quinn is the Sinn Féin Representative to North America. Each week he writes a letter from Ireland with news and analysis. It is featured in the weekly Friends of Sinn Féin USA Newsletter. Be sure you are subscribed to stay up to date.