- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 24, 2006

McKenna’s future

After 10 months in Washington, Canadian Ambassador Frank McKenna could be returning home soon to lead the crippled Liberal Party, which fell from power in Monday’s parliamentary elections.

Mr. McKenna, a former Liberal premier of the province of New Brunswick, is one of the top candidates being mentioned in Canadian political circles to replace Paul Martin, who lost his prime ministerial post in the elections and stepped down from the party leadership.

Even before the vote, some observers were questioning whether Mr. McKenna, Canada’s first diplomatic political appointee to Washington, would retain his ambassadorship if the Liberal Party lost to the Conservatives, who ended 12 years of Liberal power by winning 124 seats in the House of Commons to the Liberals’ 103.

Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper reported yesterday that other candidates for the Liberal leadership post include Martin Cauchon, a former Cabinet minister; Michael Ignatieff, a former professor at Harvard University; John Manley, the former deputy prime minister; and members of Parliament Maurizio Bevilacqua, Scott Brison, Belinda Stronach and Joe Volpe.

Mr. McKenna, who arrived in Washington in March, was expected to help repair U.S.-Canadian relations that were strained under Jean Chretien, who preceded Mr. Martin as prime minister.

In many of his speeches, Mr. McKenna reminded audiences of the close ties between the United States and Canada, which have the largest trading relationship in the world.

However, his occasional candid comments drew criticism, especially when he called the U.S. government “dysfunctional” in a speech last year to the Empire Club of Canada.

He was explaining to the business executives the complexities of doing business with a Congress of 535 members and the legislative gridlock that persists so often in Washington.

Irish complaints

The leaders of the main Catholic political party in Northern Ireland are expected in Washington today to seek support from Democratic leaders in Congress and to defend illegal Irish aliens in the United States.

Mark Durkan, leader of the Social Democratic and Labor Party, and Alasdair McDonnell, his deputy, will hold meetings with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, and Mitchell Reiss, President Bush’s special envoy for Northern Ireland.

Before leaving for Washington yesterday, Mr. Durkan said his message is “simple.” He will seek congressional support for an end of London’s direct rule over Northern Ireland. Britain suspended the Northern Ireland Assembly in 2002 after employees of Sinn Fein, the political ally of the Irish Republican Army, were accused of espionage. Sinn Fein also was blamed for failing to cut its ties with the IRA.

“People in the United States agree with us that the time for posturing and grandstanding is over,” Mr. Durkan said. “They share our frustration that almost eight years after the Good Friday Agreement and so much positive work on both sides of the Atlantic, that political progress and the full implementation of the agreement have been stalled for so long.”

The agreement established the Northern Ireland Assembly.

In New York yesterday, Mr. McDonnell complained that U.S. immigration reforms threaten illegal Irish aliens, estimated in the thousands, with “deportation or even criminal proceedings.” He cited Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, as a champion of the Irish.

“With the likes of Ted Kennedy flying the Irish flag, I am hopeful that the American government will help the cause of the Irish,” he said.

Mr. Durkan and Mr. McDonnell will hold a 1 p.m. press conference tomorrow at the National Press Club.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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