- The Washington Times - Friday, August 25, 2000

Sinn Fein's great idea; British Empire's bad influence

Your Aug. 22 editorial "Sinn Fein's bad idea" ignores the all-Ireland nature of the Good Friday agreement. The agreement recognizes the people's right to unite Ireland and the legitimate wish for unification by the majority on the island.

Sinn Fein's request for northern representation in the Irish parliamentary system is a logical extension of the agreement, which acknowledges the legitimacy of seeking unification and the people's right to do so. To say that pursuing a political aim that is part of the Good Friday agreement would undermine the peace process is nonsense. One of the agreement's strengths is that it does not require any party to drop or deny its legitimate political goals.

On May 22, 1998, the Irish Constitution was amended to read: "It is the entitlement and birthright of every person born on the island of Ireland … to be part of the Irish nation."

It follows inexorably that such persons have a democratic right to full engagement in the political life of the nation. That does not exist at the moment, however.

People in the six counties of Northern Ireland cannot vote for the president of the Republic of Ireland; indeed, the incumbent president, who was born in the North, could run for the office but not vote for herself. They cannot cast a ballot on any proposed change in the Constitution that includes them. And they have not been awarded a representative or participatory presence in the Dail Eireann (Irish parliament), which frequently holds debates and makes decisions about their welfare. Some northern presence usually exists in the Seanad (senate), but that is at the discretion of the Taoiseach (prime minister) and not of right.

It is important to recognize the historical and contemporary sense of alienation that northern nationalists feel. From 1918 to 1922, they enjoyed the right to vote for deputies to the Dail, but with the onset of partition, for which not a single Irish vote was cast, they were disenfranchised in this regard. They were gerrymandered into electoral insignificance and political impotence in the six counties in particular and the United Kingdom in general.

Even if those who view an oath of allegiance to a foreign monarchy as repugnant (on both national and republican grounds) were to take it, they simply would attain a state of sublime irrelevance in London. Tens of thousands of voters in the north wish to be represented as Irish citizens in a national assembly, not portrayed as British subjects in an offshore House of Commons.

If Unionists and some others want to go to Westminster, why cannot republicans and other nationalists go to Leinster House?


Sinn Fein representative to the United States



In response to your Aug. 22 editorial, I would agree that Sinn Fein's idea may be bad, but only because its desire for representation in the Republic of Ireland is premature and may engender bad feelings within the overarching Good Friday peace accords.

I do not agree with the editorial's assertion, however, that this proposal is somehow analogous to American Democrats wanting representation in both the United States and Canada because Republicans have representation in both the Texas state legislature and the U.S. Congress. That analogy is riddled with holes.

Canada has never been part of the United States in the 224 years since the Founders produced the Declaration of Independence; frankly, we have little shared history except for a few ill-founded expeditions to seize Canada from Britain in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.

The 79 years of British rule over Northern Ireland, however, which the editorial accuses Sinn Fein of pretending not to exist, is nothing more than a vestige of England's criminal dabbling in foreign affairs. The British Empire drew arbitrary boundaries in Africa from the late 1800s through 1945, and then again throughout the Middle East following World War I (not to mention the empire's other gifts to the world: the India, Pakistan and Bangladesh morass and the Israel-Palestinian impasse). Likewise, the British employed political expediency in 1921 to divide Ireland, which (unlike Canada and the U.S.) shares a lengthy history as one nation.

My prediction is that the current state of affairs, the division of the island into Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, will ultimately die of its own bigoted weight.

With increased economic prosperity, Irish Catholics and Protestants eventually will realize that they are one people and one nation, and that they do not require the tutelage of their neighbor, Britain.

Whether that future entity is called the Republic of Ireland or simply Ireland, it is bound to happen.



Column's 'global' omission ignores G-8 health plans

In "Downloading Common Sense" (Commentary, Aug. 21), two Heritage Foundation fellows attack global bureaucrats at the recent Group of Eight meeting in Japan. The big story coming out of the meeting was that the major Western nations are launching a campaign to get the rest of the world wired. According to the writers, the G-8 ignores the millions who suffer from malnutrition, hunger and potentially fatal diseases such as malaria.

The truth is that the news media got it wrong. They exaggerated G-8 statements on the global digital divide and mostly ignored bold commitments that were made to reduce diseases. The G-8 announced targets to cut tuberculosis deaths in half in the next decade, reduce disease due to malaria by half and cut new HIV/AIDS infections among young people by 25 percent. These infectious diseases together kill about 5 million people a year in poor countries and incapacitate tens of millions more.

The Japanese government has pledged to extend some $3 billion for five years to fund programs against infectious diseases, especially TB, AIDS and malaria. The European Union also is expected to present a substantial aid package against these three main killer diseases. The U.S. Congress is working on a 2001 foreign aid spending bill that could include as much as $100 million to fight TB globally.

Let us give credit to the G-8, and especially to Congress, for making commitments to fight killer diseases and acting to provide the needed resources.



Maryland pelican colony inhabits small island

Thank you for the excellent story on the pelicans ("Ringleader banded first: Remaining pelicans easy to grab," Aug. 22) and their nesting site on an isle near Maryland's Bloodsworth Island. Your information, however, is not entirely correct.

As Dave Brinker, the Department of Natural Resources ecologist, well knows, the northernmost nesting site of the brown pelican actually is on a tiny island a spoil island just below South Point in Worcester County. Specifically, it is located in the body of water between Assateague Island and the mainland and for many years has been the site of a large colony of the pelicans. The colony was studied extensively by Mr. Brinker's department; the birds were banded and spray-painted a vivid crimson for later identification. Geographically, this tiny island lies north of the latitude of Bloodsworth Island.

I have visited this island many times to observe and photograph the nesting sites and chicks as well as other birds nesting there. Interestingly, it is shared by herons, egrets and the glossy ibis, which have formed raucous but well-established nesting sites because of the island's proximity to the Atlantic Ocean and its plentiful supply of menhaden. I documented and reported this information after the toxic levels of DDT in the soil and water had abated, a change that allowed pelican eggs to hatch, thus swelling the birds' population. This, in turn, caused the young pelicans to migrate north from their traditional nesting grounds in the south.

My report was noted in the New York Times and corroborated by George Watson, a noted ornithologist and former chief of ornithology at the Smithsonian Institution, and W.E. Garrett, former editor of National Geographic magazine. As a result of my report, National Geographic sent a reporter to this isle (as well as Bloodsworth) for a short piece.

Thank you for allowing me to clarify a small discrepancy in an otherwise excellent article.



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