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Showing posts from August, 2020

The Friends of Irish Freedom in America

  The Friends of Irish Freedom             Gerry OShea According to the 1900 American census more than five million people identified themselves as born or first-generation Irish, a higher number than actually lived on the island of Ireland at that time.   Many of these immigrants joined their county associations in the cities where most of the Irish congregated, and they also affirmed their roots by supporting other fraternal organizations like the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH), the Gaelic League and the Gaelic Athletic Association. Clan na Gael - often referred to simply as the Clan - was an oath-bound society where members used passwords and special handshakes to protect their secrecy. They were an elite group with a relatively small membership. However, led by John Devoy, a crusty, determined Fenian,   they played a central role in the Irish community. They maintained a close partnership with the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), another Fenian offshoot headquartered in

American Foreign Policy and the Presidential Election

  American Foreign Policy and the Presidential Election         Gerry OShea Foreign policy rarely figures as an important factor for voters in peacetime American presidential elections. Polls suggest that this year is not an exception. The coronavirus and its impact on jobs and education tops the voters’ concerns followed by the serious agitation for change in the area of race relations, and, finally, more concern than ever about the worsening economic inequality in the country. These are the main issues that will drive turnout in November. America’s standing in the world is at its lowest in recent memory but that is not showing as a major worry in any of the polls. If Joseph Biden emerges victorious, he will inherit a dismal world order, with the standing of the United States in the doldrums, which will require major bridge-building strategies by a new administration. President Trump has little positive to show in international affairs as he completes his first term. He seems to

Polarization in America

  Polarization in American Life             Gerry OShea Calling someone a renaissance man is a big compliment. It conveys an image of a well-rounded intelligent individual with an eye for the needs of other people, especially the less-fortunate. The renaissance historical period lasted for most of two hundred years, stretching from the 14 th to the 16 th century. It was an epoch of change, a response to the passing feudal system with its acceptance of superstitious medieval beliefs that gave way to a more rational approach to life. It was the era when the promotion of human intelligence and inventiveness came to be greatly valued and resulted in the development of the printing press and of the mariner’s compass – and of gunpowder. The famous philosophers of ancient Greece, especially Aristotle and Plato, were studied in the renaissance schools in cities all over Italy and in particular in Florence. Teasing out the intricacies of rules for logical thinking led to a focus on the

Another "New Deal" in America in 2021?

  Another New Deal Coming?            Gerry OShea Margaret MacMillan, a distinguished Canadian historian and author, pointed out recently that a country emerging from a calamity situation is often ripe for sweeping political changes. The famous conservative economist, Milton Friedman, made the same point in a different way: “Only a crisis – actual or perceived – produces real change.”   There are two areas of contemporary American life which, taken together, certainly qualify as harbingers of major movements in American culture and politics: the corona virus epidemic and heightened awareness of racism after George Floyd’s torture and death.   We are not talking here about minor adjustments to the status quo, represented by the image of dealing with a bad storm blowing from the south; the far more appropriate metaphor is conveyed in the equivalent of a gathering tsunami that will engulf the whole country. The upcoming November elections may well usher in a new era. All recent po

Partition in Ireland

The Partition of Ireland                Gerry OShea The partition of Ireland which was finalized with the passage of the Government of Ireland Act (GIA) in December23rd, 1920, involved a momentous decision by the British Government. Dividing a small island into two political entities based on religious affiliation was bound to lead to major problems, especially when a clear majority of the people living on the island did not want the country broken up.   This division was a reluctant second-best option for the Unionist/Protestant community in Ulster and for Prime Minister, David Lloyd-George and his cabinet. The nationalist community of all political stripes in Ireland opposed any partition of the island. The Unionists’ first choice was a continuation of direct rule from Westminster, but that was no longer an option after the passage of the Third Home Rule Bill in 1912. Fearing that they would be forced to accept a Dublin parliament, they organized the Ulster Volunteers, a 100,00