Irish Echo

Unionists lash Reiss over parades e-mail

By Anne Cadwallader

BELFAST -- The U.S. envoy to Ireland, Dr. Mitchell Reiss, can expect a hot reception from unionists next time he visits Northern Ireland after he was quoted calling some Orange parades "foolish" and "malicious."

Unionists reacted furiously to his comments, which were made in an e-mail to the spokesman for the Irish National Caucus, Fr. Sean McManus. The DUP MP for East Derry Gregory Campbell has said he was "disgusted" with the remarks and other unionists have followed suit.

Reiss will join Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and British Prime Minister Tony Blair for talks next month aimed at restoring devolved government.

All the political parties in the North have been sent a joint letter from Irish Foreign Minister Brian Cowen and British Secretary of State Paul Murphy with details on meetings set for the Sept. 16-18.

There will be smaller meetings held at Stormont in the days prior to the inclusive talks where details on how each party wants to proceed.

Just how Reiss will participate in the process is as yet unclear.

Meanwhile, the U.S. state department has confirmed there was correspondence between Reiss and McManus and does not deny the contents reported in a Belfast daily.

The Irish News quotes Reiss as writing: "Obviously, the idea is to provoke, intimidate and champion their 'superiority.' We've seen this behavior down through the ages, with many groups and many ethnicities. This is an old story that does not improve with the retelling."

McManus has denied breaching confidence in releasing the contents of the mail, but said they had not referred to all Orange parades, just those opposed by nationalist residents groups.

"He [Reiss] was not referring to the whole concept of parading. He was referring to those like Drumcree and Ardoyne and places like that where there are problems," he said.

Campbell, however, has called on Reiss to urgently clarify the U.S. government's position. "I am utterly disgusted", he said. "Dr Reiss's comments are symptomatic of a man who doesn't understand the parading issue at all."

The DUP MP said that Reiss's comments were "a thinly veiled attempt to lump the likes of the Orange Order in with some of the worst groups in human history.

"Will he now turn his mind to Ancient Order of Hibernians and nationalist parades that go through, or close to, Protestant areas and describe them in a similar way?" asked Campbell.

"Dr Reiss has sadly swallowed republican propaganda hook, line and sinker. These sort of remarks will only serve as succor to Sinn Fein/IRA and republican residents groups who simply cannot tolerate the thought of loyal order parades.

"Up to this point the Bush administration has adopted a more evenhanded approach to the situation than the previous Clinton administration. Are they now taking up what can only be viewed as a completely partisan and pro-republican standpoint?"

A U.S. State Department spokesperson said, "There was an off-the-record meeting with Irish-American representatives and Mitchell Reiss on July 21. Amongst the topics discussed were the recent contentious parades around July 12.

"The U.S. government is aware that there are around 3,200 parades in Northern Ireland per year, the vast majority of which are peaceful. We are also aware that this in part can be attributed to the efforts of responsible parade organizers and community representatives."

The spokesman had no immediate comment on Campbell's call for an apology but said that the comments had been taken "out of context."

The Irish News, which ran the story first, pointed out that the State Department had not clarified how the e-mail had been taken out of context as it had been published in its entirety.

McManus insisted that he had not broken any confidence between himself and Reiss. "There was nothing confidential about the correspondence," he said. "I do not have a confidential relationship with Dr. Reiss.

"He has never told me anything in confidence. My job is to lobby the U.S. government and Congress in an open, above-board manner. I make public my correspondence to them, and their correspondence to me.

"I am not a secret negotiator", he said, adding that he had never betrayed a confidence during his 30 years as a lobbyist. "At no time did I enter into confidential dealings with Dr. Reiss and he never asked me to keep anything in confidence," he said.

More support for Reiss came from the SDLP Assembly member John Dallat, who said Reiss's comments were "further proof . . . that the marching orders need to take note of and understand how they are perceived, not only by others here in Ireland, but by people across the world.

"Clearly some marching orders have made some progress but as a whole they should see these comments as a wake-up call to finally get their house in order and realize that their belligerence and intransigence only damages their own cause and no one else's," Dallat said.

(Susan Falvella-Garraty in Washington, D.C., contributed to this story.)

This story appeared in the issue of August 11-17, 2004

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?