U.S. comments cause anger, bafflement

President George Bush’s chief strategist, Karl Rove, has invoked the wrath of Irish America by comparing the IRA to al-Qaeda.

During an interview with Associated Press about the war on international terrorism, Mr Rove said: “This is going to be more like the conflict in Northern Ireland, where the Brits fought terrorism, and there’s no sort of peace accord with al-Qaeda saying, ‘we surrender’.”

Fr. Sean McManus of the Irish National Caucus said the comments were a sign of the “anti-Irish Catholic elements in the Republican Party”.

“While there has always been many fine leaders in the GOP (Republican Party) with excellent records on Irish affairs, there has also been - as a matter of historical fact - a strong anti-Irish Catholic element, the ‘no Pope here’, crowd,” he said.

“President Bush must immediately repudiate Rove’s anti-Irish Catholic bigotry.”

UUP leader Mr David Trimble, who is attending the Republican National Convention in New York, said he was confused by the comment.

“I’m not altogether clear about what exactly he’s getting at,” he said. “Al-Qaeda is quite a different terrorist organisation to those in Northern Ireland,” he told the Washington Post.

A spokesman for Democratic presidential contender, John Kerry, rebuked Rove for the analogy.

“Karl Rove’s comments to AP today suggest there was no peace accord between the British and the IRA. We’d like to inform Mr. Rove that in April 1998, the Good Friday Agreement, negotiated by Senator George Mitchell, with the tireless assistance of President Clinton, was in fact a peace accord. Unfortunately these comments are very unhelpful to the current peace process and come on the very day critical talks designed to lead to the restoration of the Northern Ireland Assembly and a devolved government are commencing. I guess we now know why the president has failed to engage in the peace process for the last four years.”


Meanwhile, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Terry McAuliffe, has called the U.S. Republican Party’s treatment of Irish issues “smoke and mirrors and no substance”.

Mr McAuliffe said: “A comparison of the 2004 and 2000 Republican platforms shows that George Bush has walked away from his commitments to Irish-Americans and the Northern Ireland peace process. In 2000, the Republicans promised a review of the deportation issue, but deportations continue regularly and there is no evidence that a review has been conducted.

“Now they are reaffirming America’s commitment to the Good Friday Agreement, but fail to acknowledge that since George Bush became president no progress on this issue has been made.”

During the Clinton years former IRA Volunteers living as immigrants in the US were not deported, but this policy has changed under the Bush administration.

The following is the US Republican Platform Statement on Ireland:

Republicans recognize and hail President Bush’s use of the prestige and influence of the United States to support the efforts of leaders in Ireland and the United Kingdom and the many other people of goodwill who are working to achieve a lasting and peaceful settlement in Northern Ireland. We endorse President Bush,s personal reaffirmation of America,s commitment to the Good Friday Agreement and to its full and complete implementation, as expressed during his visit to Northern Ireland in April 2003. We applaud the President’s appointment of a Special Envoy for Northern Ireland, who is participating in the peace process and supporting efforts of Ireland and the United Kingdom to restore the democratic process in Northern Ireland. We share the President,s commitment that America’s support for this vital work will continue.

Republicans support America’s commitment to Northern Ireland,s economic development, including our nation’s contributions to the International Fund for Ireland and private U.S. investment in the North, with care to ensure fair employment and better opportunities for all. Though the burdens of history weigh heavily upon that land, we cheer its people for taking the lead in building for themselves and for their children a future of peace and understanding.

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