We wound up Trimble, Chicago paper says

Posted By: March 29, 2013

Irish Echo. November 27 – December 3, 2002

By Ray O’Hanlon

Don’t blame Irish Americans. We did it. That was the message this week from the Chicago Sun Times in the wake of the uproar stemming from David Trimble’s remarks calling into question the legitimacy of the Irish state.

Trimble told the paper’s editorial board during his recent U.S. visit that “if you took away the Catholicism and anti-Britishness” the Irish Republic would have no reason to exist.

The UUP leader’s remarks were widely criticized and quickly dismissed by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.

Speaking in the Dáil, Ahern described Trimble’s comments as “a single transferable speech that [Trimble] tends to make at least twice a year, particularly when he is away from this island.”

In a reply to a question from Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny, Ahern indicated a belief that Trimble had been prompted to speak by Irish Americans. When Americans of a nationalist outlook express their views to him, “it acts as a wind-up,” Ahern told Kenny.

Ahern’s reply, delivered during Dáil question time, appeared to ruffle some Irish Americans even more than Trimble did, and they fell all over themselves taking credit/blame for the matter. In a letter to the Irish consul general in New York, Eugene Hutchinson, Friends of Sinn Féin President Larry Downes said he was “confused” as to why the taoiseach would seem to blame Irish nationalists in America and their views. Downes asked for clarification as to which Irish nationalists and which views the taoiseach might have been referring to.

Fr. Sean McManus of the Irish National Caucus chose to draw some humor from Ahern’s remarks. “Please do not make us responsible for David Trimble,” he said. “That is the unkindest cut of all and it is a responsibility not even the most generous, long-suffering Irish-American could possibly bear.” McManus said in a statement.

The Sun Times sought to shed some light on the matter. “It was no group of Irish nationalists that ‘wound up’ Trimble in Chicago the week before last,” the paper reported Monday.

“He sat for an hour and 15 minutes with six members of the Sun-Times editorial board — none of them Irish-American or Catholic — and a half-Irish reporter, who asked him, among other things, if he still stood by a controversial statement he made around St. Patrick’s Day that the Republic of Ireland was ‘that pathetic sectarian, mono-ethnic, mono-cultural state to our south,’ ” the report stated.

“He took back the word ‘pathetic, but stood by the others, then proceeded to dismiss two millennia of Irish culture with his comment that without Catholicism and anti-Britishness, ‘the [Irish] state doesn’t have a reason to exist.’ ”

The Sun Times editorial board is yet to pen an editorial based on its meeting with Trimble.

This story appeared in the issue of November 27-December 03, 2002