night after work I made my way over to Harvard to
hear the tail end of a speech by British Home Secretary
David Blunkett. There was a decent turnout and when
he finished his speech at around 5:45 the moderator
said that he would take questions until about 6:15.
There were a total of five people (including myself)
who asked a question of the Secretary, which I thought
to be a surprisingly low figure since I was at that
intellectual Mecca that is Harvard. I was certain
that all of those upper class cerebral ivory tower
types would jump at the opportunity to go head-to-head
with a British minister of state but evidently I was
mistaken. In any case, I gathered up my republican
courage, asked Bobby Sands to bless my words and said,
proposed new US-UK Extradition Treaty co-authored
by yourself and US Attorney General John Ashcroft
has been widely denounced by the Irish American
community with support and backing from the American
Civil Liberties Union. There seem to be legitimate
fears that this treaty will be used as a pretext
for targeting Irish American activists, in particular
those who oppose the 1998 Stormont Agreement. United
States constitutional safeguards that protect lawful
political speech and activism, especially dissent,
seem to become toothless if this treaty is ratified.
My question then sir is: How does this square with
the protection of human, civil and constitutional
rights, especially as concerns Irish Americans involved
in the struggle against the British presence in
the occupied six northeastern counties of Ireland
- a presence long maintained by way of terrorism
and shear force of arms."
expected, the Minister spoke about protecting due
process and judicial review and protecting dissent.
He said, and I paraphrase, "[I would hate to
see] the Irish community in Boston...get themselves
into a stew...over a threat that does not exist."
One of the two moderators seemed completely unaware
of the proposed treaty and asked me what this treaty
would do if ratified. I felt like saying, "Are
you kidding me? This is Harvard. If anything, I thought
that you people would lecture me on the specifics
of this treaty." In any case, I briefly outlined
the points as described by Attorney Francis Boyle
in his analysis of the proposed treaty. Again, the
Minister wholly dismissed my concerns.
I was leaving a solidly built WASPy man put his arm
across my chest and said something to the effect of,
"make way." Evidently, I had aimlessly wandered
into the extraction route of the Minister and so I
stopped and watched as they all piled into a series
of black SUVs with tinted windows and with two Cambridge
cop cruisers as an escort departed for Lord knows
that was my night but I think it went alright. I made
the Minister uncomfortable. Hopefully, I sparked some
curiosity in those young impressionable Harvard minds.
I think Bobby would have smiled. As today is his birthday
I hope he enjoyed my present. As Patsy O'Hara said,
"Let the fight go on."
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