Thursday, March 05, 2015

The Bonds That Remain Unbroken

From the perilous days of failed uprisings in 1798 and 1803, through the famine era and on into the years of struggle, the Irish have left their home and gone to America to make a fresh start and find the prosperity that was denied them.

We're talking of a time both long ago and not so long ago, as recently as the 1950s and 1960s when people left in droves. There was nothing much for anyone beyond poverty and repression, and so the people boarded planes or boats. Bound for America, the land of hope.

They left physically, but emotionally it seems as if the Irish never really left at all.

That fact played out in Chicago in 1889 when the Irish-Americans set up secret societies that were intended to funnel money to the land of their ancestors' birth. It played out in violence and murder, charges of espionage and infiltration, a scenario that frightened the staid Protestant leaders who were distrustful of Catholics to begin with.

The descendants of Ireland's diaspora continue to funnel money to Ireland. More specifically, Irish-American largesse fills the coffers of the political organization that continues to promote Irish freedom and the restoration of Northern Ireland to the republic that was born from the ashes of 1916's uprising.
Gerry Adams and the power of friends

Sinn Fein's very own Gerry Adams makes an annual sojourn to America every year around St. Patrick's Day, when everyone is Irish in so far as the drinking goes. He comes hat in hand, asking for donations. Just like those who came before him, he turns to those who were raised on tales of hardship and discrimination at the hands of the British overlord. Campaigns to bring about change cost money. And Mr. Adams has been very successful in raising a big pot of money to finance the work of Sinn Fein.

Martin Sheen and Anjelica Huston have ties to Ireland, and they have donated. Businessmen like Donald Keough have given money when Gerry Adams came calling. Friends of Sinn Fein host fundraising dinners to make it even easier to submit a generous sum.

It is not a case of contributing to some charitable cause. Everyone knows what Sinn Fein is about, what they have been about since the days of The Troubles.

Those who support Sinn Fein in Ireland tend to be closer to the bottom rungs of the economic ladder. The organization's socialist message resonates with them, but the poor can't help you much when it's time to pay for election posters and campaign advertising and office rent.

Over the course of the past twenty years, Sinn Fein has raised $12 million from Americans of Irish descent. The donors include people in the trades, as well as those in the professions. What unites them is the same sense of outrage that saw Chicago's Irish-American factions organize secret societies like the United Irishmen. Back then, it was all about raising money to pay for an armed rebellion. These days, it's all about raising money to pay for a peaceful upending of a treaty that was signed in 1922, ceding control of six Irish counties to Great Britain.

Why is the fundraising so successful? Sure the Irish have long memories and carry grudges. For centuries.

No comments: