LETTER: Notes from Northern Ireland: Mind Your Own Business

Re: "Lessons in Peacemaking"

To the editors:

As a citizen of Northern Ireland, I was troubled by the assessment of Irish-American involvement in the peace process in Melinda Kuritzky and Brendan Rivage-Seul’s article “Lessons in Peacemaking” (Mar. 22, 2010). I agree that Northern Ireland can be an example to Israelis and Palestinians, but I also believe it should caution America and its powerful Diaspora groups.

The United States played a vital role in the Good Friday Agreement and the affection Irish Americans hold for their patrimony is gratifying. Nonetheless, it is not always healthy or helpful. For 40 years prior to 9/11, the most munificent global funder of terrorism was not Iran or Iraq but the U.S.  Irish-American organizations channeled millions of dollars into the Irish Republican Army, extremists responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocents—both Catholic and Protestant—as well as soldiers and police, in the north, south, and the British mainland. Lured by hand-me-down sentiment, Irish Americans unwittingly paid for every soldier killed, every “traitor” disappeared, every British city center bombed, and every brutal sectarian arms race. For too many victims’ families on our islands, the road to hell has been paved with American good intentions. Al-Qaeda has never been lauded at Buckingham Palace—the same cannot be said for the IRA and the White House.

Northern Ireland belongs to the people of all its communities and its destiny is theirs to decide. However kind your intentions, if you were born in Riverside, Calif., or Milton, Mass., you do not understand the intricacies of our situation. In truth, as the product of a mixed-faith family with victims on both sides, my own understanding is conflicted. The Irish, northern and southern, are proud of our diaspora: We value our connectivity and we like to see you visiting, but we don’t believe for a moment you know a hill of beans about the truth of our province or its problems.  And when you’ve tried to apply what you think you know, you’ve actually caused us more harm than good.  Sometimes in life, the best way of showing your affection is to keep your distance. It applies to Northern Ireland and Irish Americans, and it is a lesson self-proclaimed Jewish-American experts on the Middle East might note.



London, U.K.

Mar. 22, 2010

Felix L.J. Cook ’13 is a freshman living in Matthews Hall.