Tag Archives: George H.W. Bush

George H.W. Bush, disengaged during Troubles, dies at 94

Irish political leaders are offering their condolences on the 30 November death of former U.S. President George Herbert Walker Bush.

“He will be remembered for the directness with which he expressed his policy principles and his efforts to achieve bipartisanship,” Irish President Michael D. Higgins said in a statement. “On behalf of the Irish people I offer our deepest sympathies to his family and to the people of the United States.”

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar tweeted:

Unlike U.S. presidents John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, or Barack Obama, Bush never had much of a relationship with the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland. Bush was Reagan’s vice president from 1980 to 1988, then won the office in 1988, spanning some of the bloodiest years of The Troubles.

Once Clinton defeated Bush in the 1992 U.S. election, he sought to “establish distance” from his predecessor’s approach to Ulster, according to John Dumbrell in “The United States and the Northern Irish Conflict 1969–94: from Indifference to Intervention,” a 1995 piece.

George H. W. Bush

“The Bush administration had followed a cautious, State Department line, strongly opposing the MacBride principles and interpreting the situation in the province as ‘unripe’ for mediation.” … Since the Carter presidency of the late 1970s,  “Washington has asserted the legitimacy of its interest in the province and-with the exception of the Bush years-presented something approaching a coherent, interventionist strategy.”

The Good Friday Agreement was reached during Clinton’s second term of office, 20 years ago this year. In 2010, introducing Clinton for a Atlantic Council Distinguished Leadership Award, Bush recognized his successor’s role in the Northern Ireland peace process.

U.S.-Irish relations at St. Patrick’s Day: 1916-2016 (P5)

This blog series focuses on U.S.- Irish relations at St. Patrick’s Day over the past 100 years. Since this is the centennial of the Easter Rising, I’m looking at 1916 and each 25 years afterward: 1941, 1966 and 1991. I’m also writing a post on St. Patrick’s Day 1976, the year of the American bicentennial.

Part 5: The Troubles & the Rising’s 75th anniversary

St. Patrick’s Day 1991 arrived some 20 years into the Troubles. The Irish Republic was taking a cautious approach to the upcoming 75th anniversary of the Rising.

“Officials say at a time when talks are soon to open over the future of Northern Ireland, they do not want to be seen celebrating an event that could be exploited by the outlawed Irish Republican Army as justification for its own violent campaign to oust British rule from the province,” The Washington Post reported after the holiday and before the anniversary.

A government spokesman said “the right note has to be struck-dignified and low-key, without in any way allowing it to be misrepresented.” But with the IRA planning their own parades and other events, critics charged the government’s inaction effectively allowed “radicals to hijack the Rising,” the Post said.

Irish stamp issued in 1991 for 75th anniversary of the Easter Rising.

Irish stamp issued in 1991 for 75th anniversary of the Easter Rising.

U.S. papers also published reviews of “Rebels: The Irish Rising of 1916,” by Peter De Rosa. Critics blasted the author’s blending of fact and fiction. Under the headline, “A Terrible Mess Was Born,” The New York Times said, “He has taken a magnificent if oft-told tale, and transformed it into a puppet show whose figures move jerkily across the stage and are made to speak in eerie and uncouth tongues.”

In Washington, President George H.W. Bush was winding down the Gulf War. He met with Irish Minister of Foreign Affairs Gerard Collins on March 13, 1991, a few days after issuing generic remarks for St. Patrick’s Day: “Serving in our Nation’s War for Independence and later helping to build its railroads, canals, and industries, Irish Americans have long demonstrated a capacity for hard work, as well as a strong penchant for full, spirited, and upright living.”

Bush flew to Hamilton, Bermuda, to confer with British Prime Minister John Major on St. Patrick’s Day, two days after Major met with the main Unionist parties in London. As Easter 1991 approached, the Good Friday Agreement was still seven years in the future.