Why Was Mackin Arrested?
SO what was the Sean Mackin arrest in Belfast last week about? There are as many theories as facts out there, and the speculation will continue for some time.
Senior Sinn Fein sources believe it was a deliberate attempt to undermine Sinn Feinís fundraising ability in the U.S. Mackin is a leading figure in Friends of Sinn Fein, though he does not have check signing ability, as one report had it.
The success of Friends of Sinn Fein in the U.S. has been a constant thorn for elements in the British government who believe that the party should not be allowed to raise funds outside of Ireland.
The fact that a London Sunday Times article was headlined ďSenior Sinn Fein Fundraiser Quizzed in 1983 KillingĒ is an example, party sources say, of an attempt to hit at Sinn Fein in the U.S. and damage their credibility over here.
By blackening Mackin, this theory goes, they were also blackening Friends of Sinn Fein in America and making it harder for them to raise funds.
If you donít like that theory you can pick from at least two others. The first is that it was a rogue element close to the Special Branch in the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) that wanted to show up PSNI leader Hugh Orde, who they believe has got too comfortable with Irish America in recent times.
Under this theory, Ordeís recent pledge to draw a line under the past and create a new reality on the ground for his force in Northern Ireland, especially in Nationalist areas, would have been severely undermined.
Orde is the first Northern Ireland police chief to ever get respect in Irish America, and the move against Mackin will have severely dented his reputation over here.
The last theory is that it was a senior cop with a grudge against Mackin who conducted the arrest. It is clear now that Mackin has been under surveillance during his trips home, and that someone was just waiting for the opportunity to have a go at him.
If that is the case the person seriously underestimated the clout that Mackin has in the U.S. The fact that he was so quickly released is testament to that.
But what about some poor guy who does not have Mackinís connections? The entire episode is a warning to many Northern Irish living in the U.S., many of whom have paramilitary records.
The message is be careful when you go home, because there are people who may still be out to get you. Perhaps that was part of the deliberate message of the Mackin arrest too.
Engel a Big Winner
ONE of the big winners out of the Mackin story is Bronx congressman Eliot Engel, whose seat is under pressure from a well-funded Irish American this year.
Sources say that Engel was galvanized into action by the Mackin incident and spent almost a full day and night on the phone to the State Department and other U.S. agencies complaining about the arrest.
He certainly played a role in having the issue resolved so quickly, and no doubt will be glad to talk about that in the upcoming campaign.
Mackinís Wife Honored
TALK about perfect timing. This weekend the Antrim Society in New York will be honoring Philomena Mackin, Seanís wife, at their annual dinner.
Philomena, a doughty fighter in her own right who won political asylum before her husband did, is no shrinking violet when it comes to speaking out.
Doubtless she will address the first few horrifying hours after her husband was snatched off the street when the family did not know if he had been taken by a Loyalist hit squad or the police Ė and the police were refusing to confirm or deny that they had him.
One can only imagine what the family went through, and their relief when the news finally came that Sean was safe, even if he was in custody. For the Mackin family, however, the nightmare was only beginning, but happily it had a positive outcome.
UN to Screen Irish Film
SECRETARY General of the UN Kofi Annan will host a special screening of a half-hour documentary on the children of Northern Ireland at the Dag Hammarskjold auditorium in the UN complex on Thursday, April 29.
The documentary is the brainchild of David McCourt, the business executive who heads up the RCN company and is a frequent visitor to Ireland. McCourt will also be the medalist at the American Irish Historical Society dinner this coming November.
Among those expected to attend the event are Meg Ryan and Ronan Tynan, who hosted the documentary, Harry Belafonte, Lawrence Fishburne, Mia Farrow, Sonia Braga, Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins.
All in all it promises to be quite a night, and makes clear that McCourt is becoming a major player in the Irish American scene.