The barring of Tim Pat Coogan from coming to America for a book tour is disgraceful. He was refused a visa when he applied for one for his new book tour.
It is one in a clear pattern of a number of recent clueless decisions at the American Embassy in Dublin at the consular level that defy logic.
Ambassador Dan Rooney is clearly unable or unwilling to use his own discretion in some of these cases.
Ever since Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith played a stellar role in the Irish peace process by running her embassy with an iron fist, the functionaries have done their very best to keep incoming ambassadors powerless.
Never mind that Kennedy’s role stand suit like a beacon in the annals of American diplomacy in Ireland. An ambassador the bureaucrats cannot control is a dangerous person indeed it seems.
They did not succeed in the Bush era where excellent appointments ensured that many political issues were retained at the ambassadorial level.
That does not seem to be the case today. The Tim Pat Coogan case is a travesty but senior Irish government officials have told me it is by no means the only strange decision emanating from the embassy in recent times.
There seems to be a hardening attitude there to make it as difficult as possible for people to come to the U.S. from changes in how the J1 one year visa program is being administered to several high profile turndowns.
Blink and you might think you were back in the McCarthy era.
Put simply, there was no greater defender of America in Ireland for the past few decades than Tim Pat Coogan, especially at times when the anti-American sentiment there was at its highest.
His pro-American stances, both in his Irish Press newspaper and his writing about the power of the Irish Diaspora were major factors in keeping the American flag flying in Ireland.
He played a key behind the scenes role in the Irish peace process, especially in the early days when his contacts with Father Alex Reid, the unsung hero of the entire process, were vital.
He was deeply trusted by the Kennedy family and it was a famous meal in Dublin he had with Senator Edward Kennedy convincing him of the need for a visa for Gerry Adams that swayed the Massachusetts senator as well as helping bring President Clinton into the loop.
Visiting Irish Americans are always assured of a hearty welcome from Tim Pat and his backing for America and stance against the anti-American rhetoric so often spouted in Ireland made him this country’s prime defender.
Yet this is the 77-year-old man who the American Embassy just refused a visa to come to America too and humiliated him in the process?
Is there no institutional memory whatever at the embassy that can separate and remember a friend? No one who was able to realize the deep insult they had just inflicted on America’s greatest journalistic ally there?
Where was Ambassador Rooney in all this, as we know he was personally aware of the case?
There are so many questions but one undeniable fact. It will be a blot forever on the Dublin embassy that it humiliated one of its greatest supporters and Ireland’s leading historian by refusing a visa to launch his new book on the Irish famine.
Disgraceful is the word for it.