Domestic considerations oblige me to make this posting short – and hopefully sweet, at least for some.
Who was Bill Flynn, the former CEO of the multi-billion dollar insurance giant, Mutual of America whose death at the age of 92 over the weekend, has been accompanied by panegyrics hailing his role as an Irish-American peacemaker?
Through his membership of the establishment-heavy National Committee on American Foreign Policy, Flynn persuaded the Clinton White House to grant a three-day visa for Gerry Adams in 1994 to visit New York, an event that angered the British and helped Adams persuade his grassroots that the Americans could be a Sinn Fein ally as the promised IRA ceasefire of that year became a reality.
So Flynn and his contacts were arguably vital to the Adams’ strategy, enabling the SF leader not just to influence the Oval Office but to reach into the wider Irish-American world beyond the Noraid bars of the Bronx.
Flynn first got interested in the Northern situation through a charity he helped fund in Ardoyne but he had roots in the place. His family came from Loughinisland and when the UVF slaughtered Catholics watching the World Cup at a local bar in June 1994 his interest sharpened.
But one aspect of Bill Flynn’s career has mostly escaped notice and that was his membership of the elite Sovereign Order of the Knights of Malta, usually known just as the Knights of Malta. (Yes, the same guys who drive ambulances in west Belfast)
Outside of America only aristocrats can rise to leadership positions in the Knights of Malta. In Britain, the Queen heads the order, even though elsewhere the Knights are overwhelmingly Catholic.
In America there is no hereditary aristocracy but there is a dollar aristocracy and an establishment aristocracy. And the leadership of the Knights of Malta in the US has over the years been peppered with leaders from America’s intelligence, financial, industrial and political worlds.
If you go to this link you can see the sorts who rise or have risen to the top of the Knights in America. People like these CIA luminaries: Bill Donovan, Bill Casey (a close friend of Flynn’s), William Colby, John McCone, Geo Bush Snr and George Tenet. Or J Edgar Hoover, FBI founder; Joe Kennedy Snr founder of the dynasty of the same name; William Randolph Hearst, war-monger extraordinaire and William Buckley, intellectual founder of the New Right. And so on.
I have often wondered if Bill Flynn ever introduced Gerry to this charmed and exclusive circle?