I see that Long Island Congressman Peter King has today announced his retirement from politics and the House of Representatives’ seat he held for Republicans (the American variety) for the best part of two decades.
Peter King, marches with the St Patrick’s Day parade in New York. Chosen as Grand Marshall in the 1980’s he made the IRA respectable in America and forged an unlikely political career for himself
Unlike most Irish-American aficionados of the Provos, Peter King did not come to the IRA via friends of Gerry Adams but via the family of Bobby Sands and from them to the IRA in south Armagh, where he became a pal to some of the most senior figures in the organisation. He knew the IRA long before he knew Sinn Fein.
Perhaps one day, that story can be told in full. But not yet.
It was only later that he was plugged into Adams & co. All of which made him an unusually interesting character and worth profiling.
Nearly fifteen years ago I wrote the following profile of a politician who was the Provisional IRA’s closest – and arguably most unlikely – American friends for The New York Sun, one of the city’s oldest newspapers. You can read what I wrote here: Rep. King and the IRA_ The End of an Extraordinary Affair copy
I was very sad to hear this week of the passing of Fr. Des Wilson, a man who I greatly respected, even in more recent years when it became more difficult for he and I to speak with the honesty and forthrightness which had characterized our relationship in earlier, simpler years.
Notwithstanding that I will always be grateful to Fr. Des for agreeing to baptize our son, Ciaran, even though he knew that neither of his parents believed in the religion which had guided his own life and led him, through devotion to great political principle, into sometimes bitter conflict with his superiors.
Our difficulty was that the mother of Ciaran’s birth-mom, Joan, was planning a lengthy trip from New York to look after Ciaran following his birth and being a traditional Catholic from Co. Mayo would expect her grandson to be inducted into the faith of her fathers.
So what were a couple of atheists to do? Fr. Des was the answer. He was the next best thing to, if not an atheist priest, then at least a slightly agnostic one. And he readily agreed. The brief ceremony was held down in the Markets and after the necessaries, we all retired to Ireton Street for a fine lunch, some intoxicating liquor and good craic. And a happy and contented mother-in-law.
Many thanks, Des. Sleep well.
….of the day he wondered, over a coffee in the Beeb’s canteen, whether I’d be interested in working at Ormeau Ave. I liked Seamus, he was always a decent spud to me and a good journalist. So I let him down gently and made a polite excuse. The truth was that me and the BBC would get along like a fart in a crowded tent. I knew that but it was a tribute to the man’s generosity of spirit that he thought it might be otherwise.