President George W. Bush was forced to stay within 10 miles of the Shannon Airport under heavy security during his visit to Ireland last summer due to massive protests over the war in Iraq. That was one example used by Denis J. Halliday, an Irish national and former U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Iraq, to illustrate how outraged many Europeans are over U.S. foreign policy.
The notion of Ireland as a neutral observer of international affairs is outdated, said Halliday during a Jan. 26 presentation in the McNally Amphitheatre on the Lincoln Center campus. Economic growth—per capita income in Ireland is higher than in the United States—and closer ties with Europe through the European Union have created a more vocal and informed Irish citizenry.
“No longer are the Irish naively impressed by the Hollywood version of America. We know better,” said Halliday. “By threatening the United Nations, going around the Security Council and acting in breech of the U.N. Charter by invading Iraq … you cannot reasonably be surprised or outraged by the lack of Irish public support for military aggression.”
Halliday was the U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Iraq in 1998 and spent a total of 34 years working for the United Nations, an organization that has had a contentious relationship with the Bush administration over U.S. policy in Iraq. He was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2000 for his U.N. work and was awarded the Gandhi International Peace Prize in 2001. He is currently a member of the U.N. International Criminal Tribunal for Iraq.
“It’s important for the Fordham community to hear political policymakers that are informed not just by U.S. interests, but by European interests,” said Cassie Farrelly, administrative director of the Institute of Irish Studies at Fordham, which sponsored the event. “In [Halliday’s] case, U.S., European and Middle East perspectives.”
Halliday said that while politics will never supercede family and personal connections between Americans and the Irish, President George W. Bush’s re-election made it difficult for the Irish, and Europeans as a whole, to separate Washington policy from the American people.
“We have not given up on the United States. Our hope is that your military aggression will be … seen as a last resort,” said Halliday. “If the U.S. leads wisely, many will follow. Lead unwisely with military and economic aggression, and we will not follow.”