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Their Own Game

before the troubles began. A large part of America, and not just the
Irish-Americans, shared the Nationalist view that the British should
quit Northern Ireland and their oppressive rule, and that the two
halves of the island should be united once again into a single
From time to time, influential voices in the States had sought to
bring pressure on Westminster, and on Dublin, in an effort to bring
this about. It has to be said, too, that influential voices in the
States were not averse to putting pressure on McFosters from time to
time, either, and this visit was likely to be one of those occasions.
His briefing finally finished, Martin McFosters turned to pass through
the check-in desk. Clayton and his colleagues glanced briefly at one
another in acknowledgement that their role at the airport was over,
and made their separate ways towards the car park and their offices.
There were calls to be made, but on secure phones, not mobiles. They
were too easy to intercept.
McFosters passed through immigration, suffered the indignities of
baggage and personal security searches, and made his way to the first
class lounge. He was alone this time. It had been made clear to him
previously, in the nicest possible way, of course, that Stateside
fund-raising efforts were not designed to allow him and half a dozen
of his top people to swan around the world in luxury. So this time he
went alone. But he insisted on travelling first class, just the same.
He was, after all, President of Sinn Fein, and an elected member of
both the European and the British Parliaments. And he had previously
been invited across, not just to attend and speak at fund-raising
dinners, but also to meet senior senators from both houses, and even,
once, to meet the President of the United States himself. So first
class it was - both his own financial people and the generous American
donors had at least agreed that.
But he still didn’t like the Boeing 747 - not even the new, stretched
version. Comfortable perhaps, especially in the upper cabin, but the
food was predictable, the movies generally boring, and the whole
journey just that bit too long, what with the lengthy check-in
procedures and all. And there was a limit to how much free champagne
even he could sensibly consume.
He didn't really like flying at all, to be honest. He wished he could
persuade his people that he should travel via London for a change, but
he knew it wasn’t even worth thinking about, even though their coffers
were swollen with more cash than they would ever need, short of all-
out war. They wouldn’t even let him save time going by Concorde when
that was in service. But he couldn’t afford not to go when invited,
although he had to admit that the excitement of visiting America after
so many years of isolation had gone. This was the third time in as
many months that he'd made the dreary journey to update sympathetic
senators on the latest twists and turns of the British Government.
They were keen to know what progress was being made, and found it hard
to believe that, after all the apparently positive, if slow, movement
there had been through the peace process, things now appeared to be
stalled again.
For years, the President of Sinn Fein and his immediate lieutenants
had been isolated from mainstream politics, not least because of their