Belfast mayor inspired by Cherry Hill

March 01, 1995|By Richard O'Mara | Richard O'Mara,Sun Staff Writer

Hugh Smyth woke up, looked out the window at the sprinkly, leaden skies yesterday and was comforted.

"When I saw the rain, it made me think of back home," said the visiting lord mayor of Belfast, Northern Ireland.

About six hours later, he found more comfort -- a possible strategy against a problem flowing from the cease-fire ordered by the Irish Republican Army in August.

"You've had people there involved in violence for 25 years," said the lord mayor, part of a delegation visiting Baltimore under the auspices of the U.S. Information Agency. "We have so many young people who haven't had to toe the line. Now, with the peace, we'll have to look to how we deal with them."

He thinks he might have found a solution in Cherry Hill, at CHOICE, a juvenile intervention program for delinquent youths.

The program, run by the University of Maryland Baltimore County, was established with a $50,000 grant from Del. Mark K. Shriver of Montgomery County, who happens to be the nephew of the U.S. ambassador to the Republic of Ireland, Jean Kennedy Smith.

"We can learn something from this," said the lord mayor. "In fact, I think I'll come back here again, and bring some of my people."

Mr. Smyth, 53, is traveling with the lord mayor of Dublin, John Gormley, 35.

The lord mayors have a kind of alliance: They aim to bring their long-estranged cities, set in separate countries, closer together.

They travel north and south into each other's territory every few months, send delegations, maintain frequent phone contact and encourage economic integration.

It hasn't always been that way, especially since 1985, when the Anglo-Irish Accord gave the Irish Republic a say in the affairs in Northern Ireland. That event produced a spasm of resistance among loyalists to the British crown, who were averse to interference from the republic. One of Mr. Smyth's predecessors strung a banner across the cupola of city hall reading: "Belfast Says No."

Now, it seems, Belfast says maybe. Mr. Smyth may not believe in Irish unity, but he does believe in cooperation. Mr. Gormley says the same.

They and officials from their cities are seeking ways to make the cities work better, which is why the lord mayors visited just plain Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke yesterday.

The three mayors, gathered in the ornate ceremonial room at City Hall, compared notes. Asked by Mr. Gormley about the unemployment level in Baltimore, Mr. Schmoke said 9 percent but explained that the problem was not so much a lack of jobs as a lack of workers with the skills needed for available jobs.

Francis J. Feely, Dublin's city manager, put unemployment in his city at about 17 percent. Dublin, he said, has "a surfeit of skilled workers but no jobs, so they leave."

Both Baltimore and Dublin have suffered from the shrinking of work forces by major employers -- Bethlehem Steel and others here, the Guinness Brewery there.

Later, Mr. Schmoke made the lord mayors honorary citizens of Baltimore. In return, he received a crystal goblet and bowl.

Earlier in the day, in Annapolis, the ceremonies were more elaborate. The lord mayors arrived amid celebrations marking the 300th anniversary of the state legislature's move from St. Mary's City to Annapolis. They were introduced to a joint legislative session shortly after a squad of beefy, bearded troopers from St. Mary's Militia strode into the House of Delegates chamber dressed in Colonial military costumes, carrying pikes and banging on a drum.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening made a speech, and, in tribute to the colonists' loyalty to the sovereign of the time, somebody sang "God Save the King."

Mr. Feely, of Catholic Dublin, said of the musical homage to the British monarch, "It's only a tune."

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