An Irish 'truth squad' in US

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Two emissaries to American public opinion, the mayors of Dublin and Belfast, arrived this week on the first stop in a tour designed to "issue a direct challenge" to the common view here of Ireland as a violent, unsafe land, Monitor correspondent Christopher Swan reports.

The mayors are also acting as supersalesmen for the Emerald Isle, extolling its beauty, grace, and investment potential. But they say peacemaking efforts between Ulster and Belfast -- such as visits by the mayors to each other's home cities and common economic enterprises --

The two men hotly disputed this view and blamed the American news media for perpetuating it. "Our emphasis is on the media here, not the politicians," said Dublin Mayor Fergus O'Brien. He added that, while politicians such as US Speaker of the House Thomas P. O'Neill are important in molding foreign policy, "it is the moral support terrorists feel they have from Americans, and the financial aid from here, we hope to change."

Recommended: Forget Irish cliches: How much do you really know about Ireland? Take our quiz.

Asked how this could help reunite a divided island, Belfast Mayor John Carson answered, "It's not our job to solve all the political problems. We are trying to build bridges to make it possible for people to live together. We just want people to stop being frightened off. We are trying to bring people together.

"And that, with all due respect, is what life is all about."

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