by Mary Fitzgerald
Mon, Oct 13, 2008
SUPPORTERS OF Barack Obama gathered in Dublin yesterday to attend the first fundraising event held in Ireland for the Democratic presidential candidate.
More than 100 US citizens attended the fundraiser which was hosted by Massachusetts native Moira Shipsey at her Dalkey home yesterday afternoon. Ms Shipsey is a refugee lawyer who is married to senior counsel Bill Shipsey.
Among the guests was novelist and filmmaker Rebecca Miller, who lives in Co Wicklow with her husband, actor Daniel Day-Lewis, and their two sons. Ms Miller said she had made her fourth donation to the Obama campaign yesterday but declined to say how much she had contributed.
With three weeks to go until election day, Ms Miller said she was feeling "hopeful but very nervous at the same time".
The US had been "hijacked" in the eight years since George W Bush was first elected, Ms Miller argued. "We need to get our country back and reclaim patriotism for ourselves," she said, and she would be "very sad and disappointed" if John McCain were to win on November 4th.
"McCain and Palin represent our more primitive self as a nation . . . one that is afraid of the future and afraid of change," she said. "We need to elect the man who is going to lead us forward instead."
Other guests included US-Ireland Alliance president Trina Vargo, who was attending in her capacity as adviser on Irish issues to Barack Obama, and former Progressive Democrats junior minister Liz O'Donnell.
US citizens at yesterday's gathering were asked for a minimum donation of €100. Under US electoral legislation the maximum allowable contribution per person is $2,300.
Ms Shipsey, who organised a similar event in 2004 to raise funds for John Kerry's unsuccessful bid for the presidency, said she was "cautiously optimistic" about Obama's chances following his recent move ahead in the polls.
"It's encouraging but there is no room for complacency. Twenty days is a long time in politics."
Emily Mark FitzGerald, a Los Angeles native who lectures in art at UCD, wore a green T-shirt with the slogan "Vote Irish, Vote O'Bama". "I've been donating to the campaign regularly," she said. "Today I donated €150 which brings the total amount I have contributed to around €400. Fundraising is still really important even at this stage."
The event was supported by the Irish chapter of Democrats Abroad. Its chair Kate Fitzgerald said the final fundraising push would be used to step up Obama's campaign in crucial swing states.
"It's important to make sure the message is out there in those states. We can never really get complacent," she added.
Liv Gibbons, a Dublin-based Democrats Abroad superdelegate, who attended the party's convention in Denver in August, agreed. "I'm relieved to see Obama is in front in some battleground states but he's not too comfortably ahead. A lot can happen in the next three weeks."
So far the Obama campaign has raised more than $468 million, about half of which has come from relatively small donations.
This article was published in The Irish Times on Monday, October 13, 2008.