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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

BARACK OBAMA ON IRISH-AMERICAN ISSUES


Irish-Americans, like all Americans, are struggling in the current economic downturn. As president, Barack Obama will provide urgently needed financial relief for working and middle class Americans. He will:

  • Enact an emergency economic plan to jumpstart the economy;
  • Provide a middle class tax cut of up to $1,000 for 95% of workers and their families;
  • Provide affordable, quality, portable health care to every American, saving a typical family up to $2,500 each year;
  • Make college affordable by providing a tax credit that makes the first $4000 of a college education free for most Americans.


Barack Obama will focus on issues that are of special importance to Irish-Americans. Both Senator Obama and his running mate Senator Joe Biden come from Irish stock. Obama’s great, great great grandfather on his mother’s side, Fulmoth Kearney, set sail from County Offaly in 1850, arriving in New York and eventually settling in Ohio. Obama, who has lived and worked on the south side of Chicago, the heart of the city’s strong Irish community, has a first-hand understanding of the remarkable contributions made by Irish immigrants to the United States.

And since Obama’s father came to the United States from Kenya on a scholarship, Senator Obama has a unique sense of the “melting pot” that makes America great.

PEACE. While Senator McCain opposed granting a visa to Gerry Adams during the critical period of the peace process and accused President Clinton of pandering to the Irish in pursuing peace, Obama will make it a priority of his Presidency to build upon the ground-breaking work of the Irish and British Governments, the Clinton Administration, and the parties to the conflict in Northern Ireland and help solidify the peace. Senator Obama will commit all necessary resources to helping with the final steps of the peace process, including devolution of justice. He will invest the weight of the Presidency and appoint a prominent special envoy in order to advance this vital cause.

COMPREHENSIVE IMMIGRATION REFORM. While John McCain has backed away from supporting meaningful immigration reform, Obama will fight for a reform package that keeps open the doors of opportunity in our country. Obama has played a leading role in crafting comprehensive immigration reform and believes that our broken immigration system can only be fixed by putting politics aside and offering a solution that strengthens our security while reaffirming our heritage as a nation of immigrants. As president, he will fight to strengthen border security, fix the dysfunctional immigration bureaucracy, and require a responsible path to earned citizenship for undocumented workers and their families.

STRENGTHENED BOND. American investment in Ireland played a leading role in fueling the Celtic Tiger, and Ireland’s economic prosperity in turn led to a boom in Irish investment in the United States. Obama believes that cultural, educational and business exchanges will draw us closer together, as do our common causes and common beliefs. As president, Obama will do all he can to strengthen U.S.-Irish cultural, educational and trade ties which are central to the identities of the United States and Ireland.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Why I believe Barack Obama should be president

Brian O'Dwyer

As we move through this last month of presidential campaigning, the time has come for us all to assess the candidates and make a decision, based on what we believe is right for America in general, and Irish America in particular.

The campaign, while at times seeming interminable, has nevertheless given us ample opportunity to assess the candidates, their advisors, and their positions. It is certainly no secret that I have been staunch supporter of Senator Hillary Clinton and I continue to believe that she would make a magnificent president. Nor is it a secret that during the course of the campaign I have been critical of Senator Obama's campaign.

Nevertheless, the time has come to make our choice between the two candidates that will be on the ballot on November 4th. I am going to vote for Barack Obama.

I have been a lifelong supporter of two causes that Irish Americans hold dear: freedom for northeast Ireland, and an end to the historical discrimination embodied in our immigration laws against the Irish.

In both instances I have more confidence in Senator Obama than in Senator McCain.

While Obama's record on Irish issues is relatively thin, it stands in clear contrast with McCain's record of opposition to the historical Irish American initiatives that have brought peace to Northern Ireland.

Irish American political involvement clearly led to the granting of a visa to Gerry Adams. It was not only the capstone of Irish American influence in American political life, it was the single most precipitating event that started Northern Ireland on the way to peace, and Ireland on the road to prosperity.

All of us can be proud of our role in bringing that about and will be forever grateful to President Clinton for his courage in the face of strong opposition in granting the Adams visa. As Senator, John McCain was both openly critical and dismissive of President Clinton's actions. If history be our guide, we can expect no better from President McCain than we received from Senator McCain.

On the question of immigration, I have previously expressed my admiration for Senator McCain's courage in advocating for comprehensive immigration reform.

Unfortunately, as the presidential campaign has progressed, McCain has distanced himself from his previous views and has instead embraced the anti-immigrant rhetoric we have long fought against.

The Republican Party platform, which is largely shaped by the candidate and upon which Senator McCain is running, is an unmitigated disaster for those of us who believe in a compassionate immigration policy. I maintain my respect and admiration for Jeff Cleary and Grant Lally, both passionate advocates for Irish immigration, but their influence has clearly waned in the face of the right wing of the Republican Party. We can expect little or nothing from a McCain presidency on the question of immigration reform.

In clear contrast, two of Irish America's most passionate advocates, Congressmen Richard Neal, and Joseph Crowley, have come to the forefront of the Obama campaign.

Both have spent their entire political careers as skillful champions of those issues important to Irish Americans.

Like many other immigration advocates I believe that the end of the suffering of the undocumented Irish and the end to the historical discrimination inherent in our immigration laws can only be achieved within the context of comprehensive immigration reform. I believe that the best chance of achieving our goals is within an Obama administration.

This story appeared in the Irish Echo newspaper on October 22-28, 2008

Monday, October 20, 2008

Obama Praises America's Ethnic Heritage

Annie Moore and Ellis Island

Dear Friends,

I appreciate the opportunity to share a few thoughts with everyone gathered here today. It’s an honor to join in celebrating the life of the first immigrant to enter our country through Ellis Island, Annie Moore. This is a great opportunity to celebrate the richness of our nation’s ethnic heritage, and the unique role that Irish-Americans have played in writing the American story.

Today, you’re looking back at Annie’s life and at the lives of your ancestors. As you do this, I also encourage you to take a moment to look around you. Because in its own way, this gathering is just as remarkable as Annie’s first steps into the New World. She came with little more than her two brothers and the clothes on her back. She lived the hard tenement life of an immigrant in New York City, but she worked hard, overcame adversity, and raised a family.

And now, just a couple generations after her passing, you are PhDs, investment counselors, actors and writers, and live in every corner of the country. Aside from that $10 gold piece shining in her hand, she wasn’t given anything more than an opportunity. But she went forward knowing that her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren would enjoy greater opportunities and lead better lives.

The idea of honoring those who came before you by sacrificing on behalf of those who follow is at the heart of the American experience. Irish Americans like your ancestors, and mine from County Offaly, understood this well. And because of that understanding and that spirit, America has led the world through great challenges over the last century. Now is our time to lead again. Together, we can overcome the challenges of our time with the same spirit and resoluteness that carried Annie Moore to our shores.

Once again, thank you for allowing me to be a part of today’s celebration. Please accept my wishes for an enjoyable event and continued success.


Sincerely,

Barack Obama


This letter from Barak Obama was read aloud at a ceremony at Calvary Cemetery in Queens, NY, commemorating Irish immigrant Annie Moore, the first person to come through Ellis Island in the 19th century. The ceremony took place on October 11, 2008.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Obama supporters fundraiser in Dublin

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.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Irish-Americans and Catholics in Pittsburgh Rally for Obama/Biden

by Michael P. Quinlin

(Pittsburgh) –Sister Patricia McCann taught Catholic Church history at St. Vincent’s College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, and is today an archivist at Carlow University, a Catholic women’s school in Pittsburgh.

She belongs to the Sisters of Mercy order and has worked her whole life on issues of social justice.

She is actively campaigning for the Obama/Biden ticket in Pennsylvania.

Across town, Jim Lamb, who has been involved in economic development in Northern Ireland for over fifteen years and comes from a well-known Irish-American political family, has organized a coalition of Irish-Americans to campaign for Obama/Biden in western Pennsylvania.

McCann and Lamb are part of a robust movement of Irish-Americans and Catholics in western Pennsylvania who are holding rallies, staffing phone banks and organizing voter registration drives over the next month.

Their success may well influence whether Barak Obama or John McCain becomes the next president of the United States. In key states like Pennsylvania and Ohio, Catholic and ethnic communities have emerged as crucial voters being targeted in this election.

Organizers here are urging voters not to cast their ballot based on single-issues like abortion or immigration, two hot-button issues for American Catholics and Irish-Americans. Instead, they say, voters should arguably consider a broader range of issues that speak to the larger issues dominating this election, especially the war and the economy.

Last week a group called “Catholics for Obama,” organized by Cody Fischer, Deputy Director of Catholic Vote, met at Carlow University to discuss the Catholic perspective.

Keynote speaker Nick Cafardi, dean of Duquesne University Law School and former general counsel for the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, missed the meeting due to a family emergency.

But his speech, “Senator Obama: A Moral Choice for Catholics” was read aloud to the 75 people in attendance.

The lecture sought to define the term pro-life as having a larger meaning than just the abortion issue. The term must also include genocide, war, slavery, violence toward women, and other ‘intrinsic evils’ as defined by the Catholic Church.

Said Cafardi, “Senator Obama supports government action that would reduce the number of abortions. He has consistently said that “we should be doing everything we can to avoid unwanted pregnancies that might even lead somebody to consider having an abortion.””

The lecture prompted a lively discussion over whether Catholics should be “single-issue voters.” In the audience were pro-life students who had come from Franciscan University in Steubenville, OH, to voice their views.

McCann attended the meeting, and said later that Obama’s perspective is compatible with her lifelong activism in social justice issues like the Vietnam War and Civil Rights.

“Most of my friends are Obama supporters. Most of us have worked with the poor and with people not at the top of the socio-economic scale. We look at pro-life in a larger sense,” she said, adding, “When economic times are good, abortions go down.”

The Pittsburgh Irish

The following night Lamb’s group, “Pittsburgh Irish for Obama,” held a debate party at Mullaney’s Harp & Fiddle in Pittsburgh, where leaders from the Ancient Order of Hibernians and Irish American Unity Conference joined a variety of campaign workers, community activists and public officials committed to the Democratic ticket.

Attending from Pittsburgh’s Irish-American political establishment was Michael Lamb, City of Pittsburgh Controller, who met Obama’s ethnic outreach supporters at the Democratic National Convention in Denver in August.

Since then he has been volunteering with his brother Jim to help organize the Pittsburgh vote.

Jamie Rooney and Anne Gleeson, who worked for former US Congressman Bill Coyne from Pittsburgh, attended the event, along with AOH leaders Denny Donnelly, Rich O’Malley and Tommy Long, and Sarah McAuliffe Bellin and Jim Caldwell of the Irish American Unity Conference.

In the battle between Obama and McCain in Pennsylvania, a key factor in tipping the scales toward Obama may well be Joe Biden, who is popular with both Irish-American and Catholic communities throughout the state.

Mary Ester Van Shura, a longtime activist involved in Democratic politics for nearly thirty years, is a friend of Biden’s sister, Valarie Biden Owens, one of Senator Biden’s key advisors.

Van Shura says that Biden “epitomizes the Irishness of life, which is a life driven by passion and principle, courage and commitment, and faith and fortitude.”

She says that Biden “kept faith with the needs of the American people so they can all achieve the life envisioned by our ancestors when they left distant shores. Indeed, he is 'one of us.'"

This article appeared in the Irish Echo newspaper on October 8-14, 2008.

Monday, October 6, 2008

McCain lacked judgment on issue of visa for Adams

OPINION: John McCain was wrong on the peace process: an Obama presidency is in Ireland's interest, writes Jean Kennedy Smith

WHEN IRISH Americans vote in November, the choice is clear: Barack Obama and Joe Biden are the candidates who are best prepared to lead us through the difficult times that lie ahead.

For many Irish Americans, Ireland is extremely important. They want a president who is deeply committed - as Bill Clinton was - to peace in Northern Ireland and strong relations with Ireland.

But commitment is not enough. Judgment is essential too. Unfortunately, John McCain's judgment has often been wrong on Northern Ireland.

Beginning in 1993, I served as Bill Clinton's ambassador to Ireland. After decades of violence, a peace process was being born.

The Clinton administration was considering whether to issue a visa for Gerry Adams, the leader of Sinn Féin, the political wing of the Irish Republican Army, to come to the United States.

By the end of December 1993, there were strong indications that the IRA might be prepared to end its violence and that a visa for Adams to come briefly to the US could help bring about a ceasefire.

John Hume, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1998 for his efforts in Northern Ireland, and the then taoiseach, Albert Reynolds, supported the visa.

But the British government strongly opposed it, and so did many in the state department.

I, my brother, senator Ted Kennedy, and many others urged Bill Clinton to grant it. We agreed that IRA violence was indefensible, but we concluded that granting the visa could help bring it to an end.

The opportunity for a major breakthrough for peace was worth the political risk.

The visa was granted and the strategy worked. The IRA ceasefire came at the end of August 1994.

John McCain was among those who opposed Bill Clinton's peace efforts in Northern Ireland.

McCain followed Britain's lead and opposed giving Gerry Adams the visa. He described Clinton's involvement in Northern Ireland as "mistaken".

He dismissed those who urged Clinton to grant Gerry Adams the visa as "motivated by romantic, anachronistic notions of Irish republicanism".

I found that especially insulting since my brother, and many other Irish American leaders, including house speaker Tip O'Neill, senator Pat Moynihan, and governor Hugh Carey of New York had long opposed IRA violence.

McCain expressed concern about offending our British allies, and later said it was a "terrible mistake to give Gerry Adams the publicity that a visit to the White House gave him".

He publicly defied "anyone to show me how that contributed to peace in Ireland". If it had been left to John McCain, there would have been no Northern Ireland peace process and no peace today.

There have been many ups and downs in the peace process along the way. The ceasefire was temporarily broken in 1996. But 12 years later, it is abundantly clear that the strategy pursued by the Clinton administration - and strongly opposed by John McCain - helped pave the way for the historic 1998 Belfast Agreement.

I returned to Belfast in April of this year to mark the 10th anniversary of the agreement. Obviously, some problems continue, but the progress has been immense, because Catholics and Protestants are genuinely sharing power in Northern Ireland, and the peace process is now frequently cited as a model for achieving peace in other parts of the world.

On his historic visit to Ireland in 1963, another brother, John F Kennedy spoke of Ireland and the United States as two nations "divided by distance, united by history".

"No people ever believed more deeply in the cause of Irish freedom than the people of the United States," he said.

If John F Kennedy were here today, I'm sure he would agree that no two people are more committed than Barack Obama and Joe Biden to strengthening the ties that bind America and Ireland.

They are committed to a lasting peace in Northern Ireland, they are committed to restoring our respect and reputation in the world.

Irish Americans should be committed to them as well.

Jean Kennedy Smith was US Ambassador to Ireland from 1993 to 1998.


This article appeared in The Irish Times newspaper on Monday, October 6, 2008.