Already, though, there are definite results to ponder. Iowa and New Hampshire are done and dusted; After Iowa, two Irish American Democrats, senators Joe
Biden and Chris Dodd, bowed out of the race. We salute their effort and ambition and we know for sure that they will continue to give of their political best in the months ahead. Meanwhile, a raft of states are readying for their primary votes with February 5th looking almost like a general election day.
After so-called “tsunami Tuesday” we should have a much clearer idea how the
party races are going to pan out though there is a chance of course that the contests for the nomination could go all the way to the respective party conventions.
Usually in the first weeks of spring, Irish American leaders have in the past convened presidential forums aimed at quizzing the leading candidates on their views and likely actions with regard to Ireland should they attain the presidency. Plans are afoot for such a forum this year, though it might take place a little earlier than in years past, perhaps around St. Patrick’s Day in New York City.
We sincerely hope that the efforts to convene a forum are fruitful. When former governors Bill Clinton and Jerry Brown spoke to Irish Americans at a forum in 1992, Northern Ireland was still in the throws of its troubles. But all that followed can be, in significant part, traced to the words uttered by the two presidential aspirants that night and of course to the work of the future President Clinton in particular.
So much has been achieved in Northern Ireland and Irish America has been a pivotal force in achieving it. In 2008, what has been attained must not only be preserved, but reinforced, enhanced and expanded.
One way of ensuring this is to alert the current crop of presidential candidates to Irish American concerns, seek their views and have them outline what they would do as president to secure the peace and build prosperity for all in Northern Ireland.
Beyond this there is the issue of the future relationship between the entire island of Ireland and the United States. Immigration falls squarely into this category. Freer movement of labor between the two countries is now a frontline issue. And we are not just talking about U.S. visas for the Irish. As we have
recently seen there are also matters relating to Irish visas for Americans that need to be addressed.
The precise areas of greatest concern to Irish America are easy enough to identify. Securing the attendance of candidates at a forum is a challenge. But it would be a rare presidential election year without challenges. We roundly support the idea of a bipartisan Irish American Presidential Forum sometime in the next few months, perhaps even a tripartisan gathering if there is eventually a viable third party candidate in the field.