The dust is yet to fully settle in the battle for the Democratic nomination even though the marathon that was the primary and caucus season has finally reached its official conclusion.
In the middle of it, and to her great credit, Senator Hillary Clinton took time out to attend the first round in a forum that is this year envisaged as a rolling event that, when it too concludes, will hopefully have featured appearances by those who emerged during the primaries as the three leading White House contenders: Clinton, Barack Obama and John McCain.
Clinton was criticized during her primary campaign for pumping up her role in bringing peace to Northern Ireland, buy anyone who attended the New York forum session that she graced with her presence in early April would have immediately been impressed by Clinton’s clear grasp of, and familiarity with, the issues still pertaining to a lasting and just peace in Ireland.
The other two candidates have yet to speak to Irish Americans by means of the forum, but we look forward in keen anticipation to their doing so in the near future.
In the case of Barack Obama, there have been indications from his campaign in relation to Ireland but none would ultimately match an appearance before a forum audience.
The Obama campaign has been reluctant to engage with individual lobby and pressure groups that might have concerns that extend beyond the border of the United States. But if the senator from Illinois is to fully forge a broad-based relationship with voters he will have to engage in the particular as well as the general.
As for John McCain? Well, Irish America knows the senator from Arizona quite well, much of this knowledge being gleaned from McCain’s earlier criticism of President Bill Clinton’s groundbreaking Irish policies.
But that was another time. McCain has been on something of learning curve with regard to Ireland for some time now. He even undertook his own intervention in the effort to bring a power sharing government to Belfast by speaking with Ian Paisley, this at the request of then British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
McCain stands poised to make a significant contribution to forum history by being the first Republican nominee to turn up.
McCain is no stranger at this point to Irish-organized affairs. He has spoken at gatherings convened by the American Ireland Fund and the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform. He has been feted at a fundraiser in New York hosted by the National Assembly of Irish American Republicans.
McCain’s reported desire for his forum appearance to take place in Philadelphia is a clear sign that he sees a chance for himself in Pennsylvania in November ass well as Irish American voters across the country.
Be that as it may. Philadelphia well deserves a forum anyway given its prominence in the story of the Irish in America and its unique status in the history of our nation’s constitutional governance.