In a lengthy statement on Ireland released in conjunction with the Democratic Convention in Denver, the Obama campaign said that the Democratic nominee was “committed to continuing U.S. support for solidifying the peace in Northern Ireland.”
However, the statement also contained a seeming qualifier.
“Barack Obama understands that U.S. attention and support will be required to solidify the peace,” it said.
“But he also recognizes that the crisis period for Northern Ireland has passed and that the people of Northern Ireland are now
in charge of their own destiny.
“He will consult with the Taoiseach, the British Prime Minister, and party leaders in Northern Ireland to determine whether a special U.S. envoy for Northern Ireland continues to be necessary or whether a senior administration official, serving as point person for Northern Ireland, would be most effective,” the statement said.
It immediately added that, as president, Barack Obama would “personally engage on Irish issues whenever necessary.”
And it added: Barack Obama will continue the tradition of welcoming the Irish Prime Minister to the White House on St.
Patrick’s Day, and he intends to visit Ireland as president.”
However, it was the statement’s seeming retreat from the envoy policy, which came into being during the Clinton administration after years of lobbying by Irish American groups and activists, that sent up a red flag even as Democrats prepared in Denver for Obama’s acceptance speech Thursday.
“I’m Shocked, I really am,” veteran Democratic activist Brian O’Dwyer said.
“The stupidity of it, that somehow the idea that it is all over (in Northern Ireland) and there is no need for an envoy; this of all things. Irish American is most proud of the fact that it obtained an envoy, O’Dwyer, a prominent supporter of Senator Hillary Clinton during the Democratic primaries, told the Echo.
“This was fought for, clawed for, for many years,” said O’Dwyer.
O’Dwyer said there were many issues that could still be watched over by a special envoy, and that Irish Americans feared that the progress to date in Northern Ireland could be let slip if the U.S. involvement was diminished.
“It’s hard for me to fathom how anyone who knows anything about Ireland would say this. This is a signal that the U.S. government will detach. If he (Obama) wins, the operative word is detachment,” O’Dwyer said.
Meanwhile, the lobby group Irish-American Republicans have announced a “Countdown to Victory” celebration as the Official “Irish event” of next week’s Republican Convention on Wednesday, September 3, at the Minneapolis City Hall Rotunda in Minneapolis.
A statement from the group said that 200 members and officers of the Irish-American Republicans are serving as delegates or alternates.