Irish American voters who see the quest for a just and lasting peace in Ireland as an important issue in Campaign 2000 now have before them the platform statements on Ireland drawn up by both the Republican and Democrat parties. They also have the opportunity of weighing the potential merits of both presidential tickets. It’s not an easy call.
Both parties have been paying greater attention to Ireland in recent years and this, of course, is all to the greater good. In the case of the GOP, much of the attention in recent times has been concentrated in Congress, but the emergence of a strong position on Ireland at the top of the GOP ticket is an especially positive development and goes a long way to banishing memories of James Baker fretting over the Boston Tea Party four years ago.
Equally, the Democrats can point to the efforts, not just of President Clinton, but to those of a number of congressional members who have been consistently prepared to give Ireland its due during the past decade or more. President Clinton himself reminded voters of his peace efforts in Ireland during his convention speech in Los Angeles Monday night. Ireland came top of a list of three, which included peace processes in the Balkans and the Middle East. Keen observers will have noted that this little league table has varied in order during the years, depending on which process was doing well and which was in the doldrums. Ireland, it seems, is doing fairly well right now, better at least than the other two. It topped Clinton’s list.
Meanwhile, there has been an expectation for months now that Clinton will undertake one more visit to Ireland before his term ends. October is now being mentioned as the likely month. If his presence on Irish soil helps the still incomplete peace process advance just a little bit, Clinton should take the time and cross the Atlantic. One way or the other, Clinton is now secure with regard to his Irish legacy but one more big push on his part might just do the trick. Both Al Gore and George W. Bush, meanwhile, have the opportunity to pick up where the 42nd president leaves off. It’s up to them to persuade, and it’s up to the voters to decide. But in the meantime, Irish Americans should continue to remind both camps that Ireland is a key issue, perhaps now more than ever because a truly far-ranging peace is within reach.