By Patrick Markey
PHILADELPHIA — They came, they cheered, they partied.
With 45,000 visitors cramming Philadelphia’s streets, restaurants and bars for the GOP’s national convention for the official nod to Gov. George Bush, Irish-American republicans were quick to claim their share of the limelight.
The main convention got TV wrestling star The Rock, hundreds of delegates tooling around in golf carts, and cascades of balloons. The Irish Americans got Finnegan’s Wake.
At the cavernous Philly bar, green clovers were shunted aside by red, white and blue of bunting. Lines of unclaimed name tags and a Bush-Cheney keyring and badge greeted visitors to the late-night knees-up. The house band’s 1980s cover songs rumbled through the four-floor bar — and upstairs a weary Thomas Jefferson impersonator tucked into some free food and beer.
By 1 a.m. on Tuesday, the party swelled as late comers drifted in from more urgent parties, more tempting freebies and, well, more flesh-pressing.
Never miss an issue of The Irish Echo
Subscribe to one of our great value packages.
But few were complaining, especially about the night’s main attraction — the Republican Party’s Irish plank to its conservative platform.
Scoring points that should draw the party alongside the Democrats on Irish issues, the GOP’s platform includes important elements for Irish America.
The Patten report on Northern Ireland policing, its implementation, and the deportee issue are all mentioned, as is Bush’s previous proposal for a special envoy to the North.
"Republicans welcome the historic reconciliation in Northern Ireland that is slowly bringing peace and a representative local assembly," the platform’s Irish section begins.
The platform also praised the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement.
"In the spirit of that healing document, we call for a review of issues of deportation and extradition arising prior to the accord," the platform states.
"We applaud the work of the Patten Commission to reform the police authorities in Northern Ireland and urge the complete implementation of the commission’s recommendations."
The platform also calls for private U.S. investment in the North to ensure fair employment and better opportunities for all.
"The next president will use the prestige and influence of the United States to help facilitate the search for lasting peace, justice and reconciliation," it states.
The proposal met with a warm welcome from the Irish-American republican politicians at the convention, who praised the detailed attention to Northern Ireland. Irish American Republicans Co-Chairman Frank Duggan, sporting a green, handmade rimmed hat for the occasion, said the platform addressed Irish America’s major concerns.
Speaking with Irish Echo, New York Rep. James Walsh called the platform’s Irish section a beginning of a dialogue that would continue between the Bush leadership and Republican Party representatives with a long involvement in Irish affairs.
"They worked with us on the platform statement. That’s a real start," Walsh said.
"I think [advisor] Condoleezza Rice and George Bush understand it. He’s going to need to work with us. It’s is fluid."