But it was an overflow crowd that gathered in Molloy College on Long Island on Friday of last week to hear former taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, deliver his verdict on the Good Friday agreement ten years on.
That it was closer to eleven years since the signing of the Belfast accord, the attaining of which Ahern played a pivotal role in, was due to the fact that the gathering, the 8th annual Joseph F. Maher Leadership Forum, had to be postponed late last year when Ahern broke his leg in a fall at his Dublin home.
The leg still hurts, but Ahern’s voice was on cue in a packed Hays Theatre as he spoke of the circumstances leading up the agreement, and the tangible results that it has delivered in the intervening years.
As well as the Ahern speech, the forum – which had to be relayed on close circuit television to an overflow crowd gathered in the college gym – also marked the formal opening of Molloy’s new Irish Studies Institute, a facility that will be headed by Fr. Patrick Bonner, a native of Donegal now based at Molloy’s Rockville Centre complex.
After the speech, Ahern was joined by a number of expert panelists who answered a series of questions relating to the situation in Northern Ireland today.
The panel discussion, moderated by Marty Glennon of the Brehon Law Society, featured two area members of the U.S. Congress, Democrat Joe Crowley and Republican Peter King, Dawn Purvis, head of the Progressive Unionist Party in Northern Ireland, Sinn F