“Patience and perseverance,” said John Quincy Adams, “have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.”
Sean P. Moynihan agrees with that piece of wisdom from a Boston lawyer of another era. Indeed, he has the quote on the homepage of the Moynihan Group, a legal and consultancy firm with a particular focus on nurturing links between Massachusetts and the island of Ireland.
“With a certain amount of time, frustration can creep in as well,” Moynihan conceded, but he has seen patience and perseverance get results in Northern Ireland.
“Belfast has come an awful long way. I remember when I was first there in 2001, there was still a sense of sectarianism just driving through the various neighborhoods,” he recalled. “And when I was there in 2009, it was pretty dramatic, from an American’s perspective, how much that had changed.
“The grassroots effort was impressive.
“Unfortunately that’s not what you always read about,” he said. “There’s something to be said for people like me to actually get over there and to see what’s happening in the communities and all the organization that’s going on.
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“I think tapping into the diaspora is essential,” he said. By that he doesn’t simply mean in places like New York, Boston and other cities with well-established ties to Ireland. “You have pockets of communities throughout the United States that are interested in what’s happening not just in the Republic and in Dublin, but with what’s happening in Northern Ireland as well.”
On his first trip, he said, he fell in love with Derry City, although his own family roots are in Counties Clare and Kerry. He is enthusiastic about its selection as UK City of Culture for 2013, seeing it as a huge opportunity for the entire northwest of the island.
Moynihan is not naïve about the challenges facing the North’s economy, however. He said that the task of reducing dependence on government money – 70 percent of Derry jobs are in the state sector – is a difficult one. It would certainly help Northern Ireland’s cause if it had a corporate tax rate close to or the same as the Republic’s, but he pointed out the immediate downside of lowering it: “A considerable amount would be lost in terms of revenue to Northern Ireland.”
He attributes his prioritizing the question “where will that money be made up from?” to his experience as counsel for the House Committee on Ways and Means in the Massachusetts House of Representatives.
“A new program, a new initiative — you’ve got to find the money some place,” he said.
“It was a great experience,” Moynihan added about that particular job, but he has had other roles that have built his political resume in the 20 years since he graduated cum laude from Providence College (he’s also a 2001 cum laude graduate of Suffolk University Law School’s evening division program).
He’s worked on campaigns, been chairman of the Northboro Democratic Town Committee, volunteered for the party at the state level and been counsel to the Massachusetts House majority leader.
His job at the House Committee on Way and Means, in particular, gave him a familiarity with a wide variety of policy areas. So he was well qualified when he branched out with the founding of the Moynihan Group, which helps companies and non-profit groups negotiate the political system.
“Sometimes they wouldn’t know what the first step would be,” Moynihan explained about clients, “and they’d talk with me and I’d provide them with a roadmap, if you will, on how to get done what they needed to get done.”
Moynihan is not at all squeamish about the word “lobbyist.” He is one, he said. “In some circles that’s become a dirty word,” he added. “And it’s unfortunate, because people need advocacy and everyone has a right to be heard before their government, just like they have a right to be heard in court.”
His consulting and volunteer efforts beyond Massachusetts’ shores have included working with Derry City Council, the William J. Clinton Center in Enniskillen, Fermanagh College, also in Enniskillen, and Mary Immaculate College of Limerick.
Moynihan is vice-president for global partnerships with the Boston Irish Business Association (www.bibaboston.com) and he’s the vice-chairman of Irish Network Boston (irishnetworkboston.org).
The latter organization will host Taoiseach Enda Kenny at a function in Boston on Friday night. “It will be interesting to hear from him and what he has to say about what’s happening,” Moynihan said.
Somehow he also finds the time to coach his 6-year-old daughter Maeve’s soccer team. He and his wife Lynn also have a son, Declan, who’s 2½.
“Having kids gives you a new perspective on everything. We have a lot of fun with them,” Moynihan said. “It’s hard to imagine life without them and it’s hard to remember life before the kids came along.”
For more information go to www.themoynihangroup.com.