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King for 2016

Congressman Peter King is the Irish Echo Irish American of the Year for 2016

By Ray O’Hanlon

Congressman Peter King, whose staunch support for Irish nationalists and republicans stretches back to a time when such support came with a political cost, is the Irish Echo’s Irish American of the Year for 2016.

The Long Island Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives will succeed the Echo’s 2015 Irish American of the Year, broadcaster Adrian Flannelly.

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King is the ninth person to win the accolade since it was revived in 2007.

The winner’s prior to Adrian Flannelly were Loretta Brennan Glucksman, attorney Brian O’Dwyer, author Pete Hamill, Democratic Congressman Richard Neal of Massachusetts, author Colum McCann, New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, and U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald.

“I’m delighted that Pete King will be following me as the Echo’s Irish American of the Year,” said Adrian Flannelly.

King was a frequent visitor to Northern Ireland during the darkest years of the Troubles, this at a time when he was Comptroller of Nassau County in New York.

On one of the visits he was accompanied by then U.S. Senator Alfonse D’Amato.

King came in for repeated media criticism because of his close ties, indeed friendships, with members of the Provisional IRA.

But King, never shy or reluctant when it came to expressing his views, frequently challenged the position of government and fellow politicians who viewed the Troubles as a phenomenon that seemingly began and ended with the Provisionals.

Less publicized than his meetings with IRA leaders were his meetings with loyalist paramilitary leaders during the height of the conflict.

King’s district is the New York Second Congressional District. It covers parts of both Nassau and Suffolk counties.

Manhattan-born, raised in Queens, and the son of a New York City police officer, King’s Irish roots are in Galway and Limerick.

He is a graduate of St. Francis College, later of Notre Dame School of Law, and served in the U.S. Army National Guard.

“The Irish Echo is delighted to honor Peter King, especially in this coming 1916 centenary year,” said Irish Echo publisher, Máirtín Ó Muilleoir.

The Irish American of the Year is formally honored at the Echo’s New York/New Belfast conference in June.