By Ray O’Hanlon
Hillary Rodham Clinton isn’t Irish American per se, but that matters for naught as far as the lobby group Irish American Democrats is concerned.
IAD said in a statement that Sunday’s announcement by Hillary Clinton that she is running for president was “exciting news for all Americans and for Ireland and Irish Americans in particular.”
“As Irish American Democrats we welcome the announcement,” the statement said.
The statement of welcome, while not actually using the word “endorse,” does effectively read as an endorsement of Clinton’s candidacy, and one issued just hours after it was unveiled in a tweet and online video.
And it leaves no apparent room for endorsing possible rivals to Clinton for the Democratic nomination - even though the most prominent name being mentioned in reports right now is in fact an Irish American: former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley.
The IAD statement, issued jointly by the group’s Washington, D.C.-based president, Stella O’Leary, and New York-based vice president, Brian O’Dwyer, said at the outset that Hillary Clinton needed no introduction to Irish America.
“Few would take issue with the claim that there would be no peace in Northern Ireland, fragile as it may be, without the direct involvement of President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Clinton,” the statement said.
“We, along with many others, worked with President Clinton and First Lady Hillary Clinton on the Northern Ireland peace process that commenced with the granting of a visa to Gerry Adams, and culminated in the Good Friday agreement.
“Many would claim that the peace was inevitable, but it was not,” added the statement, which pointed to the historical distrust that had to be overcome.
And it continued: “Initially, the parties would not even acknowledge each other’s existence. We worked with First Lady Hillary Clinton and her Vital Voices campaign, enlisting Northern Ireland women, from both sides of the divide, to pressure the negotiators to compromise. Even today the situation in Northern Ireland remains tense and no candidate is more qualified, or committed, than Hillary Clinton to help us sustain that fragile peace.”
The statement does not only deal with the North, but also focuses on immigration and looks to a possible Clinton presidency for solutions to the current immigration impasse.
“This election, however, is not just about repaying debts, but also about looking to the future,” it stated.
And it continued: “Unjust United States immigration laws are in dire need of fixing. Irish America is so adversely affected by the provisions of the present laws that they are tantamount to a sign on the border ‘Irish need not apply.’
“Thousands of Irish are living in the shadows because of these unjust and cruel laws. American corporations are being deprived of the considerable gifts that the graduates of Irish universities are willing and able to provide.
“Despite the almost universal consensus that the immigration policies of the United States are badly broken, no action has been taken to fix the law.
Having visited Ireland numerous times as First Lady, as Senator, and as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton is well aware of the hardships these laws impose on Irish families, on both sides of the Atlantic.
“She will make it a priority to enact comprehensive immigration reform, in particular she is fully supportive of President Obama’s executive action that will allow many of our undocumented to remain in the United States to work and lead productive lives.
“We, as Irish American Democrats, will, throughout this campaign, do our best to ensure that Hillary Clinton is the next president of the United States.
“Her presidency will strengthen the bonds that exist between Ireland and America and will immeasurably help the struggling middle class to achieve equitable wage parity.
“She will break new ground as the first female President of America. Her presidency will benefit not only Ireland and Irish Americans, but will benefit all America. We are proud to support her.”