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2020 Irish American Presidential Forum set for April

Launching the Irish American Presidential Forum 2020 in Manhattan on Tuesday were co-chairs (l-r) Marty Glennon, John Dearie and Joe Crowley. Photo by Nuala Purcell.


By Ray O’Hanlon

Plans have been announced for an Irish American Presidential Forum in 2020.

Details of the forum, to be held in New York on April 26, were unveiled Tuesday by organizers.

All presidential candidates from both main parties, and President Trump, (a total of 22 individuals) have been invited to attend the forum which will take place at Fordham University School of Law in Manhattan.

Invitations to the candidates went out on Tuesday though one of the Democrats, Senator Kamala Harris, announced that same day that she was dropping out of the presidential race. Governor Steve Bullock, a Montana Democrat, dropped out on Monday.

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The forum organizers are, of course, expecting such changes in the candidate field along the way between now and late April but expect that the larger than usual number will still means a fair few competing for what could well be an especially keenly contested Empire State primary day.

The forum date is two days before that primary and all attending will be asked questions on what organizers are billing as a “Six-Point Irish American Agenda.”

Those organizers, all co-chairmen for the forum, are attorney and former New York State Assemblyman John Dearie - who organized the first presidential forum in 1984 and has been the central organizing figure in all such gatherings since that year – former Democratic congressman Joe Crowley, and Long Island-based attorney and activist, Marty Glennon.

"Forum 2020 represents the singular event in the entire presidential election cycle where our Irish community can benefit by hearing all candidates stating their views on the six agenda topics representing the highest priority issues to our 43 million Irish American Community,” said the co-chairs in a statement.

The six point agenda and accompanying questions cover America's role in the Irish peace process, the appointment of a new U.S. special envoy to the North, immigration, Brexit, the McGuinness Principles, and any future U.S./UK trade agreement.

A panel of six will pose questions to candidates attending. The panel, according to the forum organizers, will be this writer, Debbie McGoldrick of the Irish Voice, radio host Adrian Flannelly, Judge James J. McKay, National President of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, John Samuelsen, International President of the Transport Workers Union, and former Republican congressman from Syracuse, NY, James Walsh.

To date, stated the 2020 Forum release, six Irish American Presidential Forums have been held with the original, in 1984, attended by Vice President Walter Mondale in the Bronx.

Added the release: “By far, the 1992 Forum produced the most historically significant development, when then candidate Governor Bill Clinton committed to appointing an American Special Peace Envoy. After his election, President Clinton designated former Senator George Mitchell as the Special Envoy who, after serving as a catalyst for peace over a two-year period, led negotiations in 1998 that culminated in the Good Friday Agreement. Additionally, at the 1992 Forum, candidate Clinton agreed to issue a visa to Gerry Adams, which, in his administration, was later granted, permitting the Sinn Féin leader to travel to the United States.”

Among the candidates who have participated in past forums, in addition to Vice-President Mondale and President Clinton, are Vice President Al Gore, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Senator John McCain, Governor Michael Dukakis, Governor Jerry Brown, and Secretary Hillary Clinton.

Added the co-chairs statement: “Selection of the Forum date, as with past Forums, recognizes the competing candidates’ campaign schedules, so holding it just two days prior to the New York State Primary assumes most all will be geographically in the greater New York area and able to participate.

“The central concept for the Forum focuses on an Irish-American goal of requiring candidates for our nation’s highest office to seriously consider our priority agenda and to thoughtfully formulate positions in response.”

Additionally, the statement continued, the forum advances the premise that America, as a close friend to both Ireland and Great Britain, should serve as an “honest broker” covering the full range of Irish America’s goals.

“We sought to end several candidates’ beliefs that earning Irish constituents’ support was simply secured by slugging a St. Patrick’s green beer, or sporting a shamrock-filled tie, but knowing or doing little about our substantive peace agenda,” John Dearie said in a reference to how Irish America’s broad agenda was all too often treated, or dismissed, in the years before the first forum.

On Tuesday, at the formal launch of the 2020 Forum at his Midtown Manhattan law office. Mr. Dearie said that a 2020 forum was needed (there were no such gatherings in 2016 or 2012) because there were “very key issues” in the forum’s six point agenda and that most of the candidates running for the White House in 2020 had little or no record when it came to these Irish issues.

Joe Crowley said that much has changed since the last presidential election year in 2016, not least with the “upheaval” being caused by Brexit.

Marty Glennon said that if President Trump attended the April forum it would be an opportunity to raise the Malachy McAllister case directly with the president.

Mr. Dearie said that the planned forum’s questions had been included with the invitations to the candidates.