By Ray O’Hanlon
David Dinkins secured his place in American history by being the first African American Mayor of New York City.
But being mayor of the nation’s largest city made it certain that Dinkins would find himself immersed in the histories of many nations, not least Ireland.
Democrat Dinkins, during his term of office from 1900 to 1993, found himself more than once having to speak out on issues of concern to the city’s Irish and Irish American community.
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During the 1993 mayoral campaign (he would lose in the election to Republican Rudolph Giuliani) Dinkins personally invited Gerry Adams to be his guest in New York, this at a point in time when President Bill Clinton was having seeming difficulties on following up on his pre-election pledge to grant Adams a visa.
Dinkins would issue the invitation after being questioned on the visa issue during a mayoral forum in Manhattan. The move would have been noticed and noted in the White House.
Dinkins was long a supporter of Joe Doherty, who spent years locked up in the city’s Metropolitan Correctional Center. After Doherty was deported from the U.S. the Belfast man served additional time in the North before being released in 1998 under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.
Now former mayor Dinkins welcomed Doherty’s release.
“I was ecstatic, just delighted,” Dinkins told the Echo at the time. “When I heard of his release I called him right away. We had a long chat. He sounded great. The good guys win one.
“Sometimes things take time to come to pass. It’s important not to quit. He (Doherty) was always inspirational. He is a year or two younger than my son and has a lot of life left to live.”
In 1991, Dinkins, a Marine Corps veteran, came under fire, though not in a combat situation. The St. Patrick’s Day Parade was marred that year by the behavior of some spectators who threw beer cans, coins and other objects at Dinkins, members of AOH Div. 7, and the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization who were marching together as one unit.
Brian O’Dwyer, a future grand marshal of the parade, was marching with Dinkins that day.
Of his friend and upon news of his passing O’Dwyer said: “He was a gentle person with a fierce and fighting spirit to right wrongs and to transform our city into a better place where all can be respected and cherished. We will not see his like again.”