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Forum Countdown

Bernie Sanders


By Ray O’Hanlon

The 2020 Irish American Presidential Forum is precisely two months away.

So no time at all in a presidential election year.

And a tightening race for New York primary delegates would seem to indicate that the forum, set for Fordham Law School in Manhattan on Sunday, April 26, two days before the primary, would appear to boost the chances of two Democratic candidates in particular turning up.

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The two would be Bernie Sanders and Michael Bloomberg.

Politico was reporting that New York’s presidential primary “has quickly evolved into a two-way race between Bernie Sanders and Mike Bloomberg, a poll released by the Siena College Research Institute on Monday found.”

New York is one of several northeastern states holding a vote on April 28 in what is dubbed the “Acela primary.”

While the forum is set for New York the questions that will be asked of candidates center on future U.S. policy and the answers are of interest to the national Irish American community.

One booster for the forum is Fordham University President, Fr. Joseph McShane.

"Fordham is proud to host the Irish American Presidential Forum, not merely because of our own Irish roots, but because as a Jesuit University in the capital of the world, we can and should be at the center of the momentous discussions of our time,” said Fr. McShane.

“I can think of no election in recent history that carries more weight than this one, and for which robust public debate is more necessary."

According to the forum organizers, all major U.S. presidential candidates, Democratic and Republican, and President Trump, have been invited to address issues including America’s role in the Irish peace process, immigration, the aftermath of Brexit and its impact on U.S. trade, the U.S. Special peace envoys to Northern Ireland, and the McGuinness Principles.

Forum participants in former years (the first forum was in 1984) have included Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Al Gore, Walter Mondale, Jerry Brown and Michael Dukakis.

Of the current field of Democratic candidates, former vice president Joe Biden has direct experience of participating in an administration’s policies in support of the peace process.

At the 1992 forum, then candidate Bill Clinton committed to giving Gerry Adams a visa, appointing a special envoy to Northern Ireland and giving U.S. support to the MacBride Principles campaign which was addressing the disadvantages faced by Catholics in Northern Ireland seeking employment.

As president, Clinton appointed U.S. Senator George Mitchell as special envoy, a move that changed the course of Irish history.