THE departure of Congressman Jim Walsh from Congress removes one of the finest public servants of recent times.
Jim, who is 60, walked away while at the top of his game. He faced a tough re-election battle in his Syracuse district, but he was generally expected to win as he had been victorious in even tougher circumstances in 2006 against the same opponent.
Jim was the exact opposite of the blowhard stereotype of politician so beloved in the media. When you talked to him he listened intently, and his desire to help with the Irish agenda sprung from a deep sense of commitment to Irish issues.
His office in Congress is bedecked with Irish mementoes, including a hurling stick, and the many tributes to him from party leaders in Ireland who have come to rely on his advice and help were heartfelt.
As chairman of the Congressional Friends of Ireland Walsh distinguished himself by his hard work and commitment to Irish issues.
It is hardly surprising that Jim decided to walk away under his own terms. He was never one to seek the limelight or insist on being treated as above others just because he was a member of Congress.
He was a keen student of Irish history and made himself an expert on the Irish peace process by repeated trips over there, and by reading everything about it he could get his hands on. He was always available to meet with visiting politicians from Ireland.
His Walsh visas helped many of Northern Ireland's unskilled workers as well as others from border counties who qualified to learn job skills in America. It was not his fault that the scheme was never developed in the way it might have been because of bureaucratic infighting.
Dermot Ahern, Irish minister for foreign affairs, paid a fulsome tribute to Walsh. "The decision by Congressman Jim Walsh not to seek re-election will see the departure from Congress of a great friend of Ireland," Ahern said.
"He rightly takes pride in the extraordinary contribution he has made to American public life and in his tireless work on behalf of his ancestral home of Ireland."