Walsh Will Be Missed
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.
On immigration he was always willing to help, meeting with the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform on several occasions.
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."
Irish Women for Hillary
IF Senator Hillary Clinton is upset by the Kennedy/Obama endorsement, she can draw solace from the fact that peace activist women in Northern Ireland support her.
In an unprecedented move, several of them came together this week to issue a statement on Clinton's behalf. The move came after several newspapers, most notably The Boston Globe, raised questions over whether Clinton had played any significant role in the Irish peace process as she says she did.
The women of Northern Ireland certainly think so. Several key women leaders, long active in support of the peace process in Northern Ireland, lauded Clinton for her decade-long support.
Inez McCormack organized the tribute. McCormack is one of the most influential civil rights leaders in Northern Ireland. She was first female president of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and played an important role in the peace accords.